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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

National Museum of Natural History Entomological Collection

Insects: National Museum of Natural History Entomological Collection

National Museum of Natural History Entomological Collection

By Douglass R. Miller, Douglas C. Ferguson, Arnold S. Menke, David A. Nickle, Robert L. Smiley, and Richard E. White


U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Systematic Entomology Laboratory, BARC-West, 10300 Baltimore Boulevard, Buildings 012, 046, and 047, Beltsville, MD 20705, and National Museum of Natural History, MRC 168, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC 20560


To recognized institutions and scientists


Over 6,000 volumes; 3,000 linear feet of reprints

Number of

30 million specimens


90,000 primary types


Although Smithsonian Institution scientists have ultimate authority for the curation of the collection and hold the title of curator, U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists spend considerable effort on curatorial functions and manage large portions of the collection.

Main contact: Manya B. Stoetzel
Phone: (301) 504-5183, fax: (301) 504-6482

Home page

The National Entomological Collection is one of the largest in the world. It serves as a primary repository for insects of the United States but also has large holdings of material from all parts of the world. Specimens in the collection are used as a basis for important systematic research and are a critical part of the research programs of most fields of entomology. The large holdings of agriculturally important species make this collection especially significant as a source of systematic research and for identification of insect pest groups.


Entomologists outside the Washington, DC, area are frequently confused about the relationship of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Systematic Entomology Laboratory (SEL) and the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History (NMNH), Department of Entomology and the function these organizations perform for the collection. This confusion results from a long history of cooperation between these distinct and separate organizations. During the early history of U.S. systematic entomology (1880's), C.V. Riley served concurrently as chief entomologist for USDA and honorary curator of insects for the Smithsonian; L.O. Howard also served in this double role. In 1925, USDA entomological taxonomists were assigned to a division of the Bureau of Entomology; this division has been maintained to the present with a few changes in name and rank. Throughout their long and productive association, USDA and Smithsonian personnel have successfully worked in concert toward the goal of developing a large and useful national collection of insects.

Although the Smithsonian's U.S. National Museum (USNM) was established in 1842, the first record of an insect collection actually stored in the museum does not appear until 1858. Because of insufficient funds in the 1860's, most of the USNM insect collection was sent to collaborating specialists with the stipulation that the material could be reclaimed at any time. By the early 1870's, the USDA was made the repository for the Smithsonian insect collection, so the Smithsonian collection was combined with the USDA collection. The USDA collection began with the acquisition of the personal collection of Townend Glover, the first chief entomologist of the USDA. From 1867 until 1881 the collection expanded and thrived through the efforts of Glover, Riley, and J.H. Comstock. In 1881, with Riley's reappointment as chief entomologist, the USDA insect collection was officially transferred to the USNM. When Riley donated his personal collection to the USNM in 1886, the holdings of insects in the USNM had reached the status of a major entomological repository. In 1969, the name of the former U.S. National Museum was officially changed to the National Museum of Natural History.

The first salaried Smithsonian entomologist was J.B. Smith, who served as assistant curator from 1885 to 1889. He was succeeded by Martin Linell, who was a museum aide from 1889 to 1897. From 1897 until 1940, the Smithsonian had two salaried positions in entomology, excluding clerical assistants. From 1940 to the present, the scientific staff expanded to 10 full-time scientists and several research associates. They are joined by the 20 full-time scientists of SEL.


The service responsibilities of SEL are extensive. From 1990 through 1994, the laboratory reported 89,780 identifications, including about 288,000 specimens. These identifications provide basic support for biological control projects, environmental studies, and diverse research, extension, and control activities of Federal and state agencies and other organizations in the United States and abroad. During the same period, 12,000 urgent identifications for quarantine purposes were made. These determinations are especially important, because they involve shipments that are being held at U.S. ports-of-entry pending identification of the insect or mite detected on the commodity. The laboratory scientist immediately identifies the specimens and reports the information to personnel of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, who must make a decision about the disposition or treatment of the contaminated commodity. Over the past several years the total number of identifications has decreased because the laboratory has been unable to replace retired staff and thus has lost specialists in several areas of taxonomy.

Instructions on how material should be submitted can be obtained by accessing the SEL home page or by sending a request to Leader, Communications and Taxonomic Services Unit, Systematic Entomology Laboratory, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, 10300 Baltimore Boulevard, BARC-West, Building 046, Room 101BA, Beltsville, MD 20705-2350. Submitted material is processed by the Communications and Taxonomic Services Unit and is sent to the appropriate specialist.


