When collections are your only identification key

As I mentioned a few posts back, as part of my traineeship I am undertaking several curation projects in various departments. One of the projects in Entomology has been to study and recurate the Lantern Bug collection at Manchester Museum. We have quite a large collection. Over 300 specimens fulgorids and flatids are housed in 36 cabinets. After examining the collection I noticed that not only were many specimens undetermined, but some were just plain wrong! A South American specimen was labelled as Chinese for one thing.

I also noticed that our Fulgora (Alligator Bug) specimens were all labelled as one species. After examining some literature, I found out that we actually had  2 species of Fulgora. I suspected a smaller specimen might be Fulgora lucifera. After examining specimens at the Natural History Museum in London I confirmed this to be correct. Fulgora species have slightly different head shapes, as you can tell from the photos below.

Fulgoridae can be an indentification nightmare for curators, simply because not many taxonomists or identification guides exist on the subject. There are a series of books on the Fulgoridae, but due to the cost I was only able to afford one. The books are also quite hard to get hold of.

This is where collections come in. I knew I had to see a bigger, well curated collection of Fulgorids in order to compare it with our own and work out what our own collection’s errors were. I managed to identify 15 undetermined specimens and fix 4 errors in our collection by studying the NHM Fulgorids. I would like to thank Mick Webb, curator of Hemiptera at the Natural History Museum in London for letting me use the collections and taking the time to help me.


A familiar grin at the NHM:

An illustration in place of a specimen. Possibly an iconotype:

Flatids and nymphs on a leaf:


About Gina Allnatt

I have just finished a year long traineeship as a Biology Curator at Manchester Museum. I am currently a research and curation volunteer in the Entomology and Botany departments. -Gina Allnatt
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