The collection is estimated to house some two and a half million specimens and is thought to represent the third largest entomological depository in the UK. The origin of Manchester’s insect collections dates back to the foundation of the Museum by the ‘Manchester Society for Promotion of Natural History’ in 1821. The oldest insect specimen at the Manchester Museum is the pill-beetle collected by William Kirby, the founder-father of the British Entomology, and described by T. Marsham in his Entomologica Brittanica in 1802.
The particular strengths of the museum’s bug collections are as follows: the comprehensive collection of British insects of all groups; the worldwide collection of beetles, including the collection of tortoise-beetles which is the second best in the world; the collection of earwigs containing almost a half of the species described worldwide; the collection of butterflies and moths, including the comprehensive collection of the swallowtail butterflies accounting for almost 90% of the world fauna; the worldwide collection of spiders; and others. The departmental archive contains some 40 individual collections related to former keepers and those who donated/bequeathed their collections to the Museum.
The collections and archive are used for taxonomic research, art/design projects, teaching and public programmes both within and beyond the University of Manchester.