Entomological Exploration

Article | Updated 1 years ago

Entomology is the study of the forms and behaviour of insects. Explore some of the WA Museum’s online entomological research and head to Cockburn Gateway these school holidays where Museum staff will be showcasing incredible specimens.

Biodiversity research

A draw of pinned specimens

A draw of pinned specimens
Image copyright WA Museum 

Scientists at the Western Australian Museum are responsible for collecting, documenting and researching the State’s biodiversity. They conduct fieldwork throughout the State and have named and described many new species including the 'Megamouth Bee'.

The Museum’s Entomology collection includes many examples of insects native to Western Australia. This includes over 500,000 pinned specimens and 1,000 microslides. The collection also holds around 800 holotype specimens. A holotype is the first example of a named species ever identified, described and published.

A range of the Museum's insect holotypes can be found within the digitised type collection and examples of pinned specimens can be found in the insect collection gallery.

Jewel beetles


Beetles from the family Buprestidae

Beetles from the family Buprestidae
Image copyright WA Museum 

These stunning insects are called jewel beetles or bullor, which means ‘light green beetle’ in Nyoongar. They belong to the family Buprestidae, that categorises approximately 1,200 described international species. In Western Australia most jewel beetles belong to the genera Temognatha, Castiarina and Melobasis.

Adult jewel beetles feed on the nectar of native flowering plants during the day. At particular times of the year they can be seen in their thousands creating a striking spectacle.

Due to their dazzling appearance, these beetles are popular among collectors. To protect them, jewel beetles in WA are categorised as ‘specially protected’ and can only be collected with a scientific permit.

Marvel at these beautiful beetles in our high-resolution photographic gallery.

The life cycle of a butterfly

Before you take a behind-the-scenes look at the Museum's Butterfly Collection, read about the life cycle of these incredible insects. 


The lifecycle of a butterfly - butterfly eggs

A butterfly starts life as a very small egg – about the size of a pinhead! Butterfly eggs are often laid on the underside of plant leaves so when they hatch the small caterpillar is protected and close to its food source.

The eggs of different species come in different shapes. Eggs can be round, oval, cylindrical, ribbed and much more!


The lifecycle of a butterfly - caterpillar

Growing inside these tiny eggs are small caterpillars, also known as larva. When the caterpillar emerges from their egg its priority is to eat a lot. Before reaching the next stage of its life cycle, it is important for the caterpillar to grow in weight and length.

Chrysalis (Pupa)

The lifecycle of a butterfly - chrysalis

Once the caterpillar has reached its full size it works quickly to form a chrysalis. It makes a silk anchor point and sheds its skin while hanging form the anchorpoint. The new skin is now the outer wall of the chrysalis, also known as a pupa.

From the outside it may look as if the chrysalis is simply resting, but on the inside it is undergoing many rapid changes. As it is very vulnerable at this point the chrysalis is coloured to suit its surrounds to camouflage it from predators.


The lifecycle of a butterfly - adult

Soon it is time for the chrysalis to burst open from its cocoon as a fully-grown butterfly. Initially the butterfly’s wings are soft and folded close to their body. The butterfly then begins to pump hemolymph into its newly grown wings and within a few hours it will have mastered flying.

It is now up to this newly emerged butterfly to find a mate in order to start the life cycle again.

Did you know?
Of the 400 butterfly species distributed across Australia, approximately half are endemic. This means they are found nowhere else in the world!