Ms Cate Lemann loading an insect cabinet into the compactus.

Ms Cate Lemann loading an insect cabinet into the compactus.

Compacting the Collection into a compactus

On a visit to China, Dr Joanne Daly (former Chief) saw a compactus system and thought about the Australian National Insect Collection (ANIC) bursting at the seams.

  • 17 September 2007 | Updated 14 October 2011

New storage facility

Now, after much discussion, hard work and planning, an electronic compactus system has been installed in one of the upstairs collection halls at the Australian National Insect Collection (ANIC).

The compactus houses all of the Diptera (flies), Hymenoptera (bees, wasps and ants), Hemiptera (true bugs), Orthoptera (grasshoppers, crickets and locusts), Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies) as well as the small groups and miscellaneous aquatics. Also held in the compactus are all the associated literature and reprints for each group.

The move

The move involved shifting 827 of ANIC’s large green insect cabinets - which equates to over 83 tonnes of cabinets! 

There were 558 cabinets already in the hall, but some had to be moved temporarily in order to allow space to install the compactus units. 

The move included:

  • 186 Hymenoptera cabinets, moved from the other upstairs hall
  • 73 Formicidae cabinets, brought up from the downstairs hall
  • 10 new cabinets which were also moved in. 

Total number rehoused

Using a conservative average of 500 insects per drawer, that equates to over four million insects rehoused without major incident to the insects or the technicians who carried out the move.

ANIC technicians moved 827 of the large green insect cabinets into the compactus.

Compactus layout

There are three sections in the compactus, each section having one aisle open at a time. 

There are safety provisions to ensure no one can be trapped in the closing racks.

Although ANIC already had two cranes for moving cabinets, a new one was required to lift the cabinets into the compactus.


The compactus allows for significant expansion space in the other two collection halls. 

The hall that holds Lepidoptera and mites (upstairs) could now accomodate roughly another 150 cabinets, and the hall that holds Coleoptera, nematodes and some of the ethanol collection (downstairs) could now accomodate roughly another 120 cabinets. 

The compactus also has space for more than 70 additional cabinets.

Some staff have relocated offices, needing to follow the group they work on if it was moved. As the space in the compactus hall now houses more of the collection, there has been some loss of visitor and volunteer work spaces.

While the installation was late starting, all the cabinets were loaded in by early September 2007. There are still some finishing details to attend to such as the cabinet tie-ins for earth quake proofing.

Find out more about the Australian National Insect Collection.