With about 130 families and over 160,000 described species, the Lepidoptera order (butterflies and moths) is one of the main insect groups. It is defined by a coiled proboscis and two pairs of scale-covered wings at the adult stage.

In the Muséum’s collections, it is represented by around 3 million specimens: approximately 1 million Rhopalocera (butterflies) and 2 million Heterocera (moths). The collections mainly consist of dried, pinned imagos but also include many caterpillars and pupae (dry or in alcohol) as well as a set of over 45,000 microscope slides.

Among the most important collections are those of Mme Fournier de Horrack, containing precious exotic Rhopalocera, the type collections (about 11,000 types), the rich collection of Malagasy Heterocera and the collections of Arctiidae (including nearly 30,000 specimens donated by H. de Toulgoët), Psychidae (collection reclassified by J. Bourgogne), Saturniidae (C. Lemaire and P.-C. Rougeot) and Sesiidae. The Malagasy moths and Saturniidae collections are the most important in the world in terms of quantity and quality. Other collections are particularly precious, especially those combining adult and early stages.

The collections were mainly put together by enlightened amateurs (many donations, a few purchases). They were completed by various professional entomologists’ harvests (F. Le Cerf, J. Bourgogne, P. Viette, etc.). The journeys and missions greatly contributed to the enrichment of the Lepidoptera collections (missions to Africa, Madagascar, etc.). Other major collections have also been acquired: H. de Toulgoët (Arctiidae), C. Lemaire (Saturniidae), J. Bourgogne (European Lepidoptera), Ch. Rungs (Corsican and Moroccan Lepidoptera), P. Kindl (Guianese Heterocera) and J. Haxaire (Hedylidae, Bombycidae and Mimallonidae). The oldest specimens are about two centuries old.

The Morpho collection, containing over 6,000 specimens (the oldest of which date back to the mid-19th century), is the biggest in the world. In particular it includes the Fournier collection, a registered French "Monument Historique", and the collection of the mathematician Laurent Schwartz. All the species and the vast majority of the subspecies are represented, so the collection provides a first-class tool for the study of the systematics, biogeography and evolution of some of the most spectacular butterflies in the American tropical forests.

These collections are used for research in comparative morpho-anatomy, taxonomy, phylogeny and molecular science. J. Minet and R. Rougerie are responsible for the Lepidoptera department. The department in question also employs J. Barbut (technician), I. Bruno-Demiré (technician) and M. Akyurek-Sahin (contractor). The collaborators are B. Lalanne-Cassou (retired), P. Leraut (retired), G. Luquet (retired), T.-H. Nguyen (retired), M. Lagnel (volunteer) and P. Blandin (retired). C. Tautel, J. Haxaire, B. Vincent & A. Lévèque also contribute as correspondents.

Prof. Joël Minet, chargé de conservation : 01 40 79 34 13 - minet@mnhn.fr
Dr. Rodolphe Rougerie, chargé de conservation : 01 40 79 53 83 - rrougerie@mnhn.fr
Jérôme Barbut, assistant de conservation : 01 40 79 56 73 - barbut@mnhn.fr