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Lixus concavus (Curculionidae) (photo by K.Darrow)
Lixus concavus(Curculionidae)

(photo by K.Darrow)

The collection of Coleoptera at the NMNH is one of the world's largest, consisting of more than seven million specimens, including over twenty thousand primary types, all housed in about twelve thousand museum drawers. Its representation is strongest in Western Hemisphere species due principally to general collecting during research expeditions in the 19th and 20th centuries and through contributions from the USDA identification service.

Collections Profiles and Contact Information
Cerambycidae Type Specimen Database
Catalog of the Hispines of the World (by Charles L. Staines)
The nucleus of the Coleoptera collection was formed in 1881 by the transfer of a moderately large, general collection from the USDA to the Museum. This, with the material from the C. V. Riley Collection, transferred in 1885, and several smaller collections received later (Belfrage, Koebele, Morrison, Linell, J. B. Smith and others) constituted a base of some 20,000 species for reference.

The appointment of E. A. Schwarz (USDA) in 1897 as Honorary Curator brought with it the valuable Hubbard and Schwarz Collection which, because of its size and richness of species, elevated the USNM collection of beetles to a size comparable with other world collections in this order. Shortly following Dr. Schwarz's appointment several additional collections were received: the Soltau Collection; the 1898 collections from Arizona by Hubbard and Schwarz; the 1901 Barber and Schwarz Collections from the same area; the Harriman Alaskan Expedition
Chrysochus auratus (Chrysomelidae) (photo by K. Darrow)
Collections; the Turner Collections from Labrador; the Barber Collections from northern California and southern Texas; and a number of smaller collections. The A. D. Hopkins Collection of 15,000 wood-boring insects was the start of the scolytid and buprestid collections.

One of' the most significant events in the history of the collection was the acquisition of T. L. Casey's private collection which added nearly 117,000 specimens of some 20,000 species including about 9,200 types. Because of the importance of this collection, it has been kept separate from the main collection; but it is available to serious students of Coleoptera.

In 1928, C. F. Baker's collection of Philippine beetles was added, and in 1934, the H. G. Wickham Collection of midwestern and southwestern beetles was acquired. The C. F. Schaeffer Collection, which included many types, was added shortly after that. The W. Robinson and E. Shoemaker general collections expanded the holdings from the eastern United States, and the Halik and Daguerre Collections expanded the representation from South America.

Highlights of the collection

  • Carabidae: The carabid collection (ground beetles) is very large and especially rich in Neotropical material. A collection of 43,520 specimens, given by W. Rosenberg, and T. L. Erwin, has recently added almost 100,000 specimens. O. L. Cartwright's collection of tiger beetles was another significant acquisition. Terry Erwin, the current Chair of the Department, specializes in the Carabidae.
  • Coccinellidae: The coccinellid collection (lady bugs or lady bird beetles), perhaps the largest in the world, is especially rich in material from the Western Hemisphere. Among the larger additions are G. H. Dieke's 24,400 specimens, E. A. Chapin's 9,150 specimens, and R. Korschefsky's many specimens used in preparation of the world catalog.
  • Chrysomelidae: The chrysomelid collection (leaf beetles) is especially rich in material from the Western Hemisphere. A large collection of 58,360 specimens was acquired from F. A. Monros. The type material is extensive because of the work of Monros and D. H. Blake. This family was studied in the past by H. S. Barber and is currently the specialty of both Alex Konstantinov (USDA-SEL) and David Furth (SI Collections Manager, retired). Both of whom have a particular interest in the flea beetles, Alticinae.
  • Staphylinidae: The staphylinid collection (rove beetles) is especially strong in Neotropical specimens, with many types present, principally due to the work of R.E. Blackwelder.  
  • Hydrophiloidea: The water beetle collection has expanded recently through the addition of several hundred thousand specimens by P. J. Spangler. A significant collection was also acquired from John D. Sherman.
  • Lampyridae & Phengodidae: The collection of fireflies and glowworms is quite large, especially in North American material, because of the special interests of H. S. Barber (USDA).
  • Dermestidae (carpet beetles, larder beetles, etc.) were the subject of research by R. S. Beal
  • Latridiidae (minute brown scavenger beetles) were a specialty of L. M. Walkley.
  • Elateridae: The elaterid collection (click beetles) was recently expanded by the addition of 41,000 specimens, mostly North American, from M. C. Lane. This family was an earlier speciality of J. M. Valentine.
  • Buprestidae: The buprestid collection (jewel beetles) is large and rich in types, principally because of the early work of W. S. Fisher [in the early 20th century (ca 1920-1950) [on the Agrilini] (USDA) and the later efforts by G.B. Vogt (USDA).
  • Anobiidae: The anobiidae type material (powder post or wood-boring beetles) has increased significantly because of the work of R. E. White. (+recent acquisition of Woods collection)
  • Tenebrionidae: The tenebrionid collection (darkling beetles) was recently enlarged significantly by the acquisition of 39,450 specimens, mostly from Chile, from L. Pena.
  • Oedemeridae: The oedemerids (false blister beetles) were intensively worked by R. H. Arnett, Jr.
  • Mordellidae The mordellidae collection (tumbling flower beetles) have many of the types of E. Liljeblad.
  • Scarabaeids: The scarabaeid collection is especially large, and several contributors should be mentioned: M. Robinson, 0. L. Cartwright, L. W. Saylor (who added many types), and E. A. Chapin.
  • Cleridae: The clerid material (checkered beetles) was worked on intensively by E. A. Chapin,
  • Bruchidae: the bruchids (seed beetles) were the subject of studies by J. C. Bridwell (USDA).
  • Cerambycidae: The cerambycid collection (longhorned beetles) is huge and especially strong in material from the Western Hemisphere and the Indo-Malayan area. It has many types, especially through the work of W. S. Fisher. F. Tippmann's large world-wide collection added thousands of specimens and many types. Steve Lingafelter (USDA-SEL) specializes in this group.
  • Curculionidae: The curculionid collection (snout beetles, weevils) is quite large. Of the acquisitions of the past, the E. Bovie Collection and the D. G. Kissinger Collection should be mentioned. L. L. Buchanan (USDA) worked actively on this family in the past.
  • Scolytidae: The scolytid collection (bark beetles) is especially strong in North American material. Several large collections with many types include those of H. Eggers, M. W. Blackman, and J. Murayama. The family was studied in the past by M. W. Blackman (USDA) and W. H. Anderson (USDA).
  • Immature Coleoptera: The collection of immature Coleoptera, perhaps the largest in the world, is very diverse. A. G. Boving (USDA) was the prime mover in amassing the material. Among significant additions are the H. E. Burke Collection of buprestids (= jewel beetles) and the J. W. MacSwain Collection of meloids (= blister beetles). W. H. Anderson and J. G. Rozen, Jr., (USDA) worked intensively on this collection.

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