Research interests

The foundation of Coleoptera research at the South African National Collection of Insects (SANC) is based on the plant-feeding beetle fauna of southern Africa, with special emphasis on the superfamilies Curculionoidea and Chrysomeloidea. Beetle research at the SANC has for several decades been focusing on weevils (Curculionidae), leaf beetles (Chrysomelidae) and seed beetles (Chrysomelidae: Bruchinae). More recently, lady beetles (Coccinellidae) and several water beetle families have additionally enjoyed attention.

The phytophagous beetle taxa under scrutiny include some of the most injurious plant-feeding insects, causing them to be of great importance to agriculture. Because of the highly host specific nature of the majority of species in these groups, they also include important potential biological control agents against invasive alien plants. In this respect there has been collaborative research amongst the Coleoptera Section, the Weeds Research Division of the ARC-Plant Protection Research Institute, and similar agencies in Australia, the USA and Kenya.

The Coleoptera Section forms a very active part of the identification and information service of the ARC-PPRI Biosystematics Division. For this, our extensive specimen reference collection, large reprint library, and network of coleopterist colleagues world-wide are employed. 

Projects in progress or recently concluded

  • Research on the previously unknown immature stages and poorly known host plants for the genus Iscadida Chevrolet, a flightless leaf beetle genus endemic to southern Africa

  • A systematic revision of the weevil genus Porophorus, which is endemic to southern Africa

  • Monitoring of the spread of the alien, invasive Harlequin Lady Beetle (Harmonia axyridis) in South Africa

  • Description of new taxa of the basal weevil genus Afrotibicina, which is associated with proteas and unique to southern Africa

  • Revision of the southern African weevil genus Ellimenistes, which includes species of agricultural importance

  • Description of a new weevil species that develops in the seed-pods of the indigenous crop plant, rooibos tea (with Roberto Caldara, Milan, Italy)

  • Collaborative work with Arne Witt, CABI Africa, Nairobi, on the invasiveness of the ‘Mother-of-Millions’ plant in various parts of the world

  • Incorporation of the large beetle collection of the University of Pretoria, donated to the SANC in 2002, into the main Coleoptera collection and of various smaller “orphaned” collections either donated to or obtained by the SANC

  • The SANC fruit chafer collection (Scarabaeidae: Cetoniinae) has been digitised. In 2011 the South African National Collection of Insects (SANC) embarked on a collaborative databasing project: 'DISTRIBUTION AND DIVERSITY PATTERNS OF SOUTH AFRICAN INSECT POLLINATORS OF ECOSYSTEM SERVICES IMPORTANCE, together with the South African National Biodiversity Institute (Applied Biodiversity Research) and the South African National Parks (Park Planning and Development'). Funding for this project was obtained from the South African Biodiversity Information Facility (SABIF), which is the South African Node of the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), established by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) in collaboration with the National Research Foundation (NRF), Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) as well as members of the scientific community

  • Collaborative projects are being conducted with Prof. M. Biondi and Dr. P. D'Alessandro of the Dipartimento di Scienze Ambientali, Università Degli Studi - L'Aquila, Italy, on Afrotropical flea beetles. We are currently focussing on the taxonomy of the flea beetle genus Blepharida Chevrolat, 1836 (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) in the Afrotropical Region.

  • The Coleoptera researchers are supporting Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife in their Bioblitz Programme. Material collected during such surveys is processed, identified, and eventually incorporated in the South African National Collection of Insects (SANC). In this way our collections grow and valuable data is made available to Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, both for decision making processes and to contribute towards a database of their beetle fauna. They also utilize the SANC beetle collection on a regular basis.

  • We are collaborating with the South African Sugarcane Research Institute, Mount Edgecombe, KwaZulu-Natal, regarding the identity and the life history of the newly discovered Sugarcane Longhorn, Cacosceles newmannii (Thomson) (Cerambycidae: Prioninae: Cacoscelini).

Acantharinus dregei
Gyllenhal (Curculionidae)


Diamphidia nigroornata
Stål larva (Chrysomelidae)


Diamphidia nigroornata
Stål adult (Chrysomelidae)

The Coleoptera collection of the SANC

Almost all the beetle families known from southern Africa are represented in the Coleoptera holdings. The collection houses an estimated number of more than 600 000 beetle specimens and is continually growing . Since 2007 an average of more than 1 500 beetle specimens have been added to the collection every month. The most valuable components of the collection are the comprehensive collections of southern African Curculionoidea (weevils and their close allies), Chrysomelidae (leaf beetles), Bruchidae (seed beetles) and Scarabaeinae (dung beetles). Other strong points in the SANC beetle collection are, amongst others, the terrestrial Adephaga, other Scarabaeoidea, Buprestidae, Bostrichidae, Melyridae: Malachiinae, Coccinellidae and Cerambycidae. An extremely valuable and unique component of the collections of phytophagous beetles is the considerable amount of host-associated material, linking specimens with host plant data, other eco-biological information, and sometimes immature stages.

Besides the well represented southern African fauna, the collection also contains a fair amount of reference material from other biogeographical regions. The collection is rich in type material.

Apart from the Phytophaga and Scarabaeinae, which are constantly being worked on and upgraded, the SANC beetle holdings are not fully identified. However, all the holdings are extremely valuable in that they contain host data and important voucher material pertaining to more than a century of applied research in South Africa.

Small, but growing collections of material for molecular research, and beetle larvae with associated adults and hosts, have recently been established.

Recent publications

D'ALESSANDRO, P., GROBBELAAR, E. & BIONDI, M. 2012. Revision of the genus Stegnaspea Baly with descriptions of five new species from southern Africa (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae: Galerucinae: Alticini). Insect Systematics & Evolution 43(1): 11-33. DOI: 10.1163/187631212X626032

GROBBELAAR, E. & HERON, H.D.C. 2013. Biological notes on Aspidimorpha (Megaspidomorpha) angolensis Weise, 1896 (Chrysomelidae: Cassidinae: Aspidimorphini): host plant records, immature stages and cycloalexy. African Entomology 21(2): 368–371. DOI: 10.4001/003.021.0220

BJØRNSTAD, A., GROBBELAAR, E. & PERISSINOTTO, R. 2016. Review of Afraustraloderes rassei Bouyer, 2012: description of its female and a new species of Pixodarus Fairmaire, 1887 (Coleoptera, Cerambycidae, Prioninae). ZooKeys 558: 77-93. DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.558.6112

BIONDI, M., FRASCA ,R., GROBBELAAR, E. & D'ALESSANDRO, P. 2017[2016]. Supraspecific taxonomy of the flea beetle genus Blepharida Chevrolat, 1836 (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) in the Afrotropical Region and description of Afroblepharida subgen. nov. Insect Systematics & Evolution 48(2): 97–155. DOI 10.1163/1876312X-48022152

 Contact persons: Beth Grobbelaar, Riaan Stals, Campus: Roodeplaat (West), Pretoria