Identifying a vintage collection of insects

There’s an eclectic and infrequently visited museum collection on a college campus in my area. They have a small vintage framed collection of insects, Victorian style. Identifying the insects is of interest to me and the curator. What is the best way to handle this? I don’t think my photos are of sufficient quality to crop each insect individually.
I’d like to know if they came from a particular area of the world.


My guess is that unless the original collection records can be located, the records will all need to be input as casual observations without location or date, which will reduce the likelihood of identification. You might be able to increase the odds of getting IDs by creating a project for specimens in the campus collection (or add them to a general project for museum specimen/entomological collections, if one exists; I’m not sure)

It is advisable to take separate pictures of each individual insect if you still have access to the campus’s collection. This is not only more likely to clarify the subject of each observation but will also likely capture morphological features that will allow more precise identification. If this is not a possibility, some users edit pictures to specify which individual is the subject of an observation (e.g.

In your observation notes, you might consider adding that you would be interested in hearing about the likely geographic origin of the specimen. Identifiers might not have the time or ability to provide this information, in which case personal research will probably be required to narrow down the area of collection.


Your best bet would probably be to contact the museum curator or other museum staff that might be able to discuss the origin of the collection.

If you post any of the images on iNat, just make sure that you don’t include a location or time since you don’t know when or where they were collected. You will also want to put in the description your reason for posting.

1 Like

Thank you so much for your helpful reply @bennypoo. As I said above it was the curator and I that were discussing the origin of the collection. He knows who the family was that donated the (entire) museum collection. He did not know where the insects were collected by said family.
Perhaps after the pandemic restrictions are lifted, I can return and get more detailed photos. Thanks to all for suggestions. @okbirdman


In general, wholesale addition of specimens from biological collections to iNat is discouraged (one thread about this here: but there are others). The main reasoning behind this is that iNat is primarily for recording interactions between people and nature, and digitizing an older collection isn’t really this.

That said if there are a few specimens that you are looking for ID help with, etc., this shouldn’t be an issue. There are also other places online that you may be able to try (BugGuide, there’s a lot of bug folks on Reddit as well). They might be able to notice some commonality between the various specimens and point you in the direction of a collecting locality.


Are there any Mydas Flies?

Thank you, I have already received expert help due to this post.
Curious, please, how is a collection of specimens by one individual not a record of a person interacting with nature? Is it just because it is long past? Or because other, pertinent data is missing regarding each individual in the collection? (location found, for example)

I think the issue here is that iNat is focused on helping people observe the nature around them. Generally, that means wild things that you saw where they’re living. In this case, you (and the curator, and other museum visitors) are seeing the preserved specimens, and the long-gone collector was the one who saw these insects in the wild.

That said, as other have pointed out, if you blank out the location and date and include a brief note explaining that you’re trying to ID these old museum specimens, then no one should mind a few of these being added as casual observations. If I came across that display case, I’d be curious as well. And you don’t even need to upload/save the observation in order to see what computer vision suggestions iNat provides.

1 Like

You have been so kind, helping me with identifications. If you see anything in this case that you need more information on, I will put you in touch with the curator of the collection.

Thank you, appreciate your good and clear advice.

I see 2 specimens in there that appear to be of a species of Pentatomid Hemipteran native to a very large area in South America. That may help for identification of some of the other specimens as it provides a general geographic area that many of the other specimens are likely from, although I have no idea if all the specimens were collected in the same area.

Top center is a Central/South american native Acrocinus longimanus, and top left corner is a wood cockroach I’ve seen in Panama.

Like others have said, finding the original documentation is the way to go. But I’m having fun here.

1 Like

AKA harlequin beetle. Just below left of that is a Pompillid wasp (AKA tarantula-hawk), black with red wings. And below left of that, the whitish one is a “peanut-head bug” (a Fulgorid planthopper). Large black beetle at bottom center is Strategus aloeus, or “ox beetle.”

So my hunch is that this is a collection of Neotropical insects.

So am I, thank you so much @pkm @graytreefrog

Going to look up Neotropcal now…Thanks @jasonhernandez74

This topic was automatically closed 60 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.