The ZSM collection of butterflies and moths actually includes about 12,000,000 specimens, representing far more than 130,000 species, stored in more than 80,000 drawers. Many private collections have already been donated to the ZSM, but are currently still under the curation of the private owners. More than 4,000,000 specimens (museum Thomas Witt) have been donated to the ZSM in 2010 and 2011 or are associated – as a public foundation – to the state collections. Hence, the Lepidoptera collection in Munich is by far the largest collection of butterflies and moths in Germany, and also on international scale it is one of the most outstanding and important collections. The collections are characterised by optimal conditions, guaranteed by modern technology of the building, by storage in large collection magazines, by high degree of order and by easy accessibility due to a nearly complete IT-based inventory of species. Thousands of historical specimens from original descriptions, the ‘name-bearing types’, are housed in Munich, a more exact number may soon be provided by the progress of the IT-inventorying. In the case of the >3,300 holotypes of the Museum Witt (with >87.000 paratypes) the inventory and web-presentation is complete.

Focusses of the collection are in the Rhopalocera (butterflies) and Geometridae. ‘Bombyces and Sphinges’ are extrememly well represented in the Museum Thomas Witt (see homepage of the MWM). The recent bequests of the six outstanding collections Klimesch, Eitschberger, Pröse, Deschka, Derra and Grünewald (the last still curated by the collector), brought, with approximately 600,000 specimens, a reasonable increase also in the Microlepidoptera. Further important collections: Historical collection of Esper (from the years 1790-1805), Herbulot (with historical collections of Mabille, Rambur, Chrétien, D. Lucas), Daumiller, Bastelberger, Disqué, Dannehl, Alberti, Eisenberger, Gehlen, Hirmer, Hörhammer, Koehler, Lukasch, Osthelder, Vogl, Speckmeier, Beyerl, Wolfsberger, Kager, Hinterholzer, Politzar, Behounek, Hacker, Scheuringer, Wegner, Darge, Ochse. Regional focusses of the collection are Germany, the Mediterranean region, Nepal (with ca. 500,000 specimens collected by the ZSM expeditions of Dr. W. Dierl), Sumatra (mainly material of the Heterocera Sumatrana Society), Taiwan (from own collecting), Africa (Tanzania: Ph. Darge; Ethiopia, Mali, Guinea, Congo: G. Müller, R. Beck, B. Fruth and others) and South America (historical specimens of H.H. Princess Therese of Bavaria, much material from cooperation projects and collecting by Dr. W. Forster and the ZSM project ‘Panguana’). Research is actually focussed on systematics and taxonomy (morphological and molecular, e.g. DNA barcoding) of the families Geometridae and Pyralidae, research is collection based and supported by a number of externally granted, major research projects (e.g. iBOL; BFB Barcoding Fauna Bavarica; GBOL; EU-Horizon-BGE). Further projects aim to update standards of museology to modern methods and possibilities, e.g. by comprehensive IT-based collection inventorying and interactive provision of data in the internet (“virtual collection”).