Anatis ocellata, Coccinellidae. Special collection of Ernst Grundmann. 1970.
Meticulously kept private collections such as Ernst Grundmann’s special collection of ladybirds (ladybugs) are invaluable to research at natural history museums.
ALL IN THE NUMBERS
A newly discovered animal or plant species is classified by scientists based on its type specimen. In the case of groups with only a short time between generations such as insects, this method reaches its limits. Depending on the habitat, season and sex, for example, ladybirds can have a very different appearance – both as far as color of their forewing is concerned and also their markings. Two, four, seven, many dots, or even none at all, but also blotches and other patterns occur in a single species.
When decades ago Ernst Grundmann, a volunteer at the NHM, started taking an interest in ladybirds, no one was aware of this fact. Grundmann believed that he had numerous different species in his collection. Based on the latest state of the art, however, his coccinellid beetle collection contains not hundreds of species, but just several dozen.
That does not make it less valuable. On the contrary: because detailed descriptions of the locality and circumstances of finding exist for each beetle, distribution patterns, seasonal occurrence and much more can be reconstructed. Accordingly, it can be proved that the Asiatic or multi-colored ladybird Harmonia axyridis – which was presumably introduced in around 2000 and has since spread rapidly – did not exist at all in Europe before 1970.
The “original tray” on display here includes exclusively samples of Anatis ocellata, the largest species of European ladybird. It represents only a tiny portion of the entire collection; by far the larger part is stored in the underground storage.