The Coleoptera order (beetles, ladybirds, weevils, etc.) consists of holometabolous insects whose forewings are sclerotised to form protective covers. It accounts for nearly half of all insects in terms of number of species.
Coleoptera constitute more than 20% of living beings (except bacteria), which probably corresponds to millions of species, of which 400,000 are already listed. In proportion to this extreme diversity, the Coleoptera collections, with about 20 million specimens, are approximately equal to 25% of the Muséum’s total collections and 50% of its insect collections. They are of immense heritage and scientific value. These collections are contained in 80,000 boxes that occupy 4 kilometres of shelving. There is a General Collection, listed by systematic order, but also collections by author and a few collections for particular geographical areas. As a whole these collections contain over 185,000 type specimens, and therefore are of immense heritage and scientific value.
A legacy of the curiosity cabinets of the Ancien Régime, the Coleoptera collections comprise two remarkable subparts from the 18th century: the Geoffroy collection (1727-1889) and part of the Olivier collection (1756-1814). Some of the specimens were even described in Diderot and D’Alembert’s Encyclopédie. The collections are based on the first collections assembled at the Muséum by Lamarck (1744-1829), Latreille (1762-1833) and above all Audouin (1797-1841). The collections were later considerably enriched by entomologists in the 19th and 20th centuries. In 1952, by national subscription, the Muséum acquired the immense collection of René Oberthür (1852-1944) which contained famous historical collections like those of General Dejean (1780-1845) and Henry-Walter Bates (1825-1892). Three of these Coleoptera sub-collections at the Muséum are now listed Monuments Historiques (historic monuments), particularly the René Oberthür (1852-1944) sub-collection.
The Coleoptera collections are visited every day by French and foreign researchers, and the Muséum also sends various reference specimens to various foreign institutes and Muséums, at scientists’ request. Every year, hundreds of international publications report on the specimens preserved in these collections. Three assistant professors (Thierry Deuve, Olivier Montreuil and Romain Nattier) belonging to research units of the Muséum and the CNRS, one museum collections engineer (Antoine Mantilleri) and two collection managers (Azadeh Taghavian and Christophe Rivier) welcome visitors and manage the collections. Several volunteers, correspondents and honorary attachés of the Muséum also take part in classifying the collections: Stéphane Boucher, Fabien Dupuis, Jean Orousset, Hélène Perrin.