The laboratory has worked extensively at developing various kinds of databases and expert systems and currently is in the process of making this information available on the Internet and through CDBROM. Some of this information is related to the contents of specific areas of the collection, while other databases catalog groups of insects that are important to agriculture. A large database called BIOTA (Biosystematic Information on Terrestrial Arthropods) is currently being developed that will be a checklist of the insects and mites of North America.


Research in SEL generally is directed toward insect groups of economic importance to American agriculture. Because of possible overlap, great care is taken to avoid duplication of effort between USDA and Smithsonian systematists, and assignments of research areas and responsibility for curation of the collection are carefully coordinated. The research record of SEL is impressive. From 1991 to 1993, the laboratory published more than 130 peer-reviewed research publications, among which are many major revisionary works and books.

The collection is enhanced through accession of valuable specimens submitted for identification and acquired through research and field work endeavors.

The research leader of SEL is Manya B. Stoetzel. The laboratory is divided into three research units, which are organized mainly by ordinal category. Each unit is coordinated by a unit leader.

Acari. The Acari (mite) collection and staff are located at the USDA-ARS in Beltsville, MD, Buildings 046 (Room 102) and 047 (Room 103). The associated library consists of 130 volumes and 95 linear feet of reprints. The collection has about 250,000 slides and 1,925 primary types. The SEL staff includes R.L. Smiley (retired, resident cooperating scientist).

Research on mites began in 1880 with the USDA employee N. Banks, who published in 1915 the first English handbook on mites. Banks was succeeded by USDA acarologists H.E. Ewing, E.W. Baker, and R.L. Smiley. Because of Baker's many outstanding contributions on acarine classification, systematics, and taxonomy, his peers honored him as the "Father of Modern Day Acarology." Even though he retired in 1987, he continued to perform research on plant-feeding mites until 1996, when he moved to the Philippines.

The collection is especially strong in groups of economic concern to agriculture. Those well represented are the Tetranychoidea, Cheyletoidea, Eriophyoidea (H.H. Keifer's collection), Hydrahnoidea (I.M. Newell's collection), American parasitic and predaceous Mesostigmata, Phytoseiidae, Trombiculidae, and stored-product and bee mites. Many specimens have been studied by Baker, Denmark, DeLeon, Fain, Ewing, Jacot, Johnston, McGregor, Norton, O'Connor, and Smiley.

Recent and future major applications of research include an encyclopedia of H.H. Keifer's studies on the plant-feeding eriophyid mites, a book on mites parasitic on honey bees, and publications on the spider mites of Yemen and the Tenuipalpidae (false spider mites) of the continental United States.

Aleyrodidae. The Aleyrodidae (whitefly) collection and staff are located at the USDA-ARS in Beltsville, MD, Building 012, Room 7-1. The collection has about 19,000 slides and 6,400 envelopes of dry material representing about 482 types and 768 species. The SEL staff members are S. Nakahara and L.M. Russell (retired, resident cooperating scientist). The Aleyrodidae collection was built principally through the efforts of A.C. Baker, A.L. Quaintance, and L.M. Russell.

Recent and future major areas of SEL research include an in-depth study of species in several New World genera and other whiteflies of the contiguous United States, a revision of the genus Aleurocybotus, and a description of a new subfamily by L.M. Russell.

Aphidoidea. The Aphidoidea (aphid, phylloxeran, and adelgid) collections are located at the USDA-ARS in Beltsville, MD, Building 012, Room 6. The aphid collection includes 78,000 slides representing 2,250 species. The associated library includes 200 volumes and 34 linear feet of reprints. The SEL staff includes M.B. Stoetzel and L.M. Russell (retired, resident cooperating scientist).

The collections are strong in species collected in quarantine. Specimens are mostly from the United States, Europe, and Asia. These collections were built principally through the efforts of Baker, Pergandé, Quaintance, and Russell. They contain types and identified specimens described and studied by Baker, Fitch, Hottes, Mason, Pepper, PergandJ, Quaintance, Riley, Robinson, Russell, Strom, and Tissot.

Recent and future major areas of SEL research on aphids include the biosystematics of species in the genera Diuraphis and Toxoptera, a revision of the Phylloxeridae of the world, and notes on Cerataphis brasiliensis with a key to Cerataphis species living on palms and orchids.

Auchenorrhyncha. The Auchenorrhyncha (leafhopper and planthopper) collection is located on the third floor (west wing) of NMNH in Washington, DC. The associated library includes 250 volumes and 48 linear feet of reprints. The collection is stored in 1,550 drawers and has about 2,400 holotypes. The SEL staff includes S.H. McKamey.

