>4 Million Insect Specimens!

The University of Minnesota Insect Collection passed a milestone in 2019!  It now contains 4,035,133 specimens representing over 53,000 species.  These figures make it the 10th largest university-affiliated insect collection in North America and the 18th largest overall of 223 collections tallied in a 2018 survey (https://peerj.com/articles/8086/).  For 140 years the collection, located on the St. Paul campus, has served as a treasure-trove of insect diversity.  It was started in 1879 from a few thousand specimens collected from the north shore of Lake Superior by C.W Hall.  Now, specimens from all over the world are represented, as well as Minnesota and the Midwest.  These specimens, representing past and current collecting efforts, serve as records of insect diversity and changes in their distribution and abundance. For example, certain butterflies and skippers, once common in Minnesota’s western prairies but now rare or extirpated, are known to have occurred there because of specimens collected decades ago and preserved in the collection. Similarly, the waxing and waning of pest species has been recorded over time as has the presence or absence of invasive species or those naturally expanding their ranges as temperatures and habitats change.  As such, the University of Minnesota Insect Collection is a priceless archive of insect diversity across time and space.  As one visitor to the collection said, it is a “temple of biodiversity.”

4 million insect specimens milestone reached

Insect collection crew celebrating the 4 million specimen milestone. left to right: Jim Walker, Ralph Holzenthal, Correy Hildebrand, Robin Thomson, John Luhman, Ernesto Razuri, Rainah Ward, Mara Greenebaum, Roger Blahnik.

butterfly donation

Butterfly specimens donated to the department by Dr. Dave Ahrenholz.

first accessions

1879 accession catalogue listing the first specimens deposited into the University of Minnesota Insect Collection.

summary of collection sizes

Top 20 North American insect collections ranked by total specimen holdings.

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