Diptera collections

Rothschild’s fly pinned specimen against a white background

Rothschild’s fly (Achias rothschildi) is a representative of the family Platystomatidae and is remarkable for its greatly lengthened eye stalks © The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London

The Diptera collection is one of the world’s leading research collections, with more than 2.5 million specimens, including important type material.

The collection dates back to the 18th century and includes taxa described by E.E. Austen, J.M.F. Bigot, E.A. Brunetti, F.W. Edwards and F. Walker. The collection also incorporates the Diptera collections of the former Commonwealth Institute of Entomology and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. 

The collection holds extensive material from all zoogeographical regions of the world, but is particularly strong in historical material from Africa, Asia and Europe. 

Included in the collection is important historical material collected by C.R. Darwin and A.R. Wallace, much of the latter studied and described by F. Walker and material resulting from significant expeditions, including BM(NH) expeditions to the Ruwenzori area in Central Africa (1934-1935), to south-western Africa (1972), east Nepal (1961-1962) and the Project Wallace expedition to Sulawesi, Indonesia (1985).

Although the New World is generally less well represented, there are also some significant collections from there, such as those made by F.W. Edwards (Patagonia and southern Chile), F. Plaumann (Brazil: Nova Teutonia) and the Biologia Centrali Americana collection.

The British and Irish Collection contains 1,200 drawers of pinned specimens covering the vast majority of British and Irish Diptera species.

Older specimens from collectors, such as F.W. Edwards and J.W. Yerbury and of historic as well as taxonomic importance and across the decades this material has been supplemented with collections from dipterists, such as C.N. Colyer, R.W. Crosskey, E.A. Fonseca, L. Parmenter and C.J. Wainright.

Specimens of national significance continue to be acquired, often through donations via the Dipterists Forum, ensuring the collection includes recent additions to the British and Irish fauna.

Most specimens are pinned and are stored dry in state of the art climatically controlled storage facilities. There is also a Data Portal which provides access to the Natural History Museum collection database, with images of many specimens, including several types.

Potential borrowers of material are referred to our Loan Policy

Looking for a specimen?

The Diptera collection is being digitised

Diptera collections team

Senior curator

Dr Erica McAlisterEmail

Diptera: Culicidae, Mycetophilidae, lower Brachycera


Dr Duncan SivellEmail

Diptera: other, "Nematocera", Empidoidea


Mr Nigel WyattEmail

Diptera: "Aschiza", Calyptratae


Ms Zoe J Adams, Email
Diptera: Psychodidae: Phlebotominae, Simuliidae

Geographical scope

Parts of the world that are particularly well represented are:

  • Afrotropical Region
  • Indian Ocean islands
  • Neotropical Region (Argentina and Chile)
  • Oceanian Region
  • Oriental Region
  • western Palaearctic Region

Significant collections

The international Diptera collection holds important type material dating back to the eighteenth century.

The British Diptera collection includes donations from important collectors of the 20th century.



Ernest Edward Austen (1867-1938)

Jacques Marie Frangile Bigot (1818-1893)

Enrico Adelemo Brunetti (1862-1927)

Bracy Clark (1771-1860)

Roger Ward Crosskey (1930-2017)

Charles Robert Darwin (1809-1882)

Frederick Walker Edwards (1888-1940)

Adrian Charles Pont (1941-living)

Francis Walker (1809-1874)

Alfred Russell Wallace (1823-1913)

British and Irish

Charles Norman Colyer (1908-1970)

Roger Ward Crosskey (1930-2017)

Charles Edward Dyte (1930-2012)

Frederick Walker Edwards (1888-1940)

Evelyn Cecil Muschamp d’Assis Fonseca (1899-1993)

Colbran Joseph Wainright (1867-1949)

Leonard Parmenter (1903-1969)

Owain Westmacott Richards (1901-1984)

Fossil Diptera

Fossil Diptera are not stored with the main Diptera collections and those wishing to arrange collection visits to examine fossils should email Claire Mellish.

Staff publications

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 on the move

We have set out on an ambitious programme to develop a new collections, science and digitisation centre. As we prepare for the move, access to some collections will be affected.

Accessing the collections

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

Collections management

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