The first full-time Auchenorrhyncha homopterist associated with the USNM collection was P.W. Oman, who was employed by the USDA in 1931. Since then J.S. Caldwell, J.P. Kramer, and D.A. Young have served as USDA homopterists. The strength of the Auchenorrhyncha collection is in the Cicadellidae, owing to the efforts of Kramer, Oman, and Young. Major acquisitions incorporated in the Auchenorrhyncha holdings are the collections of Baker, Ball, Buys, Caldwell, Funkhouser, Goding, Hacker, McAtee, and Uhler. The collection also contains many types described by Davis, Fennah, Kramer, Osborn, and Van Duzee.

Coccoidea. The Coccoidea (scale insects) collection and staff are located at the USDA-ARS in Beltsville, MD, Building 046, Room 102, and Building 047, Room 102. The associated library includes 200 volumes and 40 linear feet of reprints. The collection consists of 140,000 slides and has 500 primary types. Also included is a large collection of unmounted dry material that contains several million specimens. D.R. Miller, an SEL staff member, is responsible for the determination of scales except those submitted by U.S. port-of-entry identifiers, for whom D.M. Odermatt provides identifications. E.R. Morrison, H. Morrison, S. Nakahara, L.M. Russell, M.B. Stoetzel, and D.J. Williams have also worked on scale insects.

The scale insect collection has developed into one of the most important in the world primarily through the efforts of Morrison (of USDA). Other USDA contributors are Marlatt and Russell. The collection is especially strong in New World material but also is well represented in material from Africa and Australia. Well-represented groups include Asterolecaniidae, Diaspididae, Margarodidae, Ortheziidae, and Pseudococcidae. Major collections are those of Brain, Comstock, Ehrhorn, and Maskell (in part). The collection also contains many types contributed by Cockerell, Ferris, Morrison, and Russell.

Recent and future major areas or applications of SEL research include a revision of Micrococcidae of the world, an analysis of the manna mealybugs as potential biological control agents of salt cedar, the phylogeny of the armored scales, a handbook on the economic armored scales of the United States, a revision of the Pseudococcus maritimus group of mealybugs, and a catalog of the scale insects of the world.

A database is near completion that gives an inventory of the species in the Coccoidea collection. The scale insects from North America have been added to the BIOTA database. A joint research project is under way to create Scale Net, an electronic database of the scale insects of the world (now available on the World Wide Web).

Coleoptera. The Coleoptera (beetle) collection and staff are located on the sixth floor (west wing) of NMNH in Washington, DC. The associated library includes 1,060 volumes and 200 linear feet of reprints. The Coleoptera collection consists of more than 7 million specimens stored in about 12,000 drawers and includes nearly 20,000 primary types. The SEL staff working on Coleoptera includes Steven W. Lingafelter, Natalia J. Vandenberg, and Donald M. Anderson (retired, resident cooperating scientist). The Smithsonian staff working on Coleoptera comprises Terry L. Erwin and Paul J. Spangler.

The core of the Coleoptera collection was formed in 1881, when the general USDA collection was transferred to the USNM. The appointment of E.A. Schwarz (USDA) in 1897 as honorary curator of Coleoptera further increased the size of the collection because the large and valuable Hubbard and Schwarz collection was donated, making the USNM collection one of the largest in the world. Since the early 1900's, distinguished coleopterists have been associated with the USNM collection. Among these, USDA employees have included D.M. Anderson, W.H. Anderson, R.H. Arnett, Jr., H.S. Barber, R.S. Beal, M.W. Blackman, R.E. Blackwelder (subsequently with USNM), A.G. Boving, J.C. Bridwell, L.L. Buchanan, E.A. Chapin (subsequently with USNM), W.S. Fisher, R.D. Gordon, J.M. Kingsolver, J. Pakaluk, W.D. Pierce, J.G. Rozen, Jr., P.J. Spangler (subsequently with USNM), T.J. Spilman, G.B. Vogt, L.M. Walkley, R.E. Warner, and D.R. Whitehead.

The collection is strongest in Western Hemisphere species, especially in the Anobiidae, aquatic and semiaquatic families, Bruchidae, Buprestidae, Carabidae, Cerambycidae, Chrysomelidae, Cicindellidae, Cleridae, Coccinellidae, immature Coleoptera, Curculionidae, Elateridae, Lampyridae, Mordellidae, Oedemeridae, Phengodidae, Scarabaeidae, Scolytidae, and Neotropical Staphylinidae.

