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
- Papered (dried insects in paper packets)
- Preserved in fluid, including larvae and galls
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.
- Natural History Museum Data Portal
- Checklist of British & Irish Hymenoptera
- NHM Hymenoptera Flickr page
- NHM Bombus site with a global checklist
- Nocturnal Ichneumonoidea of the British Isles (still in development):
- Universal Chalcidoidea Database
- The Cooper collection
- Read more about the Cooper collection
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.