A gem of a butterfly collection


On October 15th the Triplehorn Insect Collection received the David K. Parshall Butterfly Collection, a gift of over 50,000 pinned specimens, plus many thousands more neatly preserved in envelopes. This is a first-rate scientific collection of mostly Arctic and Ohio butterflies and is in pristine condition.

One of the drawers of the Parshall collection. Photo by L. Musetti.

One of the drawers of the Parshall collection. Photo by L. Musetti.

Mr. Parshall is an Ohio State graduate and was on the faculty of the Pataskala High School here in central Ohio for many years until his retirement. His interest in butterflies started when he was 11 years old, and it never faded.  Dave not only collected, but also dedicated many years of his life to the study, dissemination of information about, and conservation of butterflies in Ohio and the country. He is a recognized authority on the local fauna of butterflies, particularly the skippers (family Hesperiidae). Dave is currently the president of the Ohio Lepidopterists Society, a group he’s been an active member of since 1979.

Among Dave’s many achievements as a lepidopterist are numerous scientific publications, checklists, and extensive butterfly surveys, reports and conservation assessments for parks and wildlife areas in Ohio. Dave co-authored the Checklist of Ohio Butterflies and Skippers, a tool used by thousands of butterfly aficionados to record butterflies and skippers that are observed in the field. (Download PDF)

In addition to his own work, Dave’s collection and expertise were used as reference and source of data in a number of publications by several other lepidopterists (see some examples below).

The David K. Parshall Butterfly Collection is a significant enhancement of the Lepidoptera holdings of the Triplehorn Insect Collection.  It contains beautifully mounted and preserved specimens of all known Arctic species of North American butterflies, including paratypes of several species that Dave described, such as the now endangered Mitchell’s Satyr, one of the rarest, if not the rarest, butterfly in the US.  There are also long paratypes series of Oeneis polixenes luteus that Dave described from the Yukon and Alaska.

In addition, this is probably the best Canadian Arctic collection every assembled.  Dave was, in many cases, the first person with a net to ever visit some of the Canadian sites represented in the collection.  The specimens he collected served, in part, as base for his publications on the butterflies of Churchill Manitoba — that’s a classic study site, made famous by Alexander B. Klots, who wrote the first Peterson Guide on the Butterflies of North America.

The Parshall collection has also the distinction of being probably the best collection of Ohio butterflies ever made, containing, in some cases, the only currently know specimens of several rare Ohio butterflies. Most of the US butterfly species are also represented, especially from the west (mainly California and Colorado).

As an Ohio State University alum, and a life-long Buckeye, Dave wanted his excellent collection to be kept at his alma mater; as a lepidopterist he wanted his collection to be fully available to the scientific community now and in the future. Dave’s wishes are now fulfilled and will benefit us all.

What we know about the diversity and distribution of insect species, including butterflies, is based largely on collections built up over many decades by dedicated amateur collectors” says Dr. Andrew Warren, Senior Collections Manager at the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity.  “Once these collections are deposited in a publicly-available institution, they become part of our collective scientific knowledge. Newly donated collections are invariably the source of surprising new finds – including new county and state records. In addition, more and more studies on insects rely on fresh genetic material, and incoming collections almost always provide an exciting new source of genetic material, both among the spread and papered specimens.”

We can’t wait to see what other exciting new findings will come out of the Parshall Butterfly Collection. But for now, we need to be disciplined and follow careful curatorial protocols. Over the next weeks and months we will be processing the specimens in order to add them the Triplehorn Insect Collection. That involves 1) submitting the whole collection to a prophylactic freezing treatment (on our -40°C freezer), followed by 2) a careful visual inspection, and 3) a detailed accounting of the contents. With over 300 insect drawers, 110+ Schmitt-style boxes, and a yet-to-be-counted number of boxes containing papered specimens, we expect this to take quite a while. After this is all done, Dave’s butterfly collection will be fully incorporated into the Triplehorn collection and become available to the scientists and students of Lepidoptera. We will keep you posted on our progress.