Major collections are those of Baker, Barber, Barber and Schwarz, Belfrage, Blackman, Bovie, Burke, Cartwright, Casey, Chapin, Dieke, Eggers, Erwin, Halik and Daguerre, Harriman, Hopkins, Hubbard and Schwarz, Kissinger, Koebele, Lane, Linell, Mac Swain, Monros, Morrison, Murayama, Pena, Riley, Robinson and Shoemaker, Rosenberg, Schaeffer, Sherman, Smith, Tippman, Turner, and Wickham.

Recent and future major areas or applications of SEL research include investigations on the larvae of the Coccinellidae of the New World, continued publication of a multivolume work on the Neotropical Coccinellidae, preparation of a handbook for the identification of alticine leaf beetles associated with leafy spurge, examination of the systematics of immature Curculionoidea and the Baridinae, and revision of the flea beetle genus Chaetocnema.

Diptera. The Diptera (fly) collection and staff are located primarily on the sixth floor (west wing) of NMNH in Washington, DC. The associated library includes 500 volumes and 550 linear feet of reprints. The collection comprises more than 7,000 drawers of pinned specimens, 470,000 slide-mounted specimens, and 19 quarter cases of specimens in alcohol. About 20,500 primary types are included. The SEL staff includes R.J. Gagné (retired, resident cooperating scientist), A.L. Norrbom (unit leader of Coleoptera and Diptera Unit), F.C. Thompson, and N.E. Woodley. The Smithsonian dipterist is W.N. Mathis. The Walter Reed Biosystematics Unit at the Smithsonian Institution's Museum Support Facility in Silver Hill, MD, curates the Culicidae and other biting flies. Staff employed by the Army to work on mosquitos at this facility are L. Rveda, E.L. Peyton, and R.C. Wilkerson.

In 1886, the USDA appointed S.W. Williston as the first dipterist associated with the USNM Diptera collection. Since then, many USDA specialists have worked on the taxonomy of Diptera, including D.W. Coquillett, R.H. Foote, C.T. Greene, D.G. Hall, L. Knutson, J.R. Malloch, R.V. Peterson, C.W. Sabrosky, R.C. Shannon, G.C. Steyskal, A. Stone, C.H.T. Townsend, and W.W. Wirth. Other than W. Mathis, J.M. Aldrich was the only dipterist employed by the Smithsonian.

The collection is perhaps the best in the world, with Nearctic and Neotropical Diptera being especially well represented. The best represented groups are Agromyzidae, Asilidae, Bombyliidae, Calliphoridae, Cecidomyiidae, Ceratopogonidae, Chloropidae, Culicidae, Empididae, Ephydridae, Muscidae, Sarcophagidae, Scatopsidae, Sciaroidea, Sciomyzidae, Tachinidae, Tephritidae, and Tipulidae.

Major additions to the collection have been provided by Aldrich, Baranov, Belkin, Bromley, Burgess, Coquillett, Dyar, Gagné, Hoogstraal, King, Knight, Ludlow, Malloch, Mathis, Melander, Norrbom, Painter, Pritchard, Roseboom, Shannon, Steyskal, Sturtevant, Thompson, Thurman, Williston, and Wirth. An important acquisition is the Alexander crane fly collection, which is probably the best private collection of flies ever amassed. It includes more than 11,000 of the 14,000 species of crane flies and over 8,000 holotypes. The mosquito collection has been significantly expanded in recent years by two Smithsonian contracts with the U.S. Army. By means of these contracts, the former Southeast Asia Mosquito Project and the present Walter Reed Biosystematics Unit have accessioned more than 250,000 specimens of mosquitoes. The collection is improved daily by the retention of specimens submitted for identification from all parts of the world.

Recent and future major areas and applications of SEL research include the following: generic revisions of predaceous cecidomyiids and of gall midges feeding on weeds, including tamarisk and paperbark, and crops such as blueberries, blackberries, and grasses; revisions of Nearctic and Neotropical genera of Tephritidae, including Anastrepha, Eutreta, and Pseudophorellia, and Neotropical species of Dasiops (Lonchaeidae) that attack Passiflora; a handbook of Central American and Mexican fruit flies; a Neotropical Tephritidae specimen database (1,200 records); a revision of the Middle American flower fly fauna; a generic revision of Belvosia (Tachinidae) as well as some small genera; and revisions of various groups of Stratiomyidae.

The Diptera staff is very active in the management of computerized information. This staff is leading an international effort to develop a Biosystematic Database of World Diptera, parts of which are being disseminated as they are completed. Currently this database includes all of the family-group names (4,296 records), genus-group names (18,000), and some species-group names (70,742 records). The final database will probably include more than 250,000 records and will be completed before the next century. Completed databases include the Systematic Database of Nearctic Diptera, the basic nomenclatural data for all flies found in North America, the first fascicle of World Diptera (the Tephritidae or fruit flies), and a catalog of the family-group names. The Diptera staff is building a species inventory of the Diptera in National Insect Collections; some 18,000 records are already available on the SEL World Wide Web site. The entire species inventory should be completed in 1999.

