28 December 2018 (Friday) – With its rich collection of insects, Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM) has become a centre of reference for insect taxonomic studies by scientists locally and internationally. The FRIM Entomology Branch, which manages the Entomological Reference Collection, also provides insect identification services for the industry and government agencies.
The reference collection consists of approximately 600,000 specimens, of which 10,000 have been identified to species. It also holds 187 holotypes and nearly 1,000 paratypes donated by taxonomists working on the specimens.
|Entomologists, Veronica Khoo (left) and Ong Su Ping, examining some of the insect specimens.||The insect specimens stored inside the specialised boxes and cabinets.|
The collection was initiated in 1932 by F.G. Browne, Assistant Conservator of Forests of Forest Research Institute (FRI), which was what FRIM used to be called. Browne focused on pests of forest trees valued for their timber such as ambrosia beetles. In 1948, he was officially appointed as the first entomologist at FRI. However, after the country’s independence in 1957, many specimens including Browne’s type specimens were relocated and deposited in the British Museum (Natural History), which is now known as the Natural History Museum in London.
In 1951, K.D. Menon who replaced Browne continued to work on wood borers as well as other insects. The specimens were largely identified by taxonomists from the Commonwealth Institute of Entomology and the British Museum (Natural History). Menon was the first local scientist to be appointed as the Director of FRI in 1976-1977. His work was succeeded by G. Dhanaraj who was interested in termites.
Dr Tho Yow Pong joined the FRI as a forest entomologist in 1973, working on termites and moths as well as other insect groups. The specimen collection continued to grow through collaborative projects with researchers from Japan, the United Kingdom, Germany and other countries. Many new species were described and their type specimens continue to be deposited in the collection.
|Specimens mounted on slides (left) and preserved in alcohol (right).||The late Dr Tho examining a termite mound.|
Current research conducted by ENTO include firefly monitoring and conservation; ant and butterfly inventory; as well as documentation and management of forest pests. From 1988 to 2018, ENTO has received 288 local and 109 international visitors from 23 countries. Its scientists had also facilitated in 89 insect identification services for government agencies, industries, companies and individuals, from which a total of 169 species of insects were identified since 2001.