~ Dowload Roadmap to ARC-PHP Biosystematics ~

  • The PHP Biosystematics Division comprises four units, namely the National Collection of Insects, Arachnids, Nematodes and Fungi, which form a unique centre for applied taxonomic research in southern Africa

  • As one of the most comprehensive archives of the region’s biological diversity of arthropods, nematodes and fungi, the specimen collections and associated biological reference sources of the Division form an irreplaceable national asset and an invaluable research tool for scientists working in the fields of agricultural and natural resources management in southern Africa and further afield

  • Through the development of these biological reference sources, and its research on economically and environmentally important groups of organisms, the Division strives to render comprehensive biosystematic services in support of applied entomology, arachnology, nematology and mycology


The National Collections of Insects, Arachnids, Nematodes and Fungi, which are among the largest and most well-established collection-based institutions of their kind in the country, were established within governmental agricultural departments at different times between 1905 and 1965 in response to a pressing need for biosystematic information on organisms associated with agriculture and forestry.

They became part of the Plant Protection Research (ARC-PPRI) when it was established in 1962 through the amalgamation of the then Divisions of Entomology and Plant Pathology of the old Department of Agriculture. Finally, the four collections, which resorted under different divisions in PPRI, were consolidated into the Biosystematics Division within the Institute with the inauguration of the Agricultural Research Council in 1992.


Backed by a team of 32 skilled taxonomic specialists and technical support staff, extensive specimen collections and biological reference sources, the Division provides comprehensive biosystematic services in entomology, arachnology, nematology and mycology.

These services and products include:

  • Identification of specimens

  • Analyses of plant and soil samples for the detection of plant parasitic nematodes and mites and phytopathogenic fungi

  • Provision of pure fungal cultures for research purposes

  • Information on the taxonomy, biology and biogeography of pests, fungal pathogens and natural enemies and the provision of taxon-based checklists, some of which are available in electronic form

  • Taxonomic investigations and biodiversity surveys and inventories

  • Technical training in taxonomy and the identification of organisms

  • Production of identification guides and manuals, taxonomic and biological catalogues and indices, as well as taxonomic revisions


The Division’s biosystematic support services are essentially based on its long-term taxonomic research on economically important groups of organisms, with the emphasis on the faunas and mycota of the southern African sub-region.

  • At the National Collection of Insects, the study of pollinators, phytophagous pests and natural enemies of insects and invasive plants has been the focus for many years. Groups presently under scrutiny include parasitic wasps, solitary bees, termites, weevils and leaf-eating beetles, and hemipterous insects such as scale insects, aphids and leafhoppers


  • The emphasis on research at the National Collection of Arachnids is on phytophagous, predacious and parasitic mites, and various spider families, especially those that are of importance as predators in agro-ecosystems


  • The National Collection of Nematodes is primarily concerned with the study of plant parasitic nematode groups, such as cyst, root-knot, dagger, stubby and nematodes


  • The research focus at the National Collection of Fungi is on groups of agriculturally important fungi. Groups presently under investigation include hyphomycetous and ascomycetous pathogens of agricultural crops, wood-rotting Basidiomycota and rust fungi, as well as Mucorales

In addition to the Division’s research endeavours in the field of pure taxonomy, it is becoming increasingly involved in multidisciplinary contract research that requires biosystematic skills and expertise. Recent contributions include inputs in the fields of forensic entomology, biological control, fungal pathogenicity, virus vector research and environmental impact assessment.


  • The Division houses some of the most comprehensive and valuable specimen collections of southern African insects, arachnids, nematodes and fungi , with several important collections from other South African institutes having been incorporated in these holdings over the years. A unique addition to its specimen holdings is a live fungus culture collection that is affiliated to the World Federation of Culture Collections


  • As an internationally recognized depository for scientific reference material, the collections are particularly rich in type specimens, as well as voucher material pertaining to both present and past applied agricultural research in South Africa. Of equal significance is the Divisions’ substantial taxonomic and biological reference sources of literature, catalogues and specimen label data


  • In accordance with international trends and its obligations to the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Division has embarked on a long-term strategy to digitise its holding, thereby making its vast reference sources more readily accessible to the global community. To this end, several database projects have been implemented during the past few years with a considerable amount of invaluable collection-based information already being accessible in electronic form​

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