The staff has begun a pilot project to investigate the means and costs of making specimen-based information available in various digital media, from CD-ROM to Internet World Wide Web pages. Initial concentration will be on local and Costa Rican specimens. A resource directory for Dipteran Systematics is also maintained, which contains address records for about 1,825 workers. Some 1,150 specialists also provided information on their research interests. Two printed versions have been distributed (1990, 1994); the data are also periodically merged with the on-line directory of entomologists maintained by the Smithsonian Department of Entomology. An expert system for the identification of fruit flies of importance to agriculture is complete.

Heteroptera. The Heteroptera (true bug) collection and staff are located on the third floor (west wing) of NMNH in Washington, DC. The associated library includes 300 volumes and 70 linear feet of reprints. The Heteroptera collection occupies about 2,500 drawers and contains about 4,000 holotypes. Staff members are T.J. Henry (SEL), D.A. Polhemus (Smithsonian Institution), and R.C. Froeschner (Smithsonian Institution, retired).

In 1898, O. Heidemann was employed by the USDA to study the systematics of the Heteroptera. Since then, the following USDA specialists have undertaken Heteroptera systematic research: P.D. Ashlock, H.G. Barber, R.C. Froeschner (subsequently with the Smithsonian Institution), E.H. Gibson, J.L. Herring, W.L. McAtee, and R.I. Sailer.

The collection is strongest in New World specimens but is also well represented in Philippine material. The collection is especially well represented in the families Aradidae, Cimicidae, Lygaeidae, Miridae, Ochteridae, Phymatidae, and Tingidae. Major collections included are those of Baker, Barber, Carvalho, Drake, Hacker, Knight, Kormilev, McAtee, Pennington, Reed, and Uhler. Many specimens studied by the following heteropterists are in the collection: Carvalho, Harris, Maldonado, Slater, and Usinger.

Recent and future major areas or applications of SEL research include a phylogenetic analysis of the Pentatamomorpha, a phylogenetic analysis of the berytid genera of the world, a monograph of the Berytidae of the Western Hemisphere, a manual of the Miridae of eastern North America, and a manual of the Nabidae of North America.

Hymenoptera. The Hymenoptera (wasp and bee) collection and staff are located on the second floor (hall 27) of NMNH in Washington, DC, except for R.C. Carlson, whose office is at the USDA-ARS in Beltsville, MD, Building 046; R.J. McGinley, whose office is on the third floor of the west wing of NMNH; and T.R. Schultz, whose office is at the Museum Support Facility in Silver Hill, MD. The associated library includes 200 volumes and 400 linear feet of reprints. The Hymenoptera collection consists of about 3 million pinned specimens stored in more than 6,000 drawers and includes more than 15,000 holotypes. The SEL staff working on Hymenoptera consist of R.W. Carlson, E.E. Grissell, M.E. Schauff (unit leader of Sternorrhyncha, Thysanoptera, Acari Research Unit), and D.R. Smith (unit leader of Hymenoptera, Lepidoptera, Orthoptera Research Unit). The Smithsonian staff working on Hymenoptera include R.J. McGinley, T.R. Schultz, and K.V. Krombein (retired).

The nucleus of the Hymenoptera collection was formed by such early workers as Riley, Pergandé, Schwarz, and Howard, but the USNM Hymenoptera holdings first acquired the status of a major collection with the acquisition of the Ashmead collection in 1898. Ashmead was appointed in 1887 by the USDA to work on insect pests and their parasites. From 1897 to 1908, he was employed by the Smithsonian Institution as assistant curator and thus was the first USNM hymenopterist. Crawford succeeded Ashmead as assistant curator in 1908 and centered his research on the Chalcidoidea. During Crawford's tenure, several USDA scientists were assigned to the museum to work principally on parasitic wasps and sawflies. These individuals include Cushman, Gahan, Girault, Rohwer, and Viereck. Other USDA hymenopterists associated with the collection include Burks, Gordh, Krombein (subsequently with USNM), Mann, Marlatt, Marsh, Menke, Muesebeck, Sandhouse, Smith, Townes, Walkley, and Weld.

Areas of the collection especially well represented include Aculeata, Chalcidoidea, Cynipoidea, Formicidae, Ichneumonoidea, Proctotrupoidea, and Symphyta. Major collections are those of Ashmead, Baker, Bugbee, Cooper, Hurd, Krombein, Mann, Priesner, Stelfox, and Tsuneki.

