Ants (and bees and wasps) use their antennae to taste their food before they eat it.

The Collection

The Bugs Alive! exhibition showcases several thousand of the best specimens from Museum Victoria’s insect and spider collection. This is one of the largest collections held by a state institution in Australia. It is estimated at between 2.5 and 3 million specimens, and includes 20,000 type specimens.

Collection Highlights

While the coverage of Museum Victoria’s insect and spider collection is predominantly Australian, it also contains an extensive and historically valuable overseas component.

Significant components of the collection include:

  • the John Curtis Collection of British insects, the Francis Walker Collection of foreign insects (including the scientifically valuable Wallace Indo-Pacific material), the Castlenau foreign beetle collection, and the Godeffroy Collection of Australian and foreign insects.
  • collections from large expeditions such as the 1894 Horn Scientific expedition to Central Australia, and from private expeditions.
  • an extensive collection of approximately 50,000 specimens of spiders, ticks, mites, centipedes, scorpions and millipedes.
  • over 600,000 aquatic insect specimens (making it the largest of its kind in Australia) and a vast collection of terrestrial insects – especially beetles, butterflies and Hymenoptera (wasps, bees and ants).

Dr Ken Walker is Senior Curator of Entomology and Arachnology, and, with assistance, is responsible for this vast collection. Dr Walker is endeavouring to build up the collection in areas that were previously under represented. This is being done through field trips, purchases and donations, and exchanges with other institutions.

How is the Collection Used?

The insect and spider collection is used extensively for research by scientists from a variety of institutions. Museum staff also use the collection in this way. Dr Walker’s current research centres on the native Australian bee fauna and the role these bees play in the pollination of native and introduced plants.

The collection is used for identification purposes by doctors, pathologists, local councils, public health departments, Quarantine, Customs and pest companies. These groups come to the museum for guidance in identifying bugs that are causing material damage or health problems.

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Wasp specimens, link to large image
Wasp specimens

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Dr Ken Walker, link to large image
Dr Ken Walker

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Birdwing Butterflies, link to large image
Birdwing Butterflies
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