Hidden moths: Make papillots visible in a streamlined way

Packed moths

In the papillot project, non prepared moths, which have been stored in pouches for decades, are made accessible to science by photographing, digitizing and storing them in a well-organized manner.

Dusted collection

Every natural history collection has them: boxes or drawers full of bags of insects from historical expeditions and collection trips in which an abundance of enthusiasm has been collected. What to do with this collection? Most of the time these bags will stay on the shelve in 'eternity', because there is no time and money to prepare  them and it takes a lot of space to store them afterwards. Moreover, it is often material that is already present in large numbers in the collection and therefore the need for setting up is less significant.

Scientific interest

But the unmounted material often contains data such as place, date and catcher, and is therefore potentially scientifically useful material. The papillot project provides for making this data accessible by photographing and digitizing the contents and the bags, whereby the insects do not have to be prepared and therefore do not take up extra space. The photos and data are stored in a database, after which specialists can view, identify and assess the material. Any important material that still needs to be set up can then be selected and further studied.

Naturalis papillots

Naturalis Biodiversity Center has around 600,000 moths in papillots, mainly from the former Dutch East Indies, in particular from the Van Groenendael collection. Since the start of the project in 2016, up to 70,000 papillots have been photographed, registered and repackaged in new acid-free bags and stored in high drawers in a standard manner. The project is currently working with 15 volunteers alternating on 5 days a week. There are plans to expand this in the new museum. There is also interest from foreign museums to make their papillot stock accessible in this way. Naturalis takes the lead in this.