The academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University recently completed a digital index of every specimen in its Entomology Collection in concert with a two-year, $1.2 million renovation of its insect storage facility.
Now, scientists anywhere in the world can search the collection index and obtain information about specimens available for study through an online database. The collection is worldwide in scope, and it contains many beautiful insects with spectacular morphology and color patterns, some of which are featured here.
The collection totals more than 3.5 million insects — including 106,000 identified species preserved in over 17,000 storage cases — and is one of the larger and more taxonomically complete entomological collections in North America. It’s as old as the Academy itself, and includes some of the earliest North American specimens. Parts of the collection, such as the Orthoptera and related insect groups (grasshoppers, crickets, katydids, mantids, cockroaches, etc.) rank among the best in the world, and it includes many species that are important to medicine or agriculture.
Up until recently, these irreplaceable specimens were housed in suboptimal conditions. The renovation allowed the Academy to install new hermetically sealed steel cabinets with tight-fitting gaskets around the doors and an HVAC system to control temperature fluctuations and humidity, as well as a new “clean-tile” ceiling to reduce hiding places for pests.
The new, compact shelving expands the collection’s storage space by nearly 20 percent, ensuring that the Academy can continue to accommodate new accessions and protect and preserve the collection for future generations of scientists.