Lepidoptera Collection


The Lepidoptera section at the museum houses the most comprehensive collection of butterflies and moths from southern Africa in the World, consisting of more than one million specimens stored in excess of 7,000 drawers, reflecting the results of more than a century of collecting and research. From early on, the original focus on the then Transvaal extended first across South Africa and then the subregion, and today there exist comprehensive holdings especially from Namibia, Zimbabwe and Swaziland, with Botswana, southern Mozambique and Lesotho still being somewhat under-represented.


As mentioned above, the original mandate of the collection was to document the Lepidoptera fauna of the then Transvaal Republic. This quickly expanded as a result of the annexation of the Transvaal by the British, and the result of meeting these new challenges is reflected in the steadily growing number of species recorded from southern Africa: the first checklist, which appeared in 1917, listed 3607 species; and the latest inventory, published in 2002, listed no fewer than 8497 species and subspecies out of a total of perhaps 12,000 to 15,000.

Although generally representative, a particular feature of the collection is the strong representation of the so-called microlepidoptera, a group that tends to be under-represented in many collections because of the difficulties associated with their study. This is to a large extent due to the efforts of Dr A.J.T. Janse (1877-1970), whose extensive private collection of southern African moths was purchased by the Government in 1945 and subsequently amalgamated with the existing Lepidoptera collection at the museum. In addition to working on several groups of microlepidoptera himself, Janse assiduously sent specimens to England for identification and description by E. Meyrick (1854-1938), the acknowledged World authority at the time. Research on microlepidoptera was continued by Dr L. Vári, who joined the then Transvaal Museum in 1948; he mainly focused on various groups of leafminers in addition to being a prodiguous fieldworker.

Another name firmly linked to the Lepidoptera collection is that of Dr G. van Son (1898- 1967). Upon his joining the staff of the then Transvaal Museum in 1924 van Son was expected to focus his attention on several groups of insects but quickly specialized on butterflies and skippers, and his most lasting legacy is undoubtedly the series of four monographs entitled The Butterflies of Southern Africa, published between 1949 and 1979, the fourth volume having been edited posthumously by Dr L. Vári.

With the appointment of the current incumbent, Dr M. Krüger, in 1991, the focus of taxonomic and systematic research switched to various groups of the so-called macrolepidoptera, including ennomine geometrids, noctuids, and lithosiine arctiids.

Museum of Natural History

National Museum of Natural HistoryThe Ditsong National Museum of Natural History formerly known as the Transvaal Museum was founded as the Staatsmuseum of the ZAR on the 1st of December 1892.

And it has, since then acted as custodian and documentation centre of South Africa’s natural heritage.The Museum’s collections and exhibits include hominid fossils from the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site and associated fauna, including Mrs Ples [the nickname attributed to a fossil skull believed to represent a distant relative of all humankind]; fossils, skeletons, skins and mounted specimens of amphibians, fish, invertebrates, reptiles and mammals. On these collections are based the Museum’s educational programmes, research is done and information is communicated to all people of South Africa as well as to the international community.

The Ditsong National Museum of Natural History is the only natural history museum in Gauteng and one of the largest in South Africa. It is unique in that it is the only institute in South Africa that offers the local, national and international community the opportunity to view its collections including original fossil material usually denied the public.


Educational Programmes

A comprehensive series of programmes and conducted tours is offered to schools, students and tourists in various South African languages. All education programmes are aligned to CAPS (Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement). Booking is essential to participate in these activities. Please use e-mail to contact us while our phone system is being upgraded – bongi@ditsong.org.za.

Discovery Centre

A hands-on activity centre, where the five human senses are used to discover the wonders of nature, offering an invaluable educational adventure. It affords easy access for wheelchairs and display texts are also transcribed in Braille. This centre is ideal for younger learners that are eager to explore with their hands.

Public Programmes

Throughout the year talks are held at the Museum by various established researchers and scientists. Please check back regularly with the “Upcoming events” page or contact the Public Programmes Department.

Museum View


The Ditsong National Museum of Natural History researchers, as well as scientists from other institutions doing research can submit scientific papers to the annals. The major publications are the Annals of the Ditsong National Museum of Natural History and the Monograph series.

The Museum has exchange agreements with a large number of scientific institutions, both abroad and in South Africa and 342 copies of the Annals of the Ditsong National Museum of Natural History and 280 copies of the Monographs of the Ditsong National Museum of Natural History are distributed annually. Up to 2010 the annals were known as the Annals of the Transvaal Museum. For quality control of documents, articles, news releases and reports, please contact: Dr Martin Krüger at kruger@ditsong.org.za

 Admission Fees

Prices for Adults, Learners, Senior Citizens and Discovery Centre


R40.00 p/p
Children (Accompanied by parents)
R20.00 p/p
SA Senior Citizens
R20.00 p/p
Students (guided tour)
Students (own tour)
R25.00 p/p
R20.00 p/p
Free Entry for Educator: per group of 30 learners
R20.00 p/p
Free Entry for Educator: per group of 30 learners
R20.00 p/p
Discovery Centre
R25.00 p/p
Behind the scenes tour
R50.00 p/p
Night tour
R150.00 p/p
Discovery + Museum
R40.00 p/p
Guided tour
Additional R5 to approporiate tariff

Contact Information

Physical Address:
432 Paul Kruger Street Pretoria 0001

GPS Coordinates:
S 25° 45’ 11.2” E 28° 11’ 21.6”

Contact numbers:
012 492 1358
012 492 5708 – from March 2018
Admission: Daily:
08:00 – 16:00
(Except Christmas Day and Good Friday)

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