Study of Insects

Although there were entomology collections, especially butterflies, that predate the inception of the Department, the Entomology Department was formally established on 1 May 1975, when Gunderico Wladimiro Santos Ferreira (1921–1999), who had studied at the University of Coimbra, Portugal and was formerly employed at the University of Lourenço Marcques, Moçambique, took up the position of entomologist. Three months later, during April, he was joined by his wife, Maria Corinta Ferreira (née Melo) (1922–?2003), who had held the position of Director of the Institute for Scientific Research of Moçambique (employed 1959–1974) and Professional officer at Museu Dr Álvaro de Castro, Lourenço Marques (employed 1948–1959), prior to her appointment at the National Museum. Both received leave of absence from Bloemfontein to attend pension-related court cases in Mozambique in 1979 and never returned to the Museum, both returning to Portugal in 1980. G.W.S. & M.C. Ferreira were coleopterists and prior to 2008 the Museum has employed coleopterists consistently who concentrated on development of the Coleoptera collection.

A core collection of ca 1,500 Diptera was developed by subsequent curators, including John A. Irish (1958–living) and Leon Nico Lotz (1957–living), mainly as a result of surveys of Navel Hill and other hills in the central Bloemfontein area, but chiefly comprised a more extensive collection of spirit-preserved Hippoboscidae developed by Elize [Elsabé] Jacoba Visagie (1967–living) (who has published several papers on South African Hippoboscidae).

Ashley H. Kirk-Spriggs took up the position of curator from November 2008 to January 2019, with an emphasis on developing the Afrotropical Diptera collection. As a result, the Diptera collection is now the largest non-specialised collection of Diptera on the African continent, with over 209,374 accessioned specimens. All families that occur in the Afrotropics are now represented in the collection.

It is a unique research tool, as it comprises recent, high quality material from numerous poorly-sampled Afrotropical countries, including: Benin, Burundi, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Réunion Is., Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, South Africa (Eastern and Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Free State), Togo and Zambia. The collection also incorporates former collections of the Alexander McGregor Museum (Kimberley) and University of Pretoria collections of Diptera (both of which were formally donated in 2009).

The majority of the collection is pinned and is stored in glass-topped drawers using a unit tray system. There is also an extensive spirit collection with the majority of samples preserved in 96% ethanol and suitable for DNA extraction. The Department currently has one full-time Diptera taxonomist on staff, B.S. Muller. The collection is widely used by local and international researchers and parts of the collection have been identified by leading experts. Currently over 25,000 pinned specimens are on loan to specialists.

The National Museum, Bloemfontein is, therefore, a centre of excellence for the study of dipterology on the continent and the collection represents an extremely important national asset and research tool, which raises the international profile of research in the field in South Africa. All pinned specimens and sorted spirit-preserved specimens have been fully digitised and the database is fully maintained. There are several hundred residue samples, mostly of Malaise and pan trap catches that still require sorting, identification and digitisation.


Participation in SANBI forums

Participation in SANBI forums

18 January 2017
In May, B.S. Muller participated in the SANBI Joint Biodiversity Information Management Forum (BIMF) & Foundational Biodiversity Information Programme (FBIP) Forum 2016, held at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, Cape Town.  He co-facilitated and co-presented the georeferencing workshop held during the last two days.  The aim of the workshop was to equip participants with the necessary knowledge and skills to georeference.

Researchers visit Entomology Department

Researchers visit Entomology Department Gimo Researchers visit Entomology Department Maureen

18 January 2017
During March Prof. M. Coetzee (right) of Wits University spent a week in the department studying recently collected African mosquitoes.  At the same time G. Daniel, a PhD student from the University of Pretoria, studied the African dung beetles in the collection.

Manual of Afrotropical Diptera

Manual of Afrotropical Diptera

18 January 2017
The Manual of Afrotropical Diptera project is a major initiative that involves scientists from around the world.  This major publication includes identification keys to all the fly genera occurring in the African tropics, as well as introductory chapters on fly biology.  Volume 1 (59 chapters) is scheduled for publication in the first half of 2017, and volumes 2 and 3 in 2018.

Visitor to Entomology

Arianna Thomas

16 November 2016
Arianna Thomas, a PhD student from Universidad de Alicante, Spain, spent several weeks as a visitor to the Entomology Department studying our collection of Afrotropical Rhiniidae and Calliphoridae (Diptera). Such visits from foreign researchers highlight the significance of the Diptera collection internationally.

