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Building the Entomology Collections
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In 1853, the Adelaide insect collector C.A. Wilson wrote that if a Museum was founded he would

‘gladly offer … the donation of my duplicates … there are now 2,000 distinct South Australian species in my cabinet’.

Wilson’s generous donation formed the basis of the Museum’s first insect collection. By the early 1880s Otto Tepper was serving as the Museum’s entomologist, preparing specimens for display and exchange. During April-May 1883, for example, he cleaned and prepared 11,174 insect specimens.

Tepper was joined by Canon Thomas Blackburn, specialising in Coleoptera (beetles). As Honorary Curator of Entomology from 1887 to 1912, Blackburn described more than 3000 beetle species, and made meticulous notes and drawings of many specimens.

Private insect collectors, whose hobbies had grown into a passion, were a major source of collections. The chemist Oswald Lower sold a large collection of foreign butterflies and moths to the Museum in 1892, but continued to build a comprehensive Australian collection of Lepidoptera during the next 35 years. The Museum purchased it in 1927.

In 1911 Arthur Lea succeeded Tepper as Curator. He collected and described beetles at a remarkable rate, and published widely. Lea’s meticulously labelled specimens form the basis of Entomology’s beetle collections today.

A team of dedicated entomologists continue to work on the insect collections, now recognised as the most significant in Australia. New species are still being discovered and described, and results are continually being published.
Contributions from private entomologists
Contributions from private Entomologists
Lepidoptera and Oswald Bertram Lower
Oswald Bertram Lower (1863-1925) was a pharmaceutical chemist with a deep interest in entomology, especially butterflies and moths (Lepidoptera). Based in Broken Hill, he built his own collection over several decades, working in association with the noted entomologist Edward Meyrick. In 1895 he sold a large collection of foreign Lepidoptera to the Museum (40 drawers). Following his death in 1925, the Museum purchased the balance of his collection (more than 60,000 specimens).
The Lower Collection
The Lower Collection has been divided and placed within appropriate classifications in the larger Museum collection. This drawer of Micro Lepidoptera, for example, contains material from the Lower Collection as well as several other donated and purchased collections.

Drawer containing Philobota spp, LEPIDOPTERA: Oecophoridae. (Common Name: Micro Lepidoptera). Specimens from Lower, Lucas, Tepper, Angel, McQuillan, Littler collections.
Caring for insect collections
Museum Beetle
One of the challenges facing Collection Managers is to ensure that the material in their care is kept free from mould and insect damage. The beetle species Anthrenus verbasci (COLEOPTERA: Dermestidae) or ‘Museum Beetle’, can decimate a collection in a few days.

Individual specimens in our collections are inspected regularly for evidence of Anthrenus verbasci. Past practices of chemical fumigation have now ceased due to health hazards. The present solution for treating infected specimens is to freeze them for a minimum of one week. To minimize condensation on the drawer lids, drawers are wrapped in towels and placed in sealed plastic bags. They are thawed slowly at room temperature.
Museum Beetle Anthrenus verbasci
Damage caused by Museum Beetle
An example of damage caused by Anthrenus. This large moth, included in a donated collection, has been almost totally destroyed.

The Museum Beetle
Anthrenus verbasci
Anthrenus verbasci (COLEOPTERA : Family Dermestidae) Common Name : Museum Beetle, Carpet Beetle.
Specimens collected by J.G.O. Tepper in the early 1900s
Drawer of insects collected by Tepper
Australian Wood Cockroaches
Australian Wood Cockroaches
Australian Wood Cockroaches collected by J.G.O. Tepper, early 1900s: Panesthia tepperi (named after Tepper); Macropanesthia gigantea; Geoscapheus robustus.
Bush Katydids
Bush Katydids
Bush Katydids collected by J.G.O. Tepper, early 1900s: Taeniomena minor; Taeniomena fraserensis; Taeniomena sorroroides.
Raspy Crickets
Raspy Crickets
Raspy Crickets collected by J.G.O. Tepper, early 1900s (Gryllacris lutescens).

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