A heartfelt thank you to Dave Parshall for his thoughtful and valuable donation to the Triplehorn Insect Collection and The Ohio State University.  Thanks also to the absolutely awesome staff and volunteers of the Triplehorn Insect Collection, for moving the Parshall collection safely to its new home.

Specimens in the Parshall collection. Photo by L. Musetti.

Specimens in the Parshall collection. Photo by L. Musetti.

Publications by David K. Parshall:

Oosting, D.P. & Parshall, D.K. (1978) Ecological notes on the butterflies of the Churchill Region of Northern Manitoba. Journal of Research in Lepidoptera 17(3): 188-203.

Parshall, D.K. & Kral, T. (1989) A new subspecies of Neonympha mitchellii (French) (Satyridae) from North Carolina. Journal of the Lepidopterists’ Society 43(2): 114–119. (available online at images.peabody.yale.edu/lepsoc/jls/)

Parshall, D.K. & Watts, J. (2002) The Dainty Sulphur butterfly in Ohio. The Ohio Journal of Science 102(2): 24-26.

Rings, R.W., Metzler, E. H. & Parshall, D.K. (1991) A checklist of the Lepidoptera of Fulton County, Ohio with special reference to the moths of Goll Woods State Nature Preserve. Great Lakes Entomology 24: 265-280.

Troubridge, J.T. & Parshall, D.K. (1988) A review of the Oeneis polixenes (Fabricius) (Lepidoptera: Satyrinae) complex in North America. The Canadian Entomologist 120(7): 679-696.

Reports & other non-peer reviewed publications by David K. Parshall:

Parshall, D.K. (1983) A primary check list for the butterfly and skipper populations of Zaleski State Forest, Vinton County Ohio. Mimeographed. Dist. by the author. 4 pp.

Parshall, D.K. (1993) A new state record butterfly. The Ohio Lepidopterist (Newsletter of the Ohio Lepidopterists) 15(3): 32.

Parshall, D.K. (2002) Conservation Assessment for the Southern Grizzled skipper (Pyrgus centaureae wyandot). Unpublished report for US Forest Service.

Parshall, D.K. (2002) Conservation Assessment for Olympia Marble butterfly (Euchloe olympia). USDA Forest Service, Eastern Region.

Parshall, D.K., Davidson, H.B. & McCormac, J. Common Butterflies and Skippers of Ohio. Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife Publication 204 (808). 79 p. Online publication. (Download PDF)

Parshall, D.K. & Davidson, J. Checklist Of Ohio’s Butterflies & Skippers. Online publication. www.ohiolepidopterists.org/bflymonitoring/checklist.htm

A few publications that mention the David K. Parshall Butterfly Collection:

Albrecht, C.W. (1974) The Lepidoptera of Cedar Bog, Champaign County, Ohio I. and Annotated Check List of the Rhopalocera.  The Ohio Journal of Science 74(2): 126-132.

Klassen, P. (1984) Checklist of Manitoba butterflies (Rhopalocera). Journal of the Lepidopterists’ Society 38(1), 32-39.

Metzler, E.H., Shuey, J.A., Ferge, L.A., Henderson, R.A. & Goldstein, P.Z. (2004)  “Adapting a Floral Biogeography Model to Prairie-Dependent Lepidoptera”. Proceedings of the North American Prairie Conferences Paper 76. http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/napcproceedings/76

Whan, P.W. & Belth, J.E. (1992) Brief Note: Second Ohio Record of Agraulis vanillae (Lepidoptera, Nymphalidae). The Ohio Journal of Science 92(4): 121-122.


About the Author: Dr. Luciana Musetti is an Entomologist and Curator of the C. A. Triplehorn Insect Collection at The Ohio State University. Thanks to Dr. Norman Johnson for review and to Dr. Andrew Warren for helpful comment.

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