Insect collection

Insect collection

A collection of British and foreign insect collections and samples from biodiversity advisory surveys.

Part of the zoology collections

British insects

The British insect collections are a comprehensive reference resource for all major insect groups. They contain much contemporary material and are rich in biological data which supports and underpins current wildlife conservation and biodiversity research. Areas particularly worthy of note are:

  • Coleoptera (beetles) Total holding of ca. 103,000 specimens, representing 87% of the British fauna. This includes, among others, two of the most comprehensive assembled in the 20th century (C. MacKechnie Jarvis and B.S. Williams).
  • Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) British species are well represented, with ca. 50,000 specimens of British micro-Lepidoptera and ca. 120,000 British macro-Lepidoptera.

  • Hymenoptera: Aculeata (bees, wasps and ants) The British aculeate collection consists of ca. 30,000 specimens, representing 83% of the British fauna. It is rich in modern material and notable collections include those of M. Edwards, G. Dicker and C. Clee. Symphyta (sawflies) and Ichneumonoid wasps are currently major growth areas within the collections. At present, there are ca. 15,000 sawfly specimens and the coverage of British species is just under 70%. Much of the collection results from contemporary work by G. Knight in North-west England and Wales. Representation of ichneumonoid wasps is much lower reflecting the general neglect of this group by entomologists’ But, modern data rich material is being added by T. Hunter.

  • Diptera (two-winged flies) Approximately 50,000 British specimens representing ca. 2,500 species. Groups such as Tipulidae (craneflies), Mycetophilidae (fungus gnats), Syrphidae (hoverflies) and Larger Brachycera (soldierflies and their allies) are especially well represented. Recent acquisitions, notably the modern collections of R. Crossley and R. Underwood, continue to expand their coverage
  • Hemiptera (true bugs and hoppers) Extensive (96%) coverage of British frog and leaf hoppers and (93%) British heteropteran bugs, including immature stages. Notable collections are those of W.J. LeQuesne and S. Judd.

  • Trichoptera (caddis flies) (ca. 40,000 specimens) including extensive collections of immature stages (I.D. Wallace collection) are internationally important and underpin recent taxonomic, distributional and conservation research.

Spider and other Arachnids Collection

World Museums arachnid collection is probably the third largest in the UK. It has undergone a period of rapid development during the last ten years and includes arguably the finest contemporary collection of spiders in Britain.

British Spiders

There are around 160,000 specimens of British spiders and harvestmen in the collection, providing 85% species coverage. The historical collection (including type-specimens) of W.E. Falconer was principally collected in northern England during the first three decades of the 20th century.

The remainder of the material is incorporated into a single main reference collection. Material from D.R. Cowden and R. Leighton and the collections of C.G. Butler and A.G. Scott compliment the extensive modern collection of C. Felton which primarily contains specimens from north-west England and Wales.

Foreign arachnids

Foreign collections comprise around 5,000 specimens, mainly acquired during fieldwork by National Museums Liverpool staff and associates in Turkey, Greece and other parts of Europe. Most are sorted to family and genus, but several hundred Turkish and Greek spiders have been identified to species.

A worldwide collection of circa 4,000 ticks was acquired with the donation of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine's medically important arthropod collections in 1986. Pseudoscorpions The P.D. Gabbutt collection of approximately 14,000 spirit and slide-mounted specimens of British pseudoscorpions, includes adults and all instars for the majority of the British species and is probably the most extensive pseudoscorpion collection in Britain.


Coverage of mites is less comprehensive. Economically important species (MAFF collections) are represented.There is type material and many new faunal records in the F. Monson collection of British mites and the M. Luxton collection of British and New Zealand Oribatida collection, which also has an associated reprint library.

Shells and other invertebrates


Among the survivors of the 1941 fire that devastated the collections are the collections of Olive Shells and Netted Dog Whelks assembled by F.P. Marrat, who described many species new to science in the 19th century. A small part of the huge H.C. Winckworth British Marine Shell Collection was also saved and is still the major component of the British marine species.

The late Nora Fisher McMillan, a well known conchologist and author of several general books, curated the collection from 1950 until 2000. Through her influence, several conchologists passed their collections to us and we once again have one of the largest regional collections with a good cover of the popular groups.

For further information on type material in this collection see

Other invertebrates

The other marine invertebrate collections remain small in number but contain the museum's largest invertebrate in the form of the Giant Spider Crab and its most touched invertebrate in the form of the Giant Clam in the Clore Natural History Centre.

The most important items are the types of sponges from the Argo expedition to the West Indies, collected by Henry Higgins. A few items from the Challenger expedition are also present, though these spirit collections suffered considerably from lack of curation in the 1920s which led to dried-out specimens being destroyed.

The collections have good coverage of terrestrial British non-insect arthropods - particularly centipedes, millipedes and woodlice. Fish parasites are represented in the collections of J.C. Chubb.

Foreign insect collections

Foreign collections of particular note, in addition to those mentioned under historic collections, include:

  • The C.A. Collingwood collection of Palaearctic ants (ca. 80,000 specimens) is internationally important and has engendered the ongoing donation of scientifically important ant specimens from other international ant workers.
  • Unique collections of immature true bugs from the Palaearctic region result from the research of S. Judd. The world jumping plant louse collection of I.D. Hodkinson which includes much type material is internationally important and complements our holdings of other true bug groups.
  • Ongoing invertebrate biodiversity studies on the Greek islands of Chios and Lesvos, undertaken by NML associates, have resulted in significant collections of moths, bees, wasps and ants, and other invertebrate groups from this region. These complement extensive material from previous NML studies on the Turkish invertebrate fauna.

Samples from biodiversity advisory surveys

Museum staff and associates regularly undertake biodiversity field surveys in partnership with various national and regional conservation organisations. This research informs species conservation and general site management. In the last fifteen years over 50, technical reports and publications have been commissioned and over 100,000 specimens have been identified. Specimens resulting from and validating this research are housed in the museum's spirit-preserved and dry invertebrate collections.

Entomology facilities and the Tanyptera Trust Project

Please find attached further information on the World Museum Entomology facilities and the work of the Tanyptera Trust Project, which is based in the Entomology Section.Historic collections

The historic F. Chevrier (1801 - 1885) (ca. 11,000 specimens) collection of European beetles is of international importance.

Other notable historic collections include:

  • The Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine collection of medically important arthropods (ca.30,000 specimens)
  • Insect specimens from the joint British Museum (Natural History) and Liverpool Museum expedition to the Island of Socotra of 1898. This was led by W. R. Ogilvie-Grant BM(NH) and the Director of Liverpool Museums (Dr. H. O. Forbes) (10 cabinet drawers).