The Tel Aviv Zoological Museum insect collection was created around 1960 by the late Prof. J. Kugler, who served as its curator until 1980, when A. Freidberg replaced him. For about 15 years the collection was held on the TAU campus at Abu-Kabir, south Tel Aviv, before being transferred in 1974 to the Ramat Aviv campus.
The collection contains about two million pinned insects plus numerous specimens preserved in alcohol, and a small number preserved otherwise (e.g. on microscope slides). In recent decades a small collection of live insects is also being maintained. As with other TAU collections, the insect collection focuses particularly on the fauna of Israel and adjacent areas. However, there are also collections from all parts of the world. All 26 orders of insects known fromIsrael are represented in this collection, which is by far the largest and best of all such collections in Israel. In addition, almost all the families (hundreds), genera and species known from Israel, including approximately 1,500 undescribed species, are represented. There are hundreds of type specimens, including about 100 primary types. About one third of the ca. 15,000 species collected in Israel and deposited in the collection have not yet been recorded from Israelin the scientific literature. Several species of insects now considered extinct in Israel are also represented in the collection, some of them probably uniquely so. Several parts of the collection have already been recorded in the museum database, while others are in the middle of such a process, which is generally very slow and time-consuming, and especially so when dealing with insects.
The collection is currently housed in mostly unsuitable conditions on four floors in the ShermanBuilding, including in offices, laboratories and corridors. Although much of the collection is housed in standard drawers (including unit trays) and cabinets, a great deal of the large amount of material donated to the collection over the years is still housed in its original, non-standard, furniture. Several donations from the HebrewUniversity constitute a large portion of all donations obtained so far.
The collection is very active, scientifically and otherwise. It is growing unceasingly, either through additions made by its staff through routine and special field trips or through donations from organizations or individuals. The material is curated by the local staff, sorted into categories, to the species level if possible, and then sent to experts, either locally or, more often, abroad. The study of a certain group is usually concluded by the return of the material and its final arrangement in the collection and an accompanying publication, often co-authored by the local curator. There are hundreds of publications based on the TAU insect collection and many more are currently in preparation or are expected. The international ties are expressed not only in joint publications; over 100 scientists have visited the collection during the past decade alone.
The main activities focus around the endeavor to collect, preserve and study the local fauna and thus record and understand the local biodiversity. Other activities partly resulting from this endeavor include the provision of services for various organizations and individuals, such as student courses, graduate student research, and identification services to almost anyone in need of such, particularly to the agricultural domain and especially to the Plant Protection Institute of the Ministry of Agriculture.
Currently, ten TAU scientists (most of them experts on certain groups) are strongly involved with the collection, assisted by five part-time technicians. Over the years a large number of TAU graduate students have intensively used the collection and its resources (e.g. its experts) or actively studied parts of it. At present there are five Ph.D. students, two M.Sc. students and four post-docs focusing their studies on the collection.
The ongoing and daily activities consume most of the time available for the staff mentioned above. Nevertheless we have plans for the future, including continuing to augment and upgrade the collection physically (e.g., transferring collections from non-standard to standard housing), upgrading registration of the material, including the traditional databasing, preparation of a list of type material, and creating a central library, etc.