Hymenoptera collections

Pinned hymenoptera

Ampulex compressa, cockroach-hunting wasps © The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London

The Museum houses one of the largest collections of Hymenoptera in the world.

The collection is of global cultural, scientific and historic significance and comprises of approximately 3.5 million specimens in 11,000 drawers of dry pinned specimens, 25,000 microscope slides, a substantial collection in spirit and more than 1,000 nests.

The collection is rich in type material and continues to develop through world-class research, global collaborations, acquisitions and curatorial projects.

Kinds of specimen

  • Dry pinned
  • Slide-mounted
  • Papered (dried insects in paper packets)
  • Preserved in fluid, including larvae and galls
  • Nests


The geographical and chronological range coupled with the size of this collection makes it one of the most comprehensive research resources in the world.

The collection has particular strengths in the Apoidea, Chalcidoidea, Formicidae, Ichneumonidae and Symphyta thanks to many years of expertise by ex-staff members, I.H.H. Yarrow, G.R. Else, J.S. Noyes, B. Bolton, I. Gauld and R.E. Benson respectively.

Country of origin

The collection holds specimens from around the globe, with areas of particularly good representation from Australia, Brazil, Brunei, Costa Rica, Europe including the United Kingdom, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Indonesia, Malaysia and South Africa.

Looking for a specimen?

The hymenoptera collection is being digitised

The Hymenoptera Team

Senior Curator in Charge

Suzanne Ryder

Principle Curator (and in overall charge of insect collections)

Dr Gavin Broad


Natalie Dale-Skey

Dr Joseph Monks

Associated Researchers

Dr Andrew Polaszek

Dr Paul Williams

Scientific Associates

Dr John Noyes

Dr Christer Hansson

A wasp against a white background
The head of an ant specimen against a white background
A wasp nest against a white background

The collection

A drawer of specimens from the Hymenoptera collection.

Accessing the collections

Scientists and collections management specialists can visit the collections and borrow specimens for research.

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A graph showing the types of specimen in the hymenoptera collection

Taxa represented in the Hymenoptera collection

hymenoptera specimen

Ichneumonid specimen © The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London

Current projects

Current digitisation projects include recently acquired collections, historic specimens and primary types:

  • Taxonomic revision of the bumblebees of Asia.
  • Bumblebees of North America.
  • Interactive key to bee genera of the Middle East.
  • Revision of Megaphragma species of the world, among the smallest known insects (with Universities of Naples, Moscow and Iasi (Bulgaria). 
  • Phylogeny of Coccophaginae (Hym.: Chalcidoidea: Aphelinidae) (with Univ. California, Riverside).
  • Encyrtidae of Costa Rica.
A specimen on a slide

The beautiful fairy fly, one of the smallest winged insects © The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London

collected hymenoptera on a pin
A wasp against a white background
A glass jar of specimen

Insect division

Our scientists are conserving the Museum's vast insect collection, collecting and identifying new species and utilizing the collections for cutting edge entomological research.

Collections management

Our duty is to provide a safe and secure environment for all of our collections.