Category: entomology methods











I just found what I think is a dying great diving beetle in the middle of campus for some reason so I brought it back to my dorm and stuck it in my freezer

I’m gonna try to pin it but I have never pinned an insect before so this is not going to be pretty 

but I gotta learn somehow 

Yeah broke sound about right I just tore apart an old slipper for the foam sole

This is gonna be great

Pinning is the best! Here’s the best spot to pin a beetle in just in case you didn’t know. A little tip I wish I knew when doing beetles, especially large ones, be careful where you pin in relation to the oegs because you could accidentally take a leg off when the pin goes through

Thank you so much you all are saving my life. As a little update the beetle, besides a bit of guts coming out from the bottom of it, was in pretty good condition: wings and legs and head nicely intact. I put it in a cutout bottom of a plastic cup legs down but now the beetle is frozen to the bottom of the cup by its guts. Marvel at my professional 12am handiwork. I should have froze it upside down. Ahh the things we learn through trial and error.

I’ll have a look. I can already hear the distant screams of those who have done this for years as I eventually subject them to watching me destroy this poor bug.

This site (Purdue Entomology [link]) has some great info and tips for pinning and displaying all sorts of insects (use the table of contents over to the left of the page to navigate). When you start pinning with labels, there is a special pinning block with various heights that allows you to have the labels all exactly the right distance apart so you can read all the info from the drawer.

April 8, 2019

You know I’ve been joking around a lot but I really do mean it when I say that the bug side of tumblr is my favorite part of tumblr. Everyone has been so helpful, maybe it won’t turn out as bad as I think. Thank you!!!

Now im kinda curious…. could you pin a weevil or are thwy simply too small?

According to that site @nanonaturalist gave above, you can pin small insects, but you have to attach them to a card and then pin the card

ANOTHER ALTERNATIVE! You can buy those empty pill capsules, put your small insect in them, and then pin through the capsule. Bioquip sells the caps [link], but you can also buy them from the pharmacy for pretty cheap. 

I use them to store my tiny caterpillar head capsules (when I don’t have them just laying around in a jar lid somewhere ugh).

If you use these things, make sure YOU DON’T GET THEM WET!!!!!! (they dissolve!!)

April 18, 2019

Sorry for all the questions but I got curious …

Sorry for all the questions but I got curious after your last post (the earring one): how do you, like, kill the insects animal friendly? Are you bummed out over it or is it just part of the job for you?

Hi there! I’m still working on your first question, I’ll post that tomorrow. 

I don’t kill the insects, my friend who makes the earrings does. There is a big long complicated discussion about collections in general, in terms of being able to have a historical catalogue of species diversity and populations, and you can’t have that without killing things. In some ways, it’s a harder conversation for animals like birds and mammals, because they live longer, reproduce less frequently, and are seen as more intelligent. 

But for me, it very much would bum me out. I have had to euthanize some of my insects (I do it by putting them in the freezer), and even that is really hard to do. I’ve never taken an entomology course because of it. When I was 12, I wanted to be a marine biologist. I was obsessed with fish and marine invertebrates since I was 4, I loved everything about them. But at one point, I realized… you can’t be a wildlife biologist without doing dissections. And I’m a vegetarian who couldn’t even eat fake meat for years because it freaked me out by looking too real (this was in the 90′s before they had good ones)–there was no way I would be able to do a dissection! So over 20 years later, I’m doing wildlife biology my way, but without any formal training, because every entomology course has a component where you create a collection–meaning, you kill insects, and you practice pinning them. 

For most insects, they are killed quickly in a jar with chemicals. Ethyl acetate is the most common, and it’s used in nail polish remover. Freezing is used for some other insects (like moths, to prevent them from damaging their wings with the chemicals). I don’t know what method my friend uses, but he doesn’t use chemicals since he feeds the leftover parts to other animals (his research lab has a lot of fish). 

The thing with collecting is, maybe it’s all part of the job for some, but I think most of the people who study any kind of biology were drawn to it by the living organisms. Very few people in this field take it for granted that the study of life necessitates death, especially when it’s at our own hands. Even my hardened entomologist friends have told me that the first few times are never easy. But in many cases, what you collect could outlive you many times over. There are insects sitting in collections that are hundreds of years old, which are still in good enough shape that we can still study and learn from them.

March 15, 2019