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.

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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