Our most colourful collection
Once part of the University of Calgary’s Museum of Zoology, the invertebrate collection consists of approximately 1.45 million insect specimens. And it’s growing. In actual numbers of species, this collection increases at a rate of about 7.5% each year. This is due to contributions from undergraduate student course work, graduate student, academic and technical staff research, and from donations of personal collections.
The specimens were originally housed in the Science A building along with the vertebrate collection. In 2008, everything was moved to the Biological Sciences building with the invertebrate collection being stored in rooms on the fourth floor. There is a limited amount of workbench space available for undergraduate and graduate students, emeritus faculty, and volunteers.
John Swann is the invertebrate collection manager, and supervises the preservation and use of the specimens. About 1.25 million are preserved in alcohol, with the remaining 200,000 insect specimens dry pinned in cabinet trays. There is also a small collection of dry and alcohol-preserved molluscs (snails and clams).
The collection’s earliest material dates to the late 1800s, and its greatest strengths are in material from the Calgary area, Kananaskis Valley, Waterton Lakes, Yoho and Kootenay National Parks. It has emerging strengths in material from West Africa, Southeast Asia and Central America, as well as a growing mollusc collection.
Did you know?
We now have an incredible collection of butterflies from around the world due to the work of former faculty member Dr. Charley Bird and the generous donations from two individual collectors: Mr. Neil Brett-Davies and Mr. George Paclawsky.
Odonates (dragonflies and damselflies) can move all four wings independently from each other – flapping up and down as well as rotating.
Some ladybugs will form winter aggregations to essentially hibernate. If the food supply is low in the warmer months, some species are capable of going into a state of aestivation – a summer hibernation.