The Museum

The Lyman Entomological Museum houses the insect collection of McGill University. With approximately 3 million specimens, it is the largest university insect collection in Canada and is second in size only to the Canadian National Collection in Ottawa. The museum was established in 1914 by the bequest of amateur lepidopterist Henry H. Lyman and in the century since then has grown into a major research and training centre in insect systematics, biodiversity and ecology.

The museum has an active training and teaching program in association with the Department of Natural Resource Sciences at McGill. There is also a popular public education and outreach program that gives the general public a glimpse into the world of insects.

Highlights of the collection

Orthopteroid orders – our collection of orthopteroid insects is one of the finest in the world, largely thanks to the efforts of Keith Kevan, Vernon Vickery and their staff and students from the early 1960s through the 1990s. We have a pinned collection of more than 150,000 specimens that is worldwide in scope and coverage. We also have an extensive collection of taxonomic literature, including rare and old works. The Keith Kevan library of orthopteroid literature is housed in the museum and is an especially valuable source of older works.

Diptera – The flies have been the primary focus of our research program since 1995 and our pinned collection currently numbers 350,000 specimens with tens of thousands added each year. The collection is worldwide in scope, with particularly strong holdings from Nearctic grasslands, the arctic, Costa Rica and Australia. Most of our Diptera collection has been databased at the specimen level, through support from the Canadensys program.

Coleoptera – The Lyman has a large and diverse beetle collection. With approximately 250,000 pinned specimens, the collection is especially strong in Nearctic material, although we also have a surprisingly large collection of west African material as well as a very rich collection of exotic scarabs, buprestids and cerambycids from all realms. Recent studies of beetle diversity in temperate forest canopies in eastern North America have contributed to the growth of our collection, and frequent donations of well-curated amateur collections enrich our holdings of North American Coleoptera.

Lepidoptera – The museum’s founder, Henry Lyman, as well as the first Curator A.F. Winn, were keen lepidopterists, so it is no surprise that this component of our collection is very strong. Both Lyman and Winn, as well as later museum associates, actively exchanged material with collectors worldwide. As a result, our collection of exotic butterflies is probably the best in Canada. We have excellent holdings of Quebec Lepidoptera (macro- and microlepidoptera) and an extensive collection of British Columbian butterflies from the early years of the 20th century as a result of some large donations in the past. Most of our Canadian butterflies have been databased at the specimen level.

Soil microarthropods – Several years of research and collection development by Keith Kevan, Stuart Hill and their students and associates, yielded a very large slide collection of soil microarthropods that is especially rich in mites. Although this is a vast collection with tens of thousands of slides, it is also, unfortunately, one of the least curated parts of the Lyman collection.


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