The Collections of the Hexapoda Insectarium

 Hexapoda's collection of naturalised insects began over 150 years ago! 

A conservation area was created in 1960, in Gembloux, within the Laboratoire d'Entomologie fonctionnelle et évolutive. Soon, the collection will move to its new home, the Insectarium Jean Leclercq - Hexapoda in Waremme. In addition, the insect collections of the Aquarium Museum of ULiège and of other Walloon institutions of higher education will join this general collection.

Studying Insects to Learn about the State of the World

The issues of the insectarium - and the studies it allows - meet an extremely important contemporary concern. Indeed, insects are particularly well represented on Earth, in terms of diversity. Their study and the monitoring of their populations over time can be used to assess the state of health of the environment. In recent years, the decline of many insect groups has been observed. This is why, through two annual thematic exhibitions, Hexapoda alerts school and family audiences.

In addition, the insectarium collaborates with other museums, whether or not they are attached to ULiège: the Observatory of the World of Plants , the Museum of Natural Sciences of Brussels, the Castle of Jehay, the House of Mehaigne...

A Collection of Three Million Insects

The Insectarium's collection is mainly made up of dead arthropods, but also includes some sixty living species that are shown to the public to illustrate the museum's themes. It should be noted that more than 1000 types, constituting unique pieces of very high scientific value, are included in our collections.

One estimate - probably a low one - puts the content of the naturalised collections at 3 million Hexapods (mostly Insects). Most of these insects (nearly 95%) are dry-preserved and pinned in boxes with an ad hoc bottom or glued to cardboard, which is itself pinned. Each specimen is unique and is labelled to provide relevant biological and historical information (origin and date of capture). For some specimens, this information also includes the collection method, the name of the collector, their ecology, etc.

A small part of the collection is stored in alcohol (some myriapods, spiders, insect larvae or very small insects) and another small part is placed between glass slides in a perennial mounting medium (Siphonaptera - i.e. fleas, Entognathes, some larvae and other fragile or very small insects). Insects prepared and preserved in this way have an almost unlimited shelf life.

A Tool for Research and Teaching

Insect collections are used by many researchers for their scientific studies. They also use them to compare specimens from their own collections with reference insects present in the collections because the vast majority of them require precise observation of certain characteristics under a magnifying glass.

Moreover, entomology is an essential part of the bio-engineering training at Gembloux Agro-bio Tech. In this context, the collection is an indispensable tool for learning to identify the main groups of insects.

Donations from Individuals

In addition to the collections of the ULiège scientific community, the growth of the collections also comes from bequests from individuals. Many of these passionate amateurs prefer to entrust their collection to a museum which will be able to manage it adequately and perpetuate it. The ULiège Laboratory of Functional and Evolutionary Entomology has always had the ambition to host a maximum number of collections representative, at least, of the entomological landscape of the Wallonia-Brussels Region.

To be acquired and conserved, the specimens must have an undeniable scientific value (reflecting, for example, the individuals of a taxonomic group of interest because of its rarity, its interest as a biological indicator, or even as a pest of a particular ecosystem, etc.) and heritage or historical value (reflecting the populations of a region or even of a biotope, for example).

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