Entomology is the study of insects, but often covers other arthropod groups such as spiders, centipedes, and similar creatures. Although Te Papa’s collection focuses on the New Zealand subregion of the world, there are also sizeable quantities of material from Australia, the Pacific Islands, and other places.
The collection is particularly strong in beetles, butterflies, moths, lice, fleas, stick insects, springtails, cicadas, wētā, spiders, harvestmen, and water bears. It includes about 1100 primary types - the original specimens on which published descriptions of a species are based - within an estimated 600,000 specimen lots.
There are three primary systems for specimen storage. Most insects are stored as dried, pinned specimens in wooden cabinets. However, many insects and other soft-bodied specimens are stored in 70% ethanol. We also hold a large number of small specimens mounted on glass micro-slides.
The collection is used primarily by scientists and scholars from New Zealand and throughout the world, but has many other users. Specimens can be seen in Te Papa's displays (for example, in the exhibitions Mountains to Sea and Awesome Forces, and in the discovery centre NatureSpace). The collection has also been a source of inspiration for artists and photographers as well as an educational resource for teachers and students. Insects and spiders from the collection have been used as props in movies, commercials, and television shows.