The Hebbert Collection of Tropical Butterflies

The Hebbert Collection of Tropical Butterflies

The Hebbert Collection is Torquay Museum’s largest collection of tropical and European Lepidoptera. Given by E.G. Hebbert in November 1935 this huge collection is housed in 19 oak collectors cabinets consisting of 226 drawers and 10,843 specimens. The collection is our best display resource for Lepidoptera, having a huge geographical spread coupled with visually spectacular specimens. It is used regularly for events relating to insects and drawers from the collections have been displayed in several exhibitions in the last 20 years including ‘The Bugs Files, 1999’ ‘Strange Neighbours, 2013’ and ‘Lost City of Z 2017’.

In 2018 the Museum was able to secure funding from Small Grants Big Improvements to conserve the Hebbert Collection. By using professional equipment given to us at the SWANS training session ‘Working with Entomology Collections’ we cleaned and vacumed debris in 186 drawers and checked 9191 specimens. 40 fallen butterflies were repinned or re-staged. Fallen wings, legs and other parts of specimens were preserved for future conservation by putting them either in plastic bags or gelatine capsules. Broken glass was secured and temporarily covered with acetate.

                           Queen Alexandra Birdwing from Papua New Guinea

This drawer contains the biggest living butterfly in the world – Queen Alexandra Birdwing from Papua New Guinea. Whilst males grow to only 6.7 to 7.4 inches, a wingspan of a female can reach up to 12 inches. The male in the top left corner has yellow body and aquamarine wings and is certainly more eye-catching than the chocolate brown coloured female placed under him. This species is endangered and is one of three insects listed on CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).

                                                   The Oakleaf Butterflies

These butterflies are known as the oakleaf or dead leaf butterflies and can be found in East, South and Southeast Asia. As their common name suggest when their wings are closed, the butterflies resemble dried leaves. This form of camouflage gives them protection from their natural enemies – the birds.


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