Re-storage of part of the Entomology collection

Re-storage Entomology cupboard Re-storage Entomology tray

30 September 2016
The Entomology Department of the National Museum has a rapidly growing collection of Afrotropical flies, generated through recent field work excursions in Southern, Central and East Africa, comprising over 35 000 dry-pinned specimens, making this the second largest collection of flies in Africa.  The study of these specimens is being actively encouraged through the loan of material to specialist researchers worldwide, especially to contributors to the forthcoming Manual of Afrotropical Diptera.

In line with this development, the entire Diptera collection has now been re-housed in purpose-built glass-topped drawers with a new cardboard unit tray system.  This brings curation of the collection to international standards.  Three 40-drawer cabinets have been constructed and others will follow, allowing re-organising of the ants, bees, wasps, ant lions and true bugs.  This is linked to the transfer of existing collection information to the relational database Specify 6.


Principal Museum Scientist

Gimo M. Daniel PhD. gimo.daniel@nasmus.co.za

Gimo Daniel obtained his BSc, BSc (Hons) in Biology from the Universidade Pedagógica de Moçambique-Beira; and an MSc in Entomology and Biodiversity Conservation from the Universidade Federal da Grande Dourados, Brazil.

He obtained a PhD degree in Entomology at the University of Pretoria in 2019, under supervision of CH Scholtz, CL Sole and ALV Davis. He started working at the National Museum, department of Terrestrial Invertebartes (Entomology) as a Principal Museum Scientist.Gimo’s research interest is focused on systematics and biogeography of dung beetles (Scarabaeinae), as well as zoological nomenclature. Currently is working on systematics of Odontoloma and alpha taxonomy of Stiptopodius.

Senior Museum Scientist

Burgert Muller M.Sc. burgert.muller@nasmus.co.za

B.Sc Entomology (UFS); M.Sc. Entomology(UFS)

Burgert MullerBurgert began his entomology career in 2008 as Senior Research Technician: Natural Sciences at the KwaZulu-Natal Museum, Pietermaritzburg. From 2009–2016 he was employed at the same institution as Curator of Entomology, focussing his research on Afrotropical Diptera, specifically Muscidae. During his time at the museum he served as Graphics Editor for the International (and museum) journal African Invertebrates. In 2014 he took over as Managing Editor of African Invertebrates until his departure from the Museum. He still acts as subject editor for the Taxonomy discipline in the journal. He also served as co-facilitator and trainer of Georeferencing workshops for SANBI since 2012.

In 2014 Burgert obtained his Masters degree for a thesis titled: Systematics of the shoot fly subgenus Atherigona s. str. (diptera: muscidae) of South Africa.

Burgert’s research interests are systematics, taxonomy, phylogeny and biogeography of true flies (Diptera), with special emphasis on Muscidae and Athericidae. He is also interested in Cybertaxonomy and literature mark-up, as well as Collections data quality assessment and use, which includes georeferencing and collections information management.

Research Assistant (Entomology)

Precious Tshililo M.Sc. precious@nasmus.co.za

Precious Tshililo holds a BSc (Botany and Zoology) and Honors degree (Zoology) from University of Venda.

In 2018, she obtained a Master’s degree in Entomology from Stellenbosch University with a thesis titled: Integrative taxonomy of the Karoo agile grasshoppers (Acrididae: Euryphyminae).

Precious joined the museum (August 2019) as a Research Assistant: Entomology and her research interest are Integrative taxonomy, systematics and Ecology.

Publications - Scientific Articles

Refereed journals, books and catalogues

Muller, B.S. & Mostovski, M.B. 2018. A key to males of Atherigona s. str. (Diptera: Muscidae) from Mali, with new records and a new species for the country. Zootaxa 4425 (2): 342–356. PDF

Kirk-Spriggs, A.H. & Muller, B.S. 2017. 9. Biogeography of Diptera. In: Kirk-Spriggs, A.H. & Sinclair, B.J., eds, Manual of Afrotropical Diptera. Volume 1. Introductory chapters and keys to Diptera families. Suricata 4. Pretoria: SANBI Graphics & Editing, 203–238. PDF 3.4 MEG

Marshall, S.A., Kirk-Spriggs, A.H., Muller, B.S., Paiero, S.M., Yau, T. & Jackson, M.D. 2017. 12. Key to Diptera families—adults. In: Kirk-Spriggs, A.H. & Sinclair, B.J., eds, Manual of Afrotropical Diptera. Volume 1. Introductory chapters and keys to Diptera families. Suricata 4. Pretoria: SANBI Graphics & Editing, 267–355. PDF Part 1PDF Part 2

Muller, B.S. 2015. Illustrated Key and Systematics of Male South African Atherigona s. str. (Diptera: Muscidae). African Invertebrates 56 (3): 845–918.

