Rare hawkmoth collection appeal success

20 October 2008

The Natural History Museum's appeal for a rare collection of more than 200,000 hawkmoths has been a great success, employees announce today.

Almost £150,000 was raised from more than 350 generous donations from the public since the appeal began this summer.

The appeal's success means the scientifically valuable collection, also know as the Cadiou hawkmoth collection, will join the Museum’s butterfly and moth collections.

'It’s such a delight that we’re able to receive such a scientifically valuable collection,' says Dr Ian Kitching, Museum butterfly and moth expert.

'The 200,000 plus moths will now join the millions of others we have here in the Museum allowing scientists of the future to study this interesting group of insects.’

Cadiou collection

Dr Jean-Marie Cadiou was a non-professional butterfly and moth expert and was passionate about hawkmoths. He started collecting them in the 1960s, until his unexpected and untimely death in 2007.

The Cadiou collection is the second largest collection of hawkmoths in private hands and the most important to become available for many years.

The addition of the 53,000 pinned and 176,000 papered specimens will mean that the Museum now has 92% of the world’s hawkmoths in its collections.

Studying the hawkmoths

The collection will be used in cutting-edge scientific research, such as important DNA barcoding work allowing researchers to identify moths quickly and accurately.

Important pollinators

There are about 1,400 species of these intriguing insects around the world and they are the only moths able to hover in front of flowers to feed, like hummingbirds do.

They play a unique role in the pollination of some plants. For example, orchids have evolved to be pollinated solely by hawkmoths. So if the moth becomes extinct, so will the plants.

In 1862 Charles Darwin observed that the spur of the Madagascan Star Orchid, Angraecum sesquipedale was so long that the nectar within the flower could not be reached by any other insect. At the time, Xanthopan morganii praedicta, the hawkmoth in question, had not even been discovered.

Impressive new Darwin Centre home

The hawkmoth specimens will get a fantastic new home in the new state-of-the-art Darwin Centre coccon building, opening in September 2009. They will be housed there along with 17 million other insect and 3 million plant specimens.

The new building has specially controlled environmental conditions to ensure the internationally-important specimens are protected from light, pests and humidity.

Further information