The Florida State Collection of Arthropods (FSCA) began in 1915 as a resource for the newly created Florida State Plant Board. The mission of the Plant Board was (and is) to protect Florida’s native and commercially grown plants from harmful pests and disease. A major component of that mission was having the in-house expertise, tools, and resources to identify any and all arthropods causing damage to Florida’s agriculture or natural resources including those newly introduced into Florida from anywhere in the world.
At its inception the (FSCA) was simply referred to as the “collection” a title that continued for decades until the State Plant Board was officially adopted by the Florida Department of Agriculture in 1960. At that time it was determined that the state of Florida would have only one central repository for terrestrial and non-marine arthropods and that all state supported insect collections including the Florida Museum of Natural History (FLMNH) (then known as the Florida State Museum), the collections of the University of Florida Agricultural Experiment Stations, and the Florida Department of Agriculture (State Plant Board), were consolidated into a single Florida State Collection of Arthropods supported and administered by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Division of Plant Industry. The bulk of the FSCA holdings are housed at the Division of Plant Industry’s headquarters in the Doyle Conner Building located at the southwest corner of the University of Florida campus in Gainesville. Since the 1960s, with the development of a Research Associate Program, our continued research activities in the identification of unknown potential pests that arrive in Florida almost daily, a continued need to work internationally on pests of potential importance to Florida, and acting as the state’s repository for research vouchers for all other branches of Biological Sciences, the FSCA has grown and continues to grow in size and importance not just to serve Agricultural needs, but also for the worlds scientific community.
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The McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity of the Florida Museum of Natural History was built literally next door. In 2005, an agreement was made to physically merge the FSCA Lepidoptera with those at the McGuire and their rapidly growing collections. The McGuire Center has since become one of the largest and most representative Lepidoptera collections in the world.
Other holdings of the FSCA are maintained by the Entomology Department of Florida A&M University (FAMU), Tallahassee. This world class collection focuses on aquatic orders, primarily Trichoptera, Ephemeroptera and Plecoptera, which are maintained and researched by FAMU staff.
In addition, the FSCA has been designated by the Societas Internationalis Odonatologica as the host for the International Odonata Research Institute and associated collections, which are maintained as part of the FSCA. The Odonata collection is one of the largest and most representative in the world.
The FSCA includes extensive holdings in literature pertaining to arthropod taxonomy, including the books and journals of the Division of Plant Industry library. The library is affiliated with the University of Florida Library System and loans are available through the interlibrary loan system. A 1967 agreement between the libraries of UF and the DPI allowed for the DPI to specialize mostly in Entomology and Nematology taxonomic literature, and to be made available through the UF digital catalog. Some early acquisitions were made from purchases of duplicate books culled from historic libraries, as well as continued acquisitions of older and rarer references donated by Research Associates. Numerous books have historical significance, being once owned by prominent entomologists. The FSCA library can claim to be the best entomological library south of the National Archives and Smithsonian Libraries in Washington, DC. A 2016 survey of OCLC (WorldCat) showed 33% of the holdings in the DPI Library are present in fewer than 20 libraries worldwide, and just under 25% are present in fewer than 10 world libraries. This analysis also discovered that almost 800 items are present nowhere else. Publications sponsored by the FSCA include the “Arthropods of Florida and Neighboring Land Areas” series, the “Occasional Papers of the Florida State Collection of Arthropods,”, and the “Entomology Circular Series” published in conjunction with the Entomology Section of the Division of Plant Industry. Other important information on newly recognized species potentially established in Florida are published in the DPI’s quarterly “Tri-ology” series. The FSCA is supported by the non-profit Center for Systematic Entomology (CSE) and its journal “Insecta Mundi.”
The museum is also the repository for arthropod and host plant data derived from ongoing surveys by the Florida Department of Agriculture, Research Associates of the FSCA, students from around Florida and citizen scientists.
The collections of the museum are worldwide in scope. Earlier accumulations, primarily from Florida and the southeastern United States, still form a large portion of the collection; however, most insect groups have worldwide representation, with particular strengths for circum-Caribbean and South American regions.
In recent years much new material has been obtained, through surveys or exchanges, from the Neotropics, parts of Africa (especially South Africa) and Asia (especially Indonesia and Taiwan).
Some groups of interest by staff and Research Associates are particularly well represented on a worldwide basis: e.g., Arachnida (Pseudoscorpionida), Acari (predatory Phytoseiidae and plant associated mites), Araneae (Salticidae), Diptera (Asilidae, Leptogastridae, Sarcophagidae, Syrphidae, Tabanidae, and Tephritidae), Coleoptera (aquatic beetles, Cerambycidae, Cucujoidea, Endomychidae, Meloidae, and Scarabaeidae), Ephemeroptera, Hymenoptera (Ichneumonidae, Braconidae), Lepidoptera (Sphingidae, butterflies and day-flying moths), Mallophaga, Neuroptera (Myrmeleontidae), and Odonata.
Among the 22,500 drawers of pinned insects, 800,000 slides, and 400,000 vials of the Museum of Entomology, are an estimated 9 million prepared specimens including over 2,500 primary and at least 30,000 secondary types. Millions more specimens are in the estimated 20,000 bulk alcohol containers and various dry samples from around the world. These, together with the other holdings, place the FSCA among the top 10 North American entomological collections.
VISITING THE FSCA
The FSCA is a working museum, like other museums’ collection ranges behind the public displays. Our public displays are limited, but we welcome tours and tour groups. Contact us to schedule a tour ahead of your visit.
Researchers wishing to study materials in the collections, should contact the appropriate curator to arrange a visit. Travel grants to study materials in the FSCA are available to students and researchers through the Center for Systematic Entomology. Interested students should contact the appropriate curator to discuss the project and present a proposal to the CSE.