History of National Pusa Collection


Division of Entomology is one of the first five Divisions of Indian Agricultural Research Institute established in 1905. The Division has pioneered in investigations in insect systematics and economic entomology vis-a-vis important crop pests. National Pusa Collection (NPC) is an integral section of Division of Entomology, ICAR-Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi.

Eminent entomologists like H.M. Lefroy, T.B. Fletcher, and M.G.R. Menon laid a strong foundation for insect Systematics research in NPC. Faunistic surveys led to the establishment of the National Pusa Collection, one of the largest collections of its kind in this part of the world. Now this collection houses more than half a million specimens of which 0.1 million are authentically identified, comprising about 20,000 species. Over the last 50 years, NPC has directly contributed to the discovery and description of more than 1500 arthropod species previously unknown to science.

For biologists, extension workers, farmers, biosecurity agents and quarantine authorities, accurate and timely pest identification is key. As a national service for pest diagnostics, every year, on an average over 2000 specimens are identified by the NPC taxonomists. NPC, by providing names of arthropod specimens for the stakeholders, has been instrumental in responding to regional pest management needs. Several taxonomic treatises on agriculturally important insects belonging to orders Lepidoptera, Coleoptera, Hemiptera, Orthoptera and Hymenoptera and class Acarina have been published.


History of National Pusa Collection

The first mention of the insect collection at IARI, then Imperial Agricultural Research Institute, was in its annual scientific report as follows “during the year 1907 to 1909 the third assistant to Maxwell Lefroy was Mr. G. R. Dutt, has been in charge of economic records and collections, and has done original work on aculeate hymenoptera. The assistant in charge of the collections, Mr. D. Nowrojee, did excellent work with the arrangement and upkeep of the general insect collections.”During this time Maxwell-Lefroy wrote a series of ground-breaking books, including Indian Insect Pests (1906) and Indian Insect Life: a manual of the insects of the plains (tropical India) (1909), an 800-page guide with many hand-painted illustrations and still in print.

By 1916-17,steady progress was made in additions of specimens and arrangement of the collection. Rearrangement and compilation of specimens of  Lepidoptera (including the Micro-lepidoptera), Coleoptera, Orthoptera and part of Rhynchota was completed and placed in series. The identification of the collection of Diptera was undertaken by Mr. Brunetti.  All the specimens were identified by the experts. Some of the experts are: Carabidae (Mr. H. L. Andrewes), Curculionidae (Dr. G. A. K. Marshall), Anthribidae (Dr. K. Jordan), Rutelidae (Mr. G. J. Arrow), Melolonthidae (Mr. G. J. Arrow), Cerambycidae (Mr. O. J. Gahan); Histeridae  (Mr. G. Lewis), Sphecidae (Mr. Rowland E. Turner), Formicidae  (Dr. C. M. Wheeler), Tenthredinidae (Mr. Rohwer) and Microlepidoptera  (Mr. E. Meyrick).

Over the years great progress was made in identification of specimens in addition to the augmentation. By 1919 the collection had become large and important from systematic point of view. And specimens were started to be shifted from paraffin waxed box to cabinets. By this time the Microlepidoptera collection,contained in cabinets, was by far the largest. About thousands of specimens were received every year. Numerous collections of Indian insects were

received and named and returned as far as possible. These included collections sent by the Forest Research Institute, the Provincial Agricultural Departments, the Bombay Natural History Society, and by numerous correspondentscollection in India. The collection by this time was a majorsource material for describing the Indian insect fauna and played a pivotal role   in meetingthe resolution of the Third Entomological Meeting, held at Pusa in February 1919, to catalogue of all described Indian Insects.

By 1920,Pusacollection had more than 7000 named specie of Indian insects with Microlepidoptera inside cabinets comprising 700 named species.Orthoptera,Neuroptera, Ryncota were all in fair order and Odonata wasrevised by then. Dipteran collection in entomological and pathological entomology was amalgamated in to one.

By 1921-22 it had around one million specimens. This wascollection by then represented a key for the to the information regarding Indian Insects. Good deal of work was done in sorting out and collection of Diptera.

During the years1922-23 many catalogues and revision were done for example Major F. C. Frazer published many novelties on Odonata in Memoirs of IARI and Journal of Bombay Natural History Society, Mr. Uvarov  onShort horned Gras hoppers, second and third part of Catalogueon Culicidae and Bombylidae by Mr. R. Senior White.

During 1923-24 identification were done by: Odonata (Major F.C. Fraser), Dermaptera (Mr. Morgan Hebard), Acrididae (Mr. B.P.Uvarov), Blattidae and Mantidae (Mr.Hebbard), Chrysomelidae (Dr. H. Scott), Cicindelidae (Dr. Horn), Meloidae (Dr. K G Blai), Gyrinidae (Mr. Herr Ochs), Neuroptera (Mr. Esben Petersen), Lepidoptera (Mr. E. Meyrick), Diptera (Major Patton) and Hymenoptera (Senor Garcia Mercet)

Many card catalogues and fauna volumes were kept updated. During 1924-25 the following par of catalogues were published: Part 4 :Trypetidae (R. S. White), Part 5: Nitidulidae (S. N. Chatterjee), Part7: Lasiocampidae (T.B. Fletcher), Part 8: Amatidae (T. B. Fletcher),  Part 9: Zygaenidae (T. B. Fletcher)

From 1909 the collection increased from 2221 to 8815 named species by 1926 with majority being Lepidoptera (3606) followed by Coleoptera (2470). By this time pusa collection was also getting requests from foreign entomologists regarding supply of Indian Insects. For example Idiocerus atkinsoni to Mr. Whitehead, Canada, Indian Honey bees to Mavromonstakis, Cyprus.

The following catalogs were publishedduring 1926 to 1932 at NPC: Part 6: Stapylinidae (M. Cameron), Part 10: Stapylinidae (G. R.Dutt), Part 11: Brenthidae (R.Kleine), Gyrinoidea (G. Ochs), Lycidae (R. Klein), Alucitidae by (T.B. Fletcher), Lycidae (R. Kleine) Phaloiadae and Chlidanotidae (T.B. Fletcher)

1934-35: Due to the earthquake in 1934 Pusa Collection was shifted to New Delhi. Proper rearrangement and card cataloguing were undertaken. Large numbers of Insects occurring in Pusa were collected to fill the damage in the collection which occurred due to the disaster. During this period the insect pest identification service was undertaken as a part of pest advisory.

1936-37: Card cataloging and progressed with about 25000 specimens of2000 species being catalogued. Many new species received as donations were added to the collection.

After 1940 many taxonomists contributed to the NPC namely: All insects, Psocoptera (Dr. M.G.R. Menon), Hymenoptera (Dr. E.S. Narayanan), Hymenoptera (Dr. B.R. Subbarao), Hemiptera (Dr. H.S. Pruthi), Hymenoptera (Dr. S.I. Farooqi), Acarina (Dr. S. Ghai), Hemiptera (Dr. U. Ramakrishnan), Lepidoptera (Dr. S.L. Gupta), Meloidae, Chrysomelidae (Dr. R.K. Anand), Curculionidae and Scarabaeidae (Dr. V.V. Ramamurthy) and Acarina (Dr. S. Joshi).

From 2005 to 2016, the Network Project on Insect Biosystematics (NPIB) funded by the Indian Council of Agricultural Sciences, New Delhi started in NPC. This project was headed by Dr. V.V. Ramamurthy and comprised of 13 different centers all over India.  The modernization of NPC has been carried out through NPIB.