Jewels with legs

Gallery Oldham contains an impressive collection of both British and Foreign beetles in its natural history stores. Though the collection has been documented to box and drawer level, it has not been documented to individual species level. In fact, some of the insects were not labelled with a species name, and required identification.

I’ve started work on the foreign beetle collection. A good number of the specimens were collected by Walter Douglas Hincks, who was Keeper of Entomology from 1947-1961 at the Manchester Museum. He was also a world authority on the insect groups Dermaptera and Mymaridae.

One of the largest beetle families in the world is the Buprestidae, or Metallic Wood Borers. With close to 15,000 species and 450 genera, they are also amoung the most spectacular of the Coleoptera. Their iridescent elytra (wing cases) have been used in many cultures as jewelry and costume decoration. But Buprestidae are more than just a pretty face. In fact, some of them are agricultural pests. Emerald Ash-Borers, which were introduced into the United States from Asia, can cause considerable ecological and economic damage to vast areas of ash trees.

It is the larval stage of the beetle that carries out the damage, and each species has a particular host plant. Some prey on living trees, while others will only go for downed timber. For example, the large species below, (Euchroma gigantea) feeds on downed wood from the giant Ceiba tree.

The Buprestidae collection contains species from South America, Australia, Asia, Europe and Africa. A large part of the collection seems to be donations or exchanges from the Manchester Museum.

After identification, I fitted the specimens with labels that had a unique number so they could easily be found on the documentation system. The insect collections will eventually be moved to a new storage area, so for now they will all be kept in their original boxes, but the more specimens that are individually inputted onto the CALM collections system, the more accessible they will be to researchers.

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4 responses to “Jewels with legs

  1. Hello Gina. I work in a small regional museum in New Zealand, and we’ve got a small collection of foreign beetles including some Buprestids very similar to the ones in your pictures. Would it be possible for me to send you some photos of them and see if you can easily name them and possibly suggest where they’re from? We have no idea, only know that they were collected in the 19th C.

    Or, feel free to direct me elsewhere!

    Many thanks, Philip

  2. You stated “The largest beetle family in the world is the Buprestidae, or Metallic Wood Borers.” Not by a long shot! Beetles are considered to be the largest order of insects. However, either Curculionidae or Staphylinidae is the largest family.

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