Recent and future major areas or applications of SEL research include an identification manual to world seed-feeding Chalcidoidea; a revision of several North American chalcidoid genera; keys to parasites of citrus leafminer, Heliothis, and the gypsy moth; a key to New World genera of Braconidae; revisionary studies in Rogadinae; revision of the family Tenthredinidae for the Americas south of the United States; revision of the Symphyta for the eastern United States; a world catalog of Sphecidae; and a revision of the caterpillar predator genus Ammophila for the New World.

Collection databases have been developed for Eulophidae, Aphelinidae, Tanaostigmatidae, and Toryminae (Torymidae).

Isoptera. The Isoptera (termite) collection is located on the ground floor of the Smithsonian Institution's Museum Support Center, Silver Hill, MD. The associated library includes about 100 volumes and 60 linear feet of reprints. The collection consists of 240,000 specimens (1,286 species) and includes 943 types. At present D.A. Nickle is the only SEL staff member conducting research on termites.

The termite collection is one of the largest in the world, primarily through the efforts of T.E. Snyder (of USDA). Extensive additions have recently been made to the collection by D.A. Nickle and the late M.S. Collins. The collection has worldwide representation and is especially rich in species from the West Indies, Central America, and the Amazon Basin.

Recent and future major applications of SEL research include books on the North and South American termites.

Lepidoptera. The Lepidoptera (moth and butterfly) collection and staff are located on the second floor (hall 30) of NMNH. The library resources relating to Lepidoptera consist of 2,000 volumes and 370 linear feet of reprints in file cabinets. The Lepidoptera collection occupies 27,483 drawers and is estimated to contain more than 4 million specimens, including over 25,000 primary types. The larval collection is one of the largest in the world, occupying 1,132 storage racks (specimens in alcohol) and 132 drawers (inflated larvae). The larval collection is estimated to contain about 123,000 specimens. Included also are 131 slide cabinets containing about 100,000 microscope slides, mainly of moth genitalia. The SEL research staff working on Lepidoptera includes J.W. Brown, D.C. Ferguson (retired, resident cooperating scientist), M.G. Pogue, and M.A. Solis; the Smithsonian staff includes J.M. Burns, D.R. Davis, and R.K. Robbins.

The first specialist to work on Lepidoptera at the USNM was J.B. Smith, who was employed by the Smithsonian Institution in 1885. He was followed by a series of USDA entomologists, including F. Benjamin, A. Busck, H.W. Capps, J.F.G. Clarke (subsequently employed by the USNM), H.G. Dyar, W.D. Field (subsequently employed by the USNM), J.G. Franclemont, C. Heinrich, R.W. Hodges, R.W. Poole, W. Schaus, E.L. Todd, and D.M. Weisman.

The collection is strongest in Nearctic material, rich in Neotropical and Palearctic species, and progressively less rich in Oceanic, Oriental, Australian, and African material. Especially well-represented exotic groups include Lycaenidae and Pieridae; European and Japanese microlepidoptera; and Taiwanese, Philippine, and Szechwan moths in general.

Major acquisitions that have been incorporated into the museum holdings over the years are the collections of Alfieri (Egypt), Baker (Philippines, Malaysia), Baker (Oregon moths, especially Geometridae), Barnes (North America, including types of Barnes & McDunnough, Guenee, Boisduval, Kearfott, Hill, Taylor, and the Merrick collection), Blackmore (British Columbia), Blanchard (Texas), Box (sugarcane-feeding Pyralidae), Brighton Museum (British micro-lepidoptera), Brooklyn Museum (North America), Brower (North America, especially Maine), Clarke (Pacific Northwest), Dognin (South America), Dyar (North America and Neotropics), Engelhardt (Sesiidae), Ferguson (North America, especially Atlantic Provinces), Fernald (North American, including some type material of Fernald, Fitch, Fish, Walsingham, Hulst, Packard, and Grote), Field (Japanese and European butterflies), Franclemont (North American Saturniidae, Sphingidae, and microlepidoptera), Graef (North America), Grossbeck (North America), Hodges (North American microlepidoptera), Issiki (Japanese microlepidoptera), Jackh (Texas and Palearctic microlepidoptera), Kawabe (Japanese and Taiwanese microlepidoptera), McAlpine (Riodinidae), Neumoegen (North America), Philpott (New Zealand microlepidoptera), Schaus (mostly Tropical America), and Smyth (American and exotic Lepidoptera). The collection also contains many of the types of Smith and of many others who studied USNM material, including Diakonoff, Munroe, Rindge, Shaffer, and Warren.

