One of the principal research directions of the IE is the study of insects taxonomy and classification. Insect collections represent an essential tool for taxonomic work, since it allows specialists for particular groups to study and compare preserved specimens. At the Institute of Entomology, a valuable material from several groups of (not only) insects have been assembled in the past (e.g. the collection of aphids and mayflies from all parts of the world, Palaearctic braconids, spiders and caddishflies from Central Europe, selected groups of butterflies and beetles). Particular collections were built by the Institute employees from the very beginning of its existence. After the leave of these researchers to the retirement, their particular collections usually stayed at the Institute, being taken care of by their descendants. Thus, a unique material has been assembled during several decades. The collections are not useful to the taxonomists only, they are also being used by the scientists of other specializations, for instance for the purpose of the comparison of species, that are identifiable with difficulty.
In 2013, a position of curator of the entomological collections was established and appropriate facilities were allocated for the collections, including acquisition of special cabinets. A work started to prepare a catalogue the material and make the collection accessible to the scientific public. At the end of 2013, the collection of the Institute of Entomology was enlisted to the Central evidence of museum collections by the Ministry of Culture under the code AVE/013-10-16/408013. One year later, it was enlisted also to The Global Registry of Biorepositories (GRBio) under the code IECA.
So called type specimens possess a unique status in taxonomy. They represent specimens, that were used for a description of a given species and form a kind of a reference for the assignment of any further individual to that particular species. These specimens are carefully labelled and stored, since they represent the most valuable part of the collection. There are the type specimens of several hundreds of species housed in our collection.
Hemiptera: Sternorrhyncha: Aphidoidea and Adelgoidea (aphids)
An extensive collection of aphids is deposited in the Institute of Entomology. It contains two superfamilies of the suborder Sternorrhyncha - 1. Aphidoidea (Aphidina - viviovipara) and 2. Adelgoidea (Aphidina ovipara). The collection is the only reference aphid collection in the Czech republic and its volume places it within important collections in the European scale. Only microscopic slides are useful for biosystematics. However, a large amount of material is still unmounted and stored in 85% ethanol. The oldest slides from the region of Czechoslovakia were mounted by A. Pintera in the 50ies. The main part of the slide collection was mounted by J. Holman between 1960-2000. Another part of the identified slides have been prepared by J. Havelka (in particular families Lachnidae and Adelgidae) from the 90ies. Our collection contains approximately 120 000 slides.
Important material of aphids from outside the Czech republic and Slovakia
A large part of the collection of microscopic slides is formed by identified or partially identified material collected in the framework of international cooperation with foreign institutions. Extensive material was acquired by J. Holman during his long-term stay in Cuba (1965-1967). A series of short-term stays of A. Pintera and J. Holman in Romania (1958, 1971, 1976 and 1977) yielded approximately 2000 microscopic slides, identified and mostly deposited in the collection of the Institute of Entomology. Notable are also field trips of A. Pintera to Bulgaria (1958, 1964, 1967). A substantial part of these slides was also deposited in the collection of the Institute of Entomology. Repeated visits of J. Holman and P. Starý to the European and Asian part of the former Soviet Union also contributed with interestiing species of aphids and their parasitoids to the collection. The extensive material of aphids was sampled by J. Havelka in the North Korea during three short-term visits in 1985, 1987 and 1988. Other three collecting trips tom the South Korea followed later (1999, 2000 and 2001). The material collected in the northern part of the Korean peninsula was processed and its major part is deposited in the reference collection of aphids in NIIAST (Suwon, South Korea). The selected groups of aphids are in the collection of the Institute of Entomology. The processing of the South Korean material is still in progress nowadays, in cooperation with colleagues from the South Korean institution. Other significant collecting was undertaken by J. Holman during two-years stay in Mexico (1986-1987). The slides were prepared from this material, and the processing still continues based on the agreement with the Mexican party. The research of Lithuanian aphids is performed by J. Havelka during short-term visits from 2004, in cooperation with the colleagues from the Vilnius University. A part of the slides is being deposited into the collection of the Institute of Entomology and a substantial portion of the Lithuanian reference collection.
The selection and cataloging of the aphid type material as the most valuable part of the collection is currently in process. It includes primarily the concentration of slides from the species described by the employees of the Institute, which includes approximately 100 aphid species.
Our collection represents the largest one of this insect order within the Czech republic and one of the largest in the European scale, containing approximately 1 million specimens. Vladimír Landa, the first director of the Institute started to build this collection in the 50ies. Numerous further material was added later by Tomáš Soldán, Pavel Sroka and Roman Godunko. Most specimens are stored in the denatured ethanol under room temperature. We continue to collect material, but use clean ethanol and keep the samples in -20°C to allow better DNA preservation for later isolation and analyses.
Monitoring samples from Czech Republic
This part of the collection contains mostly common Central European species and is interesting from the ecological perspective, since it allows to track long-term changes in the composition of aquatic insects communities. The collection contains an extensive material from the biomonitoring of aquatic insect throughout the Czech republic from the 50ies to the present. This material comes from semiquantitative samples, taken from approximately 100 localities, repeatedly in the 50ies, 70ies, 90ies and after 2000. In each of these sampling periods, the localities were visited several times per year and the habitat parameters were measured along with the sampling (stream width, depth, shading, vegetation type and water chemistry). This effort resulted in a unique data, illustrating the changes of mayfly species composition in the freshwater habitats within Czechia. Since aquatic insects are sensitive to the changes of its environment, we can thus reconstruct the changes in the local river system during more than half a century by using these data.
