History of the NC State Insect Collection

"Each species must be known by one name only, throughout the entire extent of its range. This systematic study is the foundation upon which all the other work of seemingly more practical importance is based." - T.B. Mitchell

Historically, many dedicated faculty and staff have worked to make North Carolina State University a center for excellence in insect systematics. The first was Zeno P. Metcalf, who, between 1912 and 1956, established NC State as a leading institution for research and training in insect systematics, particularly the taxonomy of the Hemiptera.

The Department of Entomology began developing an institutional insect collection during the early 1950s. Metcalf was initially in charge of the departmental collection, which incorporated his extensive private collection of Hemiptera. In 1955, the NC State Insect Collection and the department moved into room 4321 of the newly completed Gardner Hall; Metcalf died in early 1956. Leafhopper specialist David A. Young accepted a faculty position at NC State in 1957 and took on the administration of the collection, which grew in size and importance under his direction. In the late 1970s, David L. Stephan assumed responsibility for the Insect Collection, a task of such magnitude that the need for a full-time collection manager became apparent. In early 1979, Carol S. Parron filled this new staff position, and a Departmental Museum Council was established. In the mid-1980s, Lewis L. Deitz was appointed director of the Insect Collection. Robert L. Blinn replaced Parron as the collection manager in 1987. In 1992, he designed a database application to inventory the holdings and managed accessions and loans. Later, molecular systematist Brian M. Wiegmann initiated the Insect Museum’s Genome Bank.

The rapid growth of the Insect Collection during the 1980s and 1990s made it necessary to expand into two adjoining rooms (4317 Gardner in 1995 and 4317 Gardner in 1996). In December 1980, the Collection’s estimated holdings were approximately 719,178 prepared specimens. In 1997, the National Science Foundation funded a grant to expand the Insect Collection, incorporating recent significant acquisitions.

Changes continue at the NC State Insect Collection as we grow, adapt and develop advances in biodiversity informatics. Thanks to the National Science Foundation (DBI-0847924) and the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology, in 2009, we expanded our storage capacity by 20% and our overall footprint by over 30% (with 600 sqft of new research and storage space). We are also extending our inventory efforts to include specimen data and images.

Faculty and Staff Associated with the NC State Insect Museum


Current Directory

Contributors to the Collection

  • Charles R. Bartlett University of Delaware, “Homoptera”
  • Steve Hall Lepidoptera
  • Kye S. Hedlund UNC-Chapel Hill, Formicidae
  • Mark J. Rothschild Membracidae
  • Charles L. Staines, Jr. Chrysomelidae
  • James W. Smith Coleoptera
  • Henry Stockwell Coleoptera
  • J. Bo Sullivan Lepidoptera
C. S. Brimley Faculty, North Carolina Insects, 1920-1927
B. K. Cassel Technician in Molecular Systematics, 1996-present
A.R. Deans Faculty and Director of Collection, 2007-2012
L.L. Deitz Faculty and Director of Collection: Homoptera, 1980-2006
M.H. Farrier Faculty: Acarina, 1955-1991
B.B. Fulton Faculty: Orthoptera, 1928-1954
K.L. Knight Faculty and Department Head: Culicidae, 1968-1980
W.M. Kulash Faculty: Elateridae, 1943-1960
Z.P. Metcalf Faculty and Department Head: Auchenorrhynchous Homoptera, 1912-1956
T.B. Mitchell Faculty: Apoidea, 1925-1961
H.H. Neunzig Faculty: Lepidoptera and Megaloptera, 1957-1992
CS Parron Collection Manager: Aphididae, 1979-1987
P.O. Richter Faculty: Scarabaeidae, 1950-1951
F. Sherman Faculty, Agricultural Experiment Station Entomologist, 1902-1907
C.F. Smith Faculty and Department Head: Aphididae and Braconidae (Aphidiinae), 1939-1979
D.L. Stephan Faculty and Head Curator of Collection, 1974-present
H.K. Townes Faculty: Hymenoptera, 1951
B.M. Wiegmann Faculty: Diptera and Molecular Systematics, 1994-present
D. A. Young Faculty and Head Curator of Collection: Cicadellidae, 1957-1980


Grants, Awards and Donations

The NC State Insect Collection database was compiled with support from the North Carolina Agricultural Research Service and the National Science Foundation (grants DEB-9815867 and DEB-9978026). In 1997, the Collection was awarded a National Science Foundation grant to expand the research collection, and we now house collections of over 1.6 million prepared insects. Recent acquisitions include the David L. Wray Collection of Collembola and the Tom Daggy Insect Collection (primarily Coleoptera), representing at least 50 years of specialized collecting in North Carolina. The award (NSF DEB-9709141), supplemented by funds from NC State, provided archival storage for these acquisitions, permitted their integration into existing holdings and facilitated scientific access to NC State’s resources.

In 2000, we acquired the NC Department of Agriculture collection of about 300,000 insects dating back to the early 20th century. In the summer of 2017, the Collection received a sizable donation from the personal collection of Jose Ramos, consisting of over 72,000 specimens of Auchenorrhynchus, mainly from the Caribbean and South America. Ramos received his M.S. and Ph.D. from NC State and was advised by Z. P. Metcalf; Ramos’s son donated the collection after his death.

Historical References

  1. Brett. C. H. [1975] North Carolina State University at Raleigh, Entomology 1776-1976. [Department of Entomology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh] 199 pp.;
  2. Deitz, L. L. 1983. North Carolina State University Insect Collection. Tymbal, Auchenorrhyncha Newsletter (Commonwealth Institute of Entomology, London) 2:8;
  3. Deitz, L. L. (compiler). [1984 (dated 1983)]. Featured institution–North Carolina State University at Raleigh. Association of Systematics Collections Newsletter 11(6):65-69;
  4. Deitz, L. L. 1991a. David Allan Young 1915-1991. Tymbal, Auchenorrhyncha Newsletter (CAB International Institute of Entomology, London) 17:2-8 [with annotated bibliography];
  5. Deitz, L. L. 1991b. David Allan Young, Jr. (1915-1991). American Entomologist 37(4):251;
  6. Deitz, L. L. 1992. David Allan Young, Jr. (1915-1991). Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington 94(3):390-395 [with annotated bibliography];
  7. Schnell, M. [1987 (dated 1986)]. N.C.S.U. Collections: the Insect Museum. Research Perspectives (North Carolina Agricultural Research Service, North Carolina State University, Raleigh) 5(3):8-9.