Dr. John Adams Comstock Butterfly Collection

"Butterfly Room"

The specimens displayed in the cases along the left side wall are part of the famous entomologist Dr. John Adams Comstock’s collection. Throughout his life, he acquired thousands of butterflies and moths. There are specimens from all over the world collected during the early 1900s. Many of the butterflies and moths he may have caught himself, but many were likely bought or traded for. Insects in this collection are not placed in strict taxonomic groups; they are arranged to emphasize their aesthetic value.

In 1927, he published his well-known book, Butterflies of California, which he wrote and illustrated with stylized, hand-colored butterflies. The book quickly became a classic in its field. He influenced the popularity of butterfly collection, and ultimately…the study of natural history in general. From 1928 – 1948, Dr. Comstock was employed at the Los Angeles County Museum of History, Science, and Art. He served as the director of Science from 1939 to 1942 and the Director for the Channel Islands Biological Survey, conducted by the Museum. Thirteen expeditions were made to the eight islands in order to collect specimens for study. The grand scope of the survey has never been duplicated. He retired in 1948 and moved to Del Mar, California.

In the early 1970s, Richard McCrea, Entomologist for the department, found the collection in a shed at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden. He recognized the importance of the collection and had it moved to our Los Angeles office for restoration and display.

In 2015, the collection was in need of further restoration. The old cases were fumigated and the new cases were purchased. Dr. Gevork Arakelian, Entomologist, and Juan Limon, Agricultural Inspector III, took great care to re-pin more than 2,000 specimens into the new cases. The cases arranged along the right side wall contain some of Dr. Comstock’s beetle collection as well as new and exotic insects form all over the world acquired by our Entomology Laboratory staff.

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