Samples from many countries around the world originating from all the continents are deposited in our collection. A large amount of samples is not yet processed and probably contain also undescribed species. This material is interesting mainly from the taxonomic, faunistic and biogeographic perspective. Most extensive material comes from the following regions: vicinity of the Black Sea (Balkans, Turkey, Caucasus, Crimea), Mediterranean islands, Atlantic islands (Cape Verde, Madeira), Central Asia, Mongolia, SE Asia, Japan, the Americas, Australia.
So called type specimens have a privileged status in zoology. These are individuals, that were used for a description of a given species and serve as a kind of reference for the assignment of any further specimen to that particular species. The types of species described by the Institute's employees are housed in the collection. The type specimens are carefully labelled and represent the most valuable part of the collection. There are types of approximately 100 mayfly species in the collection.
The beetle collection contains almost 25000 specimens from the superfamily Scarabeoidea. It is a collection built by the current curator, Aleš Bezděk. Almost all the material is dry mounted. Only few individuals are stored in clean ethanol under -20°C for the purposes of genetic analyses.
Taxonomic collection of the tribe Diplotaxini of Oriental, Palaearctic and Afrotropical region.
A specialized collection of the tribe Diplotaxini contains almost 10000 specimens from approximately 500 species representing genera Apogonia, Dichecephala and Metapogonia. A half of these species remains undescribed.
Remaining exotic material
It includes specimens of Scarabaeoidea from the Old World, including material from the expeditions of Czech entomologists to Vietnam, Laos, Malawi, Sumatra and Socotra.
Although the beetle collection is not large, the type material is abundant and contains types of more than 100 species from the superfamily Scarabaeoidea. It encompasses types of the species described by A. Bezděk along with the material donated or acquired in exchange from other contemporary taxonomists (T. Branco, D. Keith, H. Kobayashi, D. Král a R. Sehnal).
The collection of spiders assembled by Vlastimil Růžička is one of the largest of its kind in the Czech republic. Over 115 000 specimens are stored in more than a hundred jars. All this material is listed in a database containing approximately 16 000 entries with information about the localities of sampling and storage details. The material is conserved in vials with 80% ethanol, deposited in mass jars also filled with ethanol. The material has been collected from 1973 till now and originates from all the territory of the Czech republic. A considerable part of samples was aquired during the environmental assessment of protected areas - it comes from all four Czech national parcs and many protected landscape areas (České středohoří, Křivoklátsko, Broumovsko, Moravský kras, Třeboňsko etc.).
Entomo- and molluscopathogenic nematodes (roundworms)
It represents the largest collection of these organisms in the Czech republic, probably the largest one in Europe and surely one of the largest worldwide. The collection contains hundreds of individuals as microscopic slides and tens in life cultures. It started to be built by Jaroslav Weiser, the deputy director of the Institute in the 50ies. The collection has been further enlarged by Zdeněk Mráček, Vladimír Půža, Jiří Nermuť, Stanislav Bečvář and Lenka Kropáčková. Most specimens are preserved as glycerine preparations. Life cultures are maintained in incubator under 4-8°C and continually revived using honeycomb moth as a host.
Monitoring samples from the Czech Republic
The area of the Czech republic has been monitored since 1970. Fifteen species have been reported; some of them known from the Czech Republic only (Steinernema poinari). The common European species predominate and their monitoring is interesting mainly from the ecological perspective, since it allows to study long-term changes in soil communities and localities with insects gradations. Our material of entomopathogenic nematodes comes mostly from the soil samples, acquired on 1459 localities repeatedly in the 70ies, 80ies, 90ies and after 2000. The localities were visited in each of these periods; their selection followed the supposed occurrence of insect pest species, including the localities with their gradations. As a result, we have a unique data documenting the changes in the occurrence and abundance of entomopathogenic nematodes in individual localities. A molluscopathogenic roundworm Phasmarhabditis hermaphrodita is also part of the collection.
The specimens mounted as microscopic slides are deposited in the collection together with living specimens. The material originates from several countries of the world from almost all continents, e.g. Africa or Asia. A certain amount of this material is not yet processed and probably contains also several undescribed species. This part of the collection is interesting from taxonomic, faunistic and biogeographical perspective. Most extensive samples come from the following regions: SE Asia (Vietnam, Japan, China), South and North America (Venezuela, Canada, USA). Many species and isolates are from Europe.
The type specimens (holotypes, paratypes) have a unique status in zoology. These individuals of the species described by us are housed in the collection of the Institute. The species we described (or redescribed) include: S. kraussei, S. carpocapsae, S. weiseri, S. silvaticum, S. poinari (all Czechia), S. apuliae, S. ichnusae (Italy), S. ethiopense (Africa), S. huense (Vietnam), S. sichuanense, S.cholashanense, S. xueshanense, Heterorhabditis beicherriana (China).