The Hymenoptera collection is one of the strongest segments of the CNC and one of the largest in the world. An estimated two to three million dried specimens are housed in about 250 cabinets and about 6000 drawers. There is a separate liquid collection of about 30,000 vials containing unidentified but partially sorted specimens in ethanol, estimated at around one million specimens, which is the source of most of the pinned material. There is a relatively small slide collection (fewer that 100 slide boxes - many only partly full) mainly of Chalcidoidea, and a collection of 155 fossils in Cretaceous amber.

cabinet drawers

Liquid Collection

The liquid collection is stored mainly in 70% ethanol. Most of the specimens were collected since 1970 with a few dating from 1965 when Malaise traps began to be commonly used. From 1965 to about 1985 the liquid material was kept in cabinets at room temperature. That material is often badly discoloured but some groups are not as badly affected as others and many specimens are still in good condition. It was then realized that storing liquid collections at low temperatures, preferably -10°C or lower, greatly retards specimen deterioration. Therefore, since 1986 the collections have been stored in a cold room at about 0°C. Consequently post-1985 material is generally in very good condition. Also in 1986 incoming material from mass collecting using passive methods (Malaise, pan, or flight intercept traps, etc.) was sorted as soon as possible into major taxa. These taxa are stored separately from the unsorted Hymenoptera. Both sorted and unsorted Hymenoptera in liquid are arranged by geographical region and, for the Nearctic region, mostly by state and province. The holdings are summarized below. A vial may contain anywhere from one to several thousand specimens. There are 16 cabinets of alcohol material.


The entire collection is heavily biased towards the parasitic wasp groups, which represent about 75-80% of both dry and liquid holdings. This reflects the researchers' interests over the years, mainly as a result of hiring practices within Agriculture Canada which emphasized work on the economically important Parasitica (mainly parasitic wasps) rather than the plant-feeding Symphyta (sawflies) or the mainly predaceous Aculeata (stinging wasps and bees). Although there is a heavy emphasis on the Nearctic region the holdings are worldwide. After the Nearctic region, they are, in order of decreasing numbers of specimens, the Neotropical, Palaearctic, Afrotropical, Oriental, and Australian regions. All the pinned Hymenoptera are sorted at least to family and often entirely to genus, e.g. proctotrupoids (s.l.), but the taxon. The largest proportion of specimens identified to species is in the aculeates and sawflies and the smallest is in the Microhymenoptera (chalcidoids, proctotrupoids, ceraphronoids, platygastroids, and cynipoids). Groups that are particularly well represented are the Braconidae, Eupelmidae, Ichneumonidae, Mymaridae, Tenthredinidae, Ceraphronoidea, Platygastroidea, and Proctotrupoidea. The last three superfamilies have outstanding representation and contain an almost complete set (443) of the world genera.

Dry (Mainly Pinned) Material - 250 Cabinets  
Taxon # of drawers
Symphyta 469
Chrysidoidea 69
Apoidea 402
Vespoidea 361
Braconidae 1495
Ichneumonidae 1600
Chalcidoidea [link disconnected temporarily] 1130
Cynipoidea 40
Evanioidea, Megalyroidea, Mymarommatoidea,
Stephanoidea, Trigonalyoidea
Ceraphronoidea 22
Platygastroidea 410
Proctotrupoidea 231
Layered specimens (mainly microhymenoptera) 10
Specimens in gelatin capsules (chalcidoids) 10
Papered specimens (ichneumonids) 25

Liquid Alcohol Collection - 16 Cabinets
Sorted Hymenoptera by Taxon # vials (racks)
Aculeata (minus bees and ants) 1500 (35)
Aculeata Apiformes (bees) 900 (40)
Aculeata Formicidae (ants) 2400 (99)
Braconidae 2400 (99)
Cynipoidea 2500 (93)
Evanioidea (mainly Evaniidae) 500 (11)
Ichneumonidae 1300 (54)
Proctotrupoidea, Ceraphronoidea, Platygastroidea 5900 (245)
Symphyta - adults
                - larvae
1900 (76)
1300 (57)
Unsorted or Partly Sorted Hymenoptera by Region
Nearctic 3600 (151)
Neotropical 1800 (76)

Content contributed by J.T. Huber

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