Muller, B.S. 2013. Rediscovering the Old from New: Two Curious Species of Coenosia Meigen (Diptera: Muscidae) from South Africa. African Invertebrates 54 (2): 595–603.

Miller, J., Dikow, T., Agosti, D., Sautter, G., Catapano, T., Penev, L., Zhang, Z.Q., Pentcheff, D., Pyle, R., Blum, S., Parr, C., Freeland, C., Garnett, T., Ford, L.S., Muller, B., Smith, L., Strader, G., Georgiev, T., Bénichou, L. From taxonomic literature to cybertaxonomic content. 2012. BMC Biology 10 (87): 1–5.

Oliveira, S.S. & Muller, B.S. 2012. The types of Lygistorrhinidae and Mycetophilidae (Diptera: Bibionomorpha) in the KwaZulu-Natal Museum, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. African Invertebrates53 (2): 703–714.

Davies, G.B.P., Miller, R.M. & Muller, B.S. 2012. A new genus of lauxaniid fly from South Africa (Diptera: Acalyptratae: Lauxaniidae), associated with proteas (Proteaceae). African Invertebrates 53(2): 615–636.

Grichanov, I.Y., Mostovski, M.B. & Muller, B.S. 2011. New records of Afrotropical Dolichopodidae (Diptera) from the Collection of the Natal Museum (2). International Journal of Dipterological Research 22 (2): 65–82.

Grichanov, I.Y., Mostovski, M.B. & Muller, B.S. 2011. New records of Afrotropical Dolichopodidae (Diptera) from the Collection of the Natal Museum (1). International Journal of Dipterological Research 22 (1): 3–9.

Short articles and reports

Congress abstracts

Kirk-Spriggs, A.H., Muller, B.S. & Kirk-Spriggs, M.K. 2018. Diptera collection of the National Museum, Bloemfontein – a regional and international resource. In: Kirk-Spriggs, A.H. & Muller, B.S., eds. Abstracts volume. 9th International Congress of Dipterology, 25–30 November 2018. Windhoek, Namibia. International Congresses of Dipterology, Windhoek, 134.   Muller, B.S. 2018. Diptera collections as data sources for biodiversity and conservation management planning – a South African case study. In: Kirk-Spriggs, A.H. & Muller, B.S., eds. Abstracts volume. 9th International Congress of Dipterology, 25–30 November 2018. Windhoek, Namibia. International Congresses of Dipterology, Windhoek, p. 197.   Muller, B.S. & Kirk-Spriggs, A.H. 2018. The “Atherix” syndrome – an overview of the systematics and taxonomy of Afrotropical Athericidae. In: Kirk-Spriggs, A.H. & Muller, B.S., eds. Abstracts volume. 9th International Congress of Dipterology, 25–30 November 2018. Windhoek, Namibia. International Congresses of Dipterology, Windhoek, p. 198.   Jordaens, K., Copeland, R., Goergen, G., Hamer, M., Janssens, S., Kirk-Spriggs, A.H., Midgley, J., Muller, B. & Njoroge, L. 2017.The Pollinator Information Network for Two-Winged Insects (PINDIP)In: Program and Abstracts, 9thInternational Symposium on Syrphidae, 28th August – 1st September 2017, Curitiba, PR., Brazil, p. 36.

Muller, B.S., Louw, S.vdM. & Miller, R.M. 2015. Systematics and biogeography of South African shootflies, Atherigona s. str. (Diptera: Muscidae)In: Proceedings of the 19th Congress of the Entomological Society of Southern Africa, 12–15 July 2015, Grahamstown, South Africa.

Muller, B.S. 2015. Data migration: windfall or pitfall? A case study of the KwaZulu-Natal MuseumIn: Proceedings of the 19th Congress of the Entomological Society of Southern Africa, 12–15 July 2015, Grahamstown, South Africa.

Muller, B., Mostovski, M. & Louw, S. vdM. 2011. The importance of spatial scale, resolution and algorithm selection in the distribution modelling of Atherigona s. str. (Diptera: Muscidae): a case studyIn: Proceedings of the 17th Entomological Congress, Entomological Society of Southern Africa, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein 3–6 July 2005 : 117.

Maharaj, P. & Muller, B. 2010. Evaluation of a maximum entropy geographic distribution model: a case study of the Philoliche aethiopica species complex (Diptera: Tabanidae) in South AfricaIn: Proceedings of the Year Congress of the South Africa Academy of Science. 3 October 2010. ARC Roodeplaat.

