A Lepidopteran Treasure Trove
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The Thomas R. Manley Collection:

A Lepidopteran Treasure Trove

The Division of Entomology has about one million specimens to its name. More than one third of these are in the Order Lepidoptera, the butterflies and moths. In October 2003 Dr. Thomas R. Manley of Port Treverton, Pennsylvania, presented one of the larger private butterfly and moth collections in the United States to the Yale Peabody Museum.

The Thomas R. Manley Lepidoptera Collection comprises approximately 65,000 specimens, most from North America. Tom Manley is well known to the Entomology Division. In the early 1960s he came to Yale as a John Hay Fellow to pursue an interest in horticulture, but became enthralled with insects after working with then Curator Charles Remington. An assiduous field worker, Dr. Manley’s nearly 40 years of Lepidoptera collecting and breeding has always involved local lepidopterists as well as his students at Bloomsburg State University, in central Pennsylvania, where he spent his teaching career as a biology professor.

The make up of the collection mirrors Dr. Manley’s butterfly and moth passions. His early love was silk moths, especially the Io (or bull’s-eye) moth, Automeris io. Through careful breeding and backcrossing experiments, he worked out the genetics of many hindwing eyespot patterns found in this handsome moth. At about the time he began working with Io moths, he also used mass sampling to document morphological patterns at the populational level, traveling widely throughout North America to collect in butterfly hybrid zones, isolated mountain ranges, and along altitudinal and geographic gradients. He was particularly fond of Montana, and made repeated trips to document the fauna of the Judith Mountains in Fergus County.

Dr. Manley also tracked the spread of melanics (dark forms) in Pennsylvania in certain moth species—the Geometridae (inchworms) and Noctuidae (millers). His work and that of Ted Sargent at the University of Massachusetts assembled some of the better long-term data on melanic frequencies in North American moths (Sargent also has donated his material to the Peabody). Most recently, Manley focused his mass sampling on the genus Parnassius, tail-less swallowtails of the alpine zones of western U.S. and Canada, to collect from all the known Parnassius populations in western North America.

The Thomas R. Manley Lepidoptera Collection complements and strengthens the already rich Lepidoptera collections at the Yale Peabody Museum.

—Larry Gall


The Yale Peabody Museum’s collections are available to legitimate researchers for scholarly use. Loans are issued to responsible individuals at established institutions. Loans and access to the collection can be arranged through the Collections Manager.

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