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The arthropod reference collection [PADA] of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) is one of the most important assets in the arsenal to fight pests of Pennsylvania’s agricultural and natural resource commodities. Throughout its history, this collection has been used for reference in comparing and identifying pests of agricultural lands and products and have been invaluable tools in education, demonstration and scientific publications. However, this collection extends well beyond its immediate value in pest identification, as it catalogues a rich history of biodiversity, biology and taxonomy, providing a unique catalogue of regional significance.


The PDA arthropod reference collection is one of the largest and most comprehensive of those maintained by the state departments of agriculture, only exceeded by collections maintained by Florida, California, and Hawaii. Representing a large portion of the insect and mite faunas of Pennsylvania and the surrounding region, particularly regarding agricultural commodities pests, this collection retains particularly excellent regional representation of: Miridae, Cicadellidae, Membracidae, Fulgoroidea and Coccoidea (Hemiptera); Noctuidae (Lepidoptera); Chrysomelidae, Cerambycidae, Buprestidae and Scolytinae (Coleoptera); Ichneumonoidea and Apoidea (Hymenoptera); Syrphidae and Tabanidae (Diptera); and Acarina.


Its current holdings include approximately 163,000 pinned specimens, 6,700 alcohol specimens and 10,800 slides, about half from Pennsylvania and the remaining from surrounding states and throughout the world. Its holdings include: 1 lectotype, Chrysops pikei Whitney (Diptera: Tabanidae); 1 allotype, Microdon pseudoglobosis Curran (Diptera: Syrphidae); 373 paratypes, 257 in the plant bug family Miridae (Hemiptera); and 47 meta- and homotypes and 9 metatopo- and topotypes. In addition, the collection continues to grow through biological survey conducted as part of the regulatory mission of the department of agriculture. The Entomology Program conducts a large number of major surveys per year, identifying approximately 97,000 specimens annually.  The collection also actively trades with other collections, institutions and researchers, domestic and international, to enhance our diversity of possible pests the Pennsylvania.

Summary of arthropod reference collection holdings. Includes number of specimens, geographic coverage and notable holdings. 

Survey specimens are considered temporary holdings of the collection.



prepared specimens


geographic coverage



pinned, vials


34 paratypes

worldwide, strong in northeastern USA

strong in agricultural and forest pests, including Carabidae, Buprestidae, Cerambycidae, Curculionidae and Chrysomelidae


pinned, vials


257 paratypes

North American, PA emphasis

half are Myrids from A.G. Wheeler's biodiversity work


pinned, slides, vials


1 allotype, 53 paratypes

strong in northeastern USA, PA emphasis





17 paratypes

worldwide, PA emphasis

strong in Ichneumonoidea and Apoidea

Hemiptera (minus Heteroptera)

pinned, slides, vials



primarily Pennsylvania

stong in agricultural and ornamental pests in Coccoidea and Aphididae


pinned, vials


3 paratypes

worldwide, emphasis on PA

C.S. Anderson Collection, strong in agriculturally important microlepidoptera


slides, vials


6 paratypes

primarily Pennsylvania

large slide collection of mites of agricultural/ornamental importance




3 paratypes

primarily Pennsylvania


Other Ag- significant Orders

pinned, vials, slides



worldwide, emphasis on PA


Miscellaneous Orders/Specimens

pinned, vials, slides





Survey Targets (estimate)





Specimens from 2008-2010 Exotic Pest Surveys

The insect reference collection has enjoyed a rich history of entomological importance, beginning with the appointment of H.A. Surface to the office of Economic Zoologist in 1903. Surface was dedicated to establishing “… complete collections of all our Pennsylvania animals and animal products (including insects and their work)…” (Wheeler and Valley, 1975). This dedication led to the appointment of a number of entomological assistants, beginning a rich history of entomology at the PDA. Over the more than 100 years of the collection’s existence, a number of well-known entomologists have spent part or all of their careers with the PDA, including D.M. DeLong, W.S. Fisher, J.N. Knull, A.B. Champlain, H.B. Kirk, J.G. Sanders, H.L. Viereck, V.A.E. Daecke, F.C. Craighead, W.R. Walton, J.O. Pepper, G.B. Sleesman, A.G. Wheeler, Jr., E.E. Simons and T.J. Henry. Their impact has been felt in agricultural and economic entomology, insect biology and natural history, and insect taxonomy and systematics, including a number of species named for and described by these individuals. Further, their work can be seen in collections throughout the region, including both type and duplicate specimen deposition at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History (Pittsburgh, PA), Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences (Philadelphia, PA), Frost Entomological Museum (Penn State University, State College, PA), Cornell University Insect Reference Collection (Ithaca, NY) and the U.S. National Museum (Washington, D.C.).


The PDA insect reference collection is the largest, most actively used state department of agriculture collection in the northeastern United States.  The collection has occasionally been included in regional biodiversity and taxonomic studies, most recently for: Recent taxonomic studies referencing or depositing specimens from the PDA arthropod reference collection include: vanEngelsdorp and Donovall (2009), Donovall and vanEngelsdorp (2010), and Biddinger, et al. (2009, 2010) (Hymenoptera: Apoidea); Duon et al. (2009; Hymenoptera: Ichneumonidae); Conrow et al. (2016) (Hymenoptera: Chrysididae); Holliday and Coelho (2006) and Kurczewski (2008) (Hymenoptera: Crabronidae); Mathis, et al. (2009; Diptera: Sciomyzidae); Barringer (2015; Hemiptera: Membracidae); and Pinto (2009; Coleoptera: Meloidae). Other ongoing biodiversity studies currently underway include Miridae (Hemiptera; A.G. Wheeler and T.J. Henry), Acrididae (Orthoptera; J. Sheldon and L.R. Donovall), Carabidae (Coleoptera; R. Davidson), Weevils (Coleoptera: G. Setliff) and Cerambycidae (Coleoptera: R. Androw).


A recent resurgence in taxonomic emphasis, along with a number of federally-supported exotic pest detection programs at the PDA has led to great increases in collection holdings. These programs are contributing much to knowledge of Pennsylvania’s insect fauna. The entomological pest surveys conducted by the PDA now emphasize the importance of retaining reference specimens from the families of all targeted insects of economic importance, with current emphasis on broad surveys of Membracidae and Pentatomoidea (Hemiptera); Cerambycidae, Buprestidae, Scolytinae and Cleridae (Coleoptera); and Symphyta and Apoidea (Hymenoptera). Additional emphasis is placed on increasing holdings in other agriculturally significant groups, encouraging amateurs, students and professionals to place voucher specimens into the insect reference collection. Increasingly, the PDA insect reference collection is gaining recognition as both the largest, most complete repository of Pennsylvania’s historical insect fauna and as one of the most active collections in contemporary insect fauna of the region. The regulatory mission of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture requires that the Entomology Program retains vouchers of potential exotic pests. The arthropod reference collection has had a long history of acquiring specimens of exotic insects and mites through exchange and request, as well as collecting native and naturalized species for direct comparison. These exchanges have increased in recent years with the greater emphasis on forest pests and more state-wide exotic pest surveys being conducted. The exotic pest surveys often require verification by national program verifiers while new state records are sent to the USDA for verification and vouchering at the U.S. National Museum; the vouchering and verification of these specimens often leads to specimen placement in the reference collection.


All these collections are vital to the PDA’s mission of protecting agricultural commodities in the Commonwealth.  The collection stands as a resource for reference, research, education and outreach, uniquely offering open, guided access to the entirety of the holdings.

For inquiries about the collection or loans contact Lawrence Barringer (