Muller, B. Mostovski, M. & Louw, S. 2010. Modelling the zoogeography of South African Atherigona s. str. (Diptera: Muscidae). In: Proceedings of the Seventh International Congress of Dipterology. 8–13 August 2010, San José, Costa Rica. P. 159.

Muller, B. 2009. A review of the agroecological important Atherigona s. str. spp. (Diptera: Muscidae) of South AfricaIn: Proceedings of the 16th congress of the Entomological Society of South ern Africa. Stellenbosch, 5– 8 July 2009.

Muller, B. & Muller, M. 2009. The use of vector graphics to produce highly changeable images for use in scientific communicationIn: Proceedings of the 16th congress of the Entomological Society of Southern Africa. Stellenbosch, 5– 8 July 2009.

Muller, B., Louw, S., & Prinsloo, G. 2008. Morphological identification of Chalcidoidea wasps occurring on Erythrina caffra and E. lysistemon and the impact of nutrient availability and concentration on survival ratesIn: Proceedings of the 23rd International Congress of Entomology, 6-12 July, Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

Book reviews

Muller, B.S. 2011. Savazzi, E. 1999. Digital photography for science: close-up photography, macrophotography and photomacrographyAfrican Invertebrates 52 (1): 231–232.

Publications - Popular Articles

Copeland, R.S. & Kirk-Spriggs, A.H. 2011. Rediscovery of Mormotomyia hirsuta, the “Terrible, Hairy Fly”. Fly Times 46: 26–28.

Kirk-Spriggs, A.H. 2010a. Seventh International Congress of Dipterology, San José, Costa Rica, 8–13 August 2010. African Invertebrates   51: 483–  484.

Kirk-Spriggs, A.H. 2010. The Boyekoli Ebale Congo Expedition 2010. Culna 65: 3-5.

Kirk-Spriggs, A.H. 2010. The Boyekoli Ebale Congo Expedition 2010. Fly Times 45: 12-16.

Kirk-Spriggs, A.H. 2009. Major initiative on Afrotropical flies. Culna 64: 27-28.

Sinclair, B.J. & Kirk-Spriggs, A.H. 2009. Brandberg Massif (Namibia) serves up another living fossil!  Fly Times 42: 2-4.

Kirk-Spriggs, A.H. 2007. Madagascar - a land that time forgot. The Elephant’s Child (Newsletter of the Albany Museum) 31(2): (unpaginated).

Kirk-Spriggs, A.H. 2007. Is this the most successful fly in the world? Grocott’s Mail 16th March 2007 :10.

Kirk-Spriggs, A.H. 1995. After Project Wallace–Toraut revisited. Antenna 19: 171 – 175.

Kirk-Spriggs, A.H. 1992. Rain forests, insects and conservation. Amgueddfa Summer 1992: 12.

Kirk-Spriggs, A.H. 1990. Identifying pollen beetles. Amgueddfa Summer 1990: 9.

Kirk-Spriggs, A.H. 1987. In the bat caves of northern Sulawesi. Antenna 11(4): 138 –139.


The Entomology Collection of the National Museum comprises ca. 410,000 specimens, mostly dry-pinned or staged. As with other museum collections, collection development has been driven through the interests of previous curators, and a heavy emphasis was placed in the past on the development of the Coleoptera (beetles) (especially the families: Tenebrionidae (darkling beetles), Scarabaeidae (dung beetles and chafers) and Curculionidae (weevils)). The collection also includes the largest holdings of the insect Orders Thysanura (silverfish, fishmoths) and Archaeognatha (bristletails) in southern Africa. Sampling and collection development is now focused on the Order Diptera (true flies), through dedicated bioinventory surveys in southern Africa. The Diptera collection now comprises over 209,374 specimens and is growing at a rate of ca. 15,000 specimens each year.

Other Orders of insects (not mentioned above) are also represented in the Collection: Collembola (springtails), Diplura, Ephemeroptera (mayflies), Odonata (dragonflies & damselflies), Blattodea (cockroaches), Isoptera (termites), Mantodea (mantids & praying mantids), Dermaptera (earwigs), Plecoptera (stoneflies), Orthoptera (grasshoppers, crickets), Phasmatodea (stick and leaf insects), Mantophasmatodea (heel-walkers), Embioptera (web-spinners, foot-spinners), Psocoptera (book lice), Phthiraptera (lice), Hemiptera (true bugs), Thysanoptera (thrips), Megaloptera (alderflies), Neuroptera (lacewings & antlions), Mecoptera (scorpion flies), Siphonaptera (fleas), Lepidoptera (butterflies & moths), and Hymenoptera (ants, bees & wasps).