The largest acquisitions were the Barnes collection (nearly a half million specimens) purchased by the USDA in 1931, the Baker collection (300,000 specimens) donated in 1928, and the Schaus collection (200,000 specimens) donated in 1901 and following years. The Barnes and Schaus material accounted for most of the North American and Tropical American Lepidoptera holdings, respectively, for over 40 years. However, with renewed interest in field work and curation, current USDA and Smithsonian lepidopterists have greatly improved the collection, adding about as many specimens from their own collecting as did all of their staff predecessors combined.

Recent and future major areas or applications of SEL research on Lepidoptera include the following: continued revisionary works for the publication series Moths of America North of Mexico, including a detailed analysis of the 195 species of Chionodes (Gelechiidae) and an illustrated key to the 85 or more genera of North American Gelechiidae; revisions of the Lithosiinae (Arctiidae), the Macariini (Geometridae), and Epipaschiinae (Pyralidae); inventories of the pyraloid moths of Costa Rica and the macrolepidoptera (including Pyraloidea) of Maryland; a phylogenetic analysis of the subfamilies of Crambidae and Ostrinia (corn borer complex); and a revision of the temperate Eurasian species of Lymantria (gypsy moth genus).

Various databases on Lepidoptera are being developed or maintained. The very large database of world Noctuidae and its associated bibliography, already published, is being kept current. Specimen label databases for Chionodes (Gelechiidae) (about 18,000 entries) and North American cuculliine and simpistine Noctuidae (30,000-40,000 entries) are active and growing. Mapping programs are also in use. A pilot project to test the feasibility of developing a computerized library of colored photos of larvae (with full data) has been started with the digitizing of about 200 slides (through the collaboration of M.E. Schauff). The computerized library allows the valuable photographs to be archived so that they are protected from deterioration and yet are easy to reference for making determinations or for publishing and creating prints and CD-ROMs.

Orthoptera. The Orthoptera (orthopteroid) collection and staff are located on the third floor (west wing) of NMNH in Washington, DC. The associated library includes 550 volumes and 60 linear feet of reprints. The collection is stored in 2,500 drawers and 6 quarter cases of alcohol material and has nearly 700 primary types. The SEL staff member is D.A. Nickle. The collections of mantids, cockroaches, and walkingsticks are located at the Museum Support Center in Silver Hill, MD.

Three USDA orthopterists have concentrated their research and identification efforts on this group of insects. A.N. Caudell was employed in 1898, A.B. Gurney in 1936, and D.A. Nickle in 1979. The collection is strongest in U.S. Melanoplus grasshoppers, Neotropical cockroaches and katydids, and grylloblattids. Major collections incorporated into the USNM holdings are those of Baker, Daguerre, and Riley.

Current and future major areas of research include revisions of Neotropical katydid genera, the mole cricket genus Scapteriscus, and the cockroach genus Arenivega.

Psylloidea. The Psylloidea (psylloid) collection is located at USDA-ARS in Beltsville, MD, Building 046, Room 102. D.R. Miller is responsible for identifications but does not perform research on the group. The psyllid collection has 21,300 pinned specimens, 2,400 slides, 3 drawers of psyllids on their hosts, and 90 types, representing 300 species.

Major contributors to the psyllid collections include Caldwell, Crawford, Riley, Russell, Schwarz, and Tuthill.

Thysanoptera. The Thysanoptera (thrips) collection and staff are located at USDA-ARS in Beltsville, MD, Building 012, Room 7-1. S. Nakahara does research and identifications on thrips. The associated Thysanoptera library includes 300 volumes and 22 linear feet of reprints. The collection has about 100,000 specimens representing about 2,100 types and 2,800 species.

The Thysanoptera collection was started by T. Pergandé (USDA) before 1900. No full-time thysanopterist was employed by the USDA until the late 1930's, although identifications were provided by A.C. Morgan and J.R. Watson. USDA thysanopterists include F. Andre (1938-40), J.C. Crawford (1940-50), and K. O'Neill (1950-75). Geographic areas best represented by the collection are North America, western Europe, India, and Central and South America. The most important acquisition was the purchase of the J.D. Hood collection in 1965, which more than doubled the size of the Thysanoptera collection.

Recent and future major areas or applications of SEL research include revisions of several genera in the Nearctic Region and a Handbook of Nearctic species of the family Thripidae north of Mexico.


