New Feature: Collecting Insects

My collection

One unsorted box of my insect collection

This semester, I am the teaching assistant for an insect systematics course and an insect biology lab.  As part of the requirements for both courses, the students are expected to make an insect collection and identify all of their specimens to order and/or family.  We have a surprising number of students who haven’t ever taken an entomology course before, so they haven’t ever made bug collections.  Due to their inexperience, I get questions I never expected.  For example, one day I had to demonstrate how to use an insect net when a student asked how to catch a bee.  It didn’t even occur to me that she might not know that running around with her kill jar in one hand and the lid in the other trying to catch the bee might not be the best way to do it, but that’s what she was doing!

I’m teaching many of my students how to do a lot of things that I, a person who’s been a serious collector since she was 12, take for granted.  I love doing this sort of thing!  Because I have been collecting for many years, I’ve come up with a lot of shortcuts and easy ways to make things at home that work just as well as the professional equipment but at a fraction of the cost.  It’s been fun to share some of the things I’ve learned with my students.

Considering I’m doing a lot of this already, it occurred to me that it might be worth putting some of my instructions for making and/or using equipment online so that other people might benefit from them.  Thus, I’m starting a new feature called Collecting Insects!  Part of my goal in creating this blog was to provide an accessible educational resource, and this new feature will help me fulfill this goal.  I wish to share what I know to help make insect collecting more enjoyable for others, regardless of your level of expertise.

Here’s how it’s going to work.  I’m going to put the tutorials online  as regular blog posts so they are available to everyone on the internet.  Each post will cover the materials needed, discuss where you can get some of the more obscure components, and include detailed instructions with photos for each step.  I’ll also put a printable copy of each tutorial on my Educational Materials page.  These files will be in PDF format and will be accessible for teachers and other educators to use in classrooms – or for anyone else who would prefer to have a printed copy of a tutorial!  Please feel free to share any of the tutorials in any way you see fit as I am making them available to everyone without any restrictions on their use.

damselfly adult

Pinned damselfly adult, side view (Enallagma boreale)

Some of the topics I wish to cover will be how to make insect killing jars (next post), how to make simple insect nets, how to use various nets to catch different type of insects, how to collect aquatic insects, how to create and use a blacklighting rig, how to pin insects, and how to properly label your insects.  If anyone has any suggestions for topics they’d like to see covered, leave a comment below.  I welcome suggestions!

I’ll try to get a new tutorial up once a month.  If you have any interest in collecting for yourself or use insect collections in your teaching, I think this feature will be helpful.  Happy collecting!


Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © 2010


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