Emphasis has been placed in the past on the development of a representative collection of insects occurring in the Free State of South Africa, although there is also material representing most other southern African countries, especially Namibia and Botswana.

The insect collection of the Alexander McGregor Memorial Museum, Kimberley, South Africa, was donated to the Department of Entomology in 2009 and is currently being databased and incorporated into the main collection.

Entomology staff members are currently engaged in the verification and updating of the Departmental databases, which shall be posted as a searchable portal on this website in the future.

The collection is used by the general public, for teaching purposes, and by researchers throughout the world. Departmental staff endeavour to curate and maintain the collection to the highest international standards and to make material available to bona fide researchers and students upon request, subject to our Loan Policy.

An especially important role of the collection is in support of teaching and research activities of the Department of Zoology and Entomology of the University of Fort Hare, Alice, South Africa and Departmental staff engage in teaching and the supervision of student projects. The Department also offers an identification service (by appointment and at the discretion of the Curator) for schools and the general public and all enquiries should be directed to the Curator. It should be noted that identifications can only be undertaken if properly preserved specimens are provided. If in doubt, please contact the Curator beforehand. Departmental staff are also glad to present talks and lectures to schools and other educational institutions, upon request.

Loan Policy


The Borrower by signing the receipt for this loan agrees:

1. To take care of the borrowed material and to maintain it in a secure and pest-free environment for the duration of the loan.

2. To obtain prior permission from the Lender (National Museum, Bloemfontein) for all dissection/disassembling or other treatment of material, except where such treatment is the normal and necessary practice for the study or maintenance of such material. All dissected/disassembled parts must be retained with the specimens and returned, either attached to or in a vial with the source specimen, or labelled in such a manner to allow easy association of parts with source specimens.

3. To retain all labels and accession numbers on all borrowed specimens/objects.

4. In the case of revisionary work, where practical, to place a clear identification label on each individual specimen. Types especially should be clearly and distinctly labelled as such.

5. Not to forward any specimens to a third party, without the prior permission of the Lender.

6. To inform the Lender of any change of address of the Borrower.

7. To return material on or before the expiry date of the loan, or to request an extension to the loan period.

8. To ensure that specimens are properly and safely packed for return shipment.

9. To return material by registered air parcel delivery service or in the case of types, courier service.

10. To return all loaned material. Should the Borrower wish to retain duplicate specimens1, or deposit duplicate specimens in other collections, permission should be requested from the Lender, e.g. by sending a list of desired material prior to the return of the loan. All such requests shall be considered on merit. Prior permission must be obtained should the Borrower wish to deposit secondary types in the collections of other institutions. Permission for the deposition of secondary types in private collections is usually not granted. In no case is the retention of primary types or other unique material allowed.

11. Copyright laws may apply to photographic and printed materials. When in doubt, please consult with the respective Curator.

12. To provide the Lender with a pdf file or otherwise two reprints of publications based wholly or in part on borrowed material.


A. Material is lent to bona fide researchers or users at the discretion of the National Museum, Bloemfontein.

B. Specimens are only lent to graduate students via their respective Supervisors, and the safe keeping and return of such material is ultimately that Supervisors’ responsibility. Prior arrangements must be made and agreed for such loans.

C. Specimens will normally only be lent to individuals associated with a recognised institution. Loans to private individuals are at the discretion of the Curator concerned.

D. Analytical techniques on accessioned material, which may cause irreversible damage or destruction, are usually not allowed unless pre-stipulated, and ensuring that there is duplicate material. This may not be undertaken to holotypes. If in doubt consult the Lender.

E. Please use the international coden BMSA when referring to the National Museum’s collections in print2.

F. Please quote accession numbers when referring to specific items from the National Museum’s collections in print.

G. Before publishing new entomological taxa, please obtain BMSA type numbers if available for each taxon from the Lender. Please publish these numbers with the descriptions.

H. A list of the species and number of specimens in each species (with catalogue numbers where applicable) with return shipment would be appreciated.

I. Blatant non-compliance with the loan conditions may lead to at least the loss of future loan privileges by the Borrower and /or the Borrower’s institution.

1A duplicate specimen specifically refers to specimen/s of the same species collected at the same locality, on the same date and by the same collecting methodology.

2Includes the insect collection of the Alexander McGregor Memorial Museum, Kimberley and the Diptera collection of the Department of Zoology & Entomology, University of Pretoria (both of which were formerly donated to the National Museum, Bloemfontein in 2009.

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