Published first major revision of scale insects of North America, including many pest species


Published first comprehensive systematic treatise of chalcidoid parasites in North America


Published first comprehensive revision of tachinid flies of America north of Mexico, including many important parasites


Cataloged Lepidoptera of North America, including 6,622 species, with synopsis of moth and butterfly literature


Published first major revision of family Decticinae in North America, which included 66 species and pests like Mormon cricket


Classified the whiteflies (Aleyrodidae) of the world


Revised moth family Olethreutidae of North America, including conifer and fruit tree pests, totaling 700 species


Published and later revised (1952) classification of ensign scales, family Ortheziidae of the world, including 90 species


Classified ground pearl family Margarodidae, including 250 species and such pests as cottony cushion scale


Published first major synopsis of larval forms of beetles


Published textbook on insect morphology, which standardized structural terminology


Established classification of 200 Nearctic species of horseflies in subfamily Tabaninae


Revised moth family Oecophoridae of North America, including 117 species and several household and vegetable pests


Published classification of 150 pit scale species of world


Established classification of fruit fly genus Anastrepha of the world, including such important pests as Mexican fruit fly


Published catalog of beetles of Mexico, West Indies, and Central and South America, including 50,000 species


Cataloged termites of the world, including 2,500 species


Cataloged Hymenoptera of America north of Mexico, including over 18,000 species


Published textbook on study of mites (serves as basis for acarology curricula throughout the world)


Revised termites of United States and Canada


Published comprehensive treatise on plant-feeding spider mites of the world


Published first of eight volumes on microlepidopterous type specimens of Meyrick, including illustrations of 5,000 species


Revised moth subfamily Phycitinae of New World, including over 700 species and many stored-product and forest pests


Established new classification of mites of the world


Cataloged Diptera of America north of Mexico, including more than 16,000 species


Published annotated list of generic names of scale insects


Made extensive contributions to catalogs of Diptera of Americas south of United States, Oriental Region, Australasian and Oceanian Regions, and Afrotropical Region


Published 10 fascicles of The Moths of America North of Mexico, including Sphingidae, Saturniidae, Cosmopterigidae, Lymantriidae, Oecophoridae, Geometrinae, Dichomeridinae, Plusiinae, Cuculliinae, Stiriinae, and Psaphidinae


Revised Epilachninae of Western Hemisphere, including 288 species and pests like Mexican bean beetle and squash beetle


Published book on sphecid wasps, which included 7,634 species


Revised lady beetle tribe Scymnini with important predators


Managed, edited, and produced The Moths of America North of Mexico (nearly 2,000 pages)


Published catalog of wasps Siricidae, Xyelidae, Xiphydriidae, and Pergidae


Published three-volume catalog on Hymenoptera of America north of Mexico


Contributed 27 chapters to three-volume Manual of Nearctic Diptera


Wrote illustrated guide to plant abnormalities caused by eriophyid mites in North America


Reclassified genera of a large section of Arctiini moths


Discovered host alternation in Phylloxeridae


Classified the whitefly genus Aleurocerus


Published New World revision of moth genus Pero


Published an identification manual for North American genera of parasitic wasp family Braconidae


Completed catalog on true bugs of United States and Canada


Produced book on false spider mites of Mexico


Published book on 900 species of plant-feeding gall midges of North America


Completed 1,314-page catalog of all scientific names of Noctuidae with complete bibliography


Published Handbook of Families of Nearctic Chalcidoidea wasps


Completed research on Lepidoptera of Bermuda, demonstrated long-range migratory tendencies in many American species


Published catalog of 1,200 genus group names of Symphyta wasps


Contributed to comprehensive book on immature insects


Wrote chapters of identification manual on insects and mites in food


Synthesized distribution and biology of Holarctic mirid bugs


Classified predatory mite family Cunaxidae


Completed an analysis of the eriococcid scales of the eastern United States


Published handbook of the 300 fruit fly species of the United States and Canada


Completed phylogenetic analysis and reclassification of genera of pyralid moths of Pococera complex and world checklist of Epipaschiinae


Published revision and phylogenetic analysis of Heliothis virescens group (tobacco budworm moths, Noctuidae)


Revised leaf beetles in Criocerinae


Classified genus Thrips of New World


Completed guide to spider mites of United States


Wrote book on gall midges of Neotropics


Published phylogenetic classification of parasitic wasps in subfamily Toryminae, including world catalog of species


Published checklist of Neotropical Epipaschiinae, Pyralinae, Chrysauginae (Pyralidae)


Established new classification of torymine wasps


Revised Chaetocnema flea beetles in the United States and Canada


Published book on eriophyoid mites of the United States


Completed analysis of grape mealybug complex


Analyzed and revised the stiltbug genera of the world (Heteroptera: Berytidae)


Monographed the stiltbugs of the Western Hemisphere

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Last Modified: 2/6/2002