Skip to main content.

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
Website Search Box
Actias luna (Saturniidae) (K. Darrow photo)
Actias luna (Saturniidae)
(photo by K. Darrow)

The Lepidoptera Collection has over 4 million specimens, occupying over 30,000 drawers and 3,000 alcohol jars. It includes 25,000 primary types. The collection has the most complete representation of both larvae (123,000 specimens) and adults in the Western Hemisphere. The collection is particularly rich in Nearctic and Neotropical species as well as Palearctic material for most families. The microlepidoptera collection contains excellent coverage of Far Eastern species.

Taxonomic groups or geographic areas that are well represented include: Palearctic Lycaenidae; Japanese and Formosan Microlepidoptera; Neotropical Geometridae; Philippine Lepidoptera; Szechwan, China, Macrolepidoptera; Egyptian Lepidoptera; and Nearctic Sesiidae. The William Barnes Collection of a half-million North American Lepidoptera was the largest single acquisition, followed by the J. G. Franclemont Collection.

photo of a hawk moth, Hemaris sp. (Sphingidae) (K.Darrow photo)


Collection Profiles & Contact Information:

Also of Interest:

Some of the more important accessions that are included in the National Collection are as follows:
  • Anastase Alfieri, 1966 (purchase). Egyptian Heterocera, including many type specimens.

  • C. F. Baker, 1928 (gift). More than 300,000 specimens; contains perhaps the largest number of Philippine Lepidoptera assembled by one person, plus abundant material from of  Everes comyntas, the Eastern Tailed-Blue (Lycaenidae) (K.Darrow photo)

  • William Barnes, 1931 (purchase).
    This collection consists mainly of North American material, incorporat-ing specimens from the Oberthiir, Taylor,Kearfott, Polling, Lacy, Field, Hill, Longley, Spalding, and Merrick Collections. With 473,000 specimens, including 1,950 holotypes, this was the largest single acquisition.

  • Harold Box, 1963 (gift). Contains 5,000 specimens of the important sugar cane feeding genus Diatraea.
  • The Brighton Museum, Brighton, England, 1949 (gift). There are 15,000 Microlepidoptera in this collection. Nearly all species from England are represented.
photo of  a  Sulphur Butterfly, Colias sp. (Pieridae) (K.Darrow photo)
  • J. F. Gates Clarke, 1937 (gift). The original gift consisted of over 10,000 specimens from the Pacific Northwest. All Clarke types (over 300), except one, are in the USNM.
  • Paul Dognin, 1925 (purchase). The collection consists of 82,000 specimens including 3,000 Dognin types and over 300 Thierry-Mieg types.
  • H. G. Dyar, 1903 et seq. (gift). The first contribution recorded consisted of 20,000 specimens from British Columbia. In 1917 Dyar added 17,000 North American specimens. Numerous smaller gifts were made later.
  • G. P. Engelhardt, 1941-43 (gift). This collection contains over 9,000 Sesiidae. Nearly all specimens are reared; the larvae being associated with the adults.
  • Douglas Ferguson, 1970 et seq. (gift). Contains 53,000 specimens from the northeastern U. S. and eastern Canada, predominantly Nova Scotia. Newfoundland is also included.
  • C. H. Fernald, 1924-25 (purchase). This is a type collection of Microlepidoptera containing Fernald's tortricid types, Fitch's types of Pterophoridae, and also types from Fish. The collection contains cotypes of Walsingham, Hulst, Packard, and Grote.
  • W. D. Field, 1947 (gift). Contains 5,000 specimens of Japanese and European Rhopalocera.
  • J. G. Franclemont, 1976 et seq. (gift). This collection will contain 250,000-300,000 specimens when accessioning is complete. Although primarily North American in coverage, it is rich in material from the eastern Palearctic, the Neotropics, and the Philippine Islands.
  • R. W. Hodges, 1962 (gift). Consists of 25,000 specimens primarily of North American Microlepidoptera largely from Arizona, New York, and Florida.
  • SyĆ»ti Issiki, 1972 (purchase). This collection constitutes the most complete assemblage of Japanese and Formosan Microlepidoptera ever brought together; it contains about 95% of the known Japanese species. There are 78 holotypes and more than 200 secondary types in this material.
  • W. S.. McAlpine, 1972 (gift). Consisting of more than 12,000 specimens, predominantly of the genus Calephelis, it is also strong in miscellaneous Michigan Lepidoptera.
  • A. Philpott, 1928 (gift). Included in this gift is a nearly complete collection of New Zealand Microlepidoptera.
  • William Schaus, 1901 et seq. (gift). This contains most of the approximately 200,000 Neotropical specimens collected by Schaus. About 5,000 of his types are included.
  • J. Adger Smyth, 1947 (gift). This worldwide Lepidoptera collection made by Ellison A. Smyth contains more than 16,000 specimens. In 1970, an additional 1,000 specimens were donated from the Americas and Africa.


[ TOP ]