Insect Collection Instructions

Specimen Preparation and Preservation

Collection Requirements (for full points)

  1. Submit your insect collection by the deadline posted on the course Moodle site. Late collections will not be accepted.
  2. The collection must be housed in “Schmitt” boxes or equivalent (provided with signed-out equipment in lab)
  3. Representatives of 18 insect orders.
  4. Representatives of 39 different families, including at least one from each of the following 8 orders:  Odonata; Orthoptera; Hemiptera; Coleoptera; Hymenoptera; Lepidoptera; Diptera.
  5. You must have at least one immature (in alcohol) belonging to 8 of the following 10 orders:  Blattodea; Coleoptera; Diptera; Ephemeroptera; Hemiptera; Hymenoptera; Lepidoptera; Neuroptera; Odonata; Trichoptera.
  6. For each of your collected specimens, try to assign at least 1 ecological category (categories are listed in a separate tab on this page).  If 28 ecological categories seems like a lot, keep in mind that one katydid specimen satisfies four categories (i.e. leaf chewing; cryptic color; acoustic; night).  Since many insects can meet several categories, this is not as difficult as it first seems.  The aim of this requirement is to have you appreciate that insects fill a wide range of ecological roles.  It is not necessary to identify an ecological category for every insect in your collection, but it is wise to identify more than just the minimum number indicated in the list.  A single specimen may fulfill two or more ecological categories — if so, print all the category code names on a single ecological label.
  7. See the “Insect Collection Grading Form” on the Moodle site for more details.

Arranging Specimens in Collection Boxes

  • Specimens on pins should be arranged in the boxes with all families of one order following a single label for that order (order labels are on the Specimen Label Form).
  • Specimens should be arranged in neat rows with all labels facing the same direction so as to be readable from the left side of the box.
  • Only specimens that you wish to have graded should be submitted; points will be deducted for misidentifications.
  • Submit more specimens than the minimum requirement; a certain number of extra points will be given for additional correctly identified specimens (see “Grading”).
  • Specimens that you do not wish to have graded but are willing to turn in for the teaching collection should follow your main collection in a column headed “SURPLUS” (from Insect Label Form).
  • Fumigant (moth balls) should always be in your box of pinned insects to prevent contamination by ants or dermestid beetles.
  • Never put vials in a box containing pinned insects. All vials should be kept together in a separate container clearly marked with your name.
  • After completing the course, if you wish to keep your collection you must purchase your own vials and pinning boxes.
  • You are encouraged to donate collections and/or specimens for use as teaching material in future classes.


Example Collection


IMPORTANT NOTE:   The labels in this example collection are not the permanent labels you will turn in with your collection

Grading of the Collection

1. Form Used to Grade Collections:

We will use the grading form that came with your equipment (and available on the Moodle site) to grade your collection.    Keep in mind the penalty points.  If you guess at identifications or ecological categories, there is a downside.

2. Deduction of Points:

Three points will be deducted for every misidentified specimen from the Orders Study Guide and Families Study Guide.  If all specimens of a given category (e.g. Order) are misidentified, no credit is given for the category, and points are deducted for each misidentified specimen.  If at least one specimen is correct, credit will be given for the category, although points will be deducted for each misidentification.  Similar deductions are made for incorrect ecological categories.  Points will be deducted from the collection grade for pinned immatures (unless “immature” is on label) since this represents your failure to distinguish developmental stage.  Similar deductions will be made for adults in alcohol that should have been pinned or pointed.  See the grading form above for more details, but in general the message is don’t guess at identifications.

3. Collection Neatness:

A maximum of 50 points may be deducted, at the discretion of the instructor, for such sins as sloppy pinning, excessively large or illegible labels, misspellings, mutilated specimens, poorly spread butterflies, disorganization, etc.

Collecting For Your Specialization

Students interested in particular fields of biology are encouraged to collect extensively in the orders important to that discipline, and get only the minimum requirements for all other orders.  The following table lists the prominent hexapod classes and orders for five fields of biology.

Aquatic Biology Soil Biology Horticulture/
Crop Science
Forestry Parasitology
Odonata Protura Orthoptera Orthoptera Hemiptera
Ephemeroptera Diplura Hemiptera Hemiptera Psocodea
Plecoptera Collembola Diptera Diptera Diptera
Trichoptera Zygentoma Thysanoptera Isoptera Siphonaptera
Hemiptera Archeognatha Coleoptera Coleoptera Hymenoptera
Neuroptera Isoptera Lepidoptera Lepidoptera Strepsiptera
Coleoptera Orthoptera Hymenoptera Hymenoptera
Diptera Coleoptera

Ecological Categories:

This is a VERY important part of your collection that is worth a lot of points.  At first it seems like there are a lot of categories.  But remember, the katydid specimen from the Lab 1 exercise satisfies four categories. Since many insects can meet several categories, this is not as difficult as it first appears. The aim of this requirement is to have you appreciate that insects fill a wide range of ecological roles. If a single specimen fills two or more ecological categories, print all the categories on a single ecological label.  Also, keep in mind there are penalties for guessing (see the grading tab for details)

# Families Category Code for Label Example
2 Leaf feeding (chewing) LEAF CHEWING grasshopper
2 Plant sucking PLANT SUCKING aphid
2 Feeds on vertebrates VERT. PARASITE mosquito
2 Predatory on insects INSECT PREDATOR dragonfly
2 Parasite (parasitoid) on other insect* INSECT PARASITE ichneumon wasp
2 Aquatic as adults AQUATIC ADULT water boatman
2 Litter inhabitant LITTER ground beetle
2 Rotten wood dwelling WOOD termite
2 Household pest HOUSE PEST house fly
2 Nocturnally active NIGHT moth
2 Social insects SOCIAL paper wasp
1 Sound producer ACOUSTIC cricket
2 Pollinators POLLINATOR honey bee
2 Aposematic coloration WARNING COLOR yellow jacket
2 Camouflage coloration CRYPTIC COLOR katydid
1 Casemaking insect CASE MAKER caddisfly larva
1 Stem borer** BORER corn borer
1 Soil burrower SOIL solitary bee
1 Seed feeder SEED flour beetle
1 Leaf roller LEAF ROLLER maple leafroller
2 Aquatic nymph AQUATIC NYMPH mayfly naiad
1 Batesian mimic MIMIC hover fly
2 Chemical defenses CHEM DEFENSE stink bug
1 Gall inhabitant GALL oak gall wasp
2 Agricultural pests AG PEST alfalfa weevil
1 Leaf miner LEAF MINER locust miner
1 Dung or carrion feeder SAPROPHYTE dung beetle
1 Series – 5 individuals of the same species and same stage of development that show polymorphism (i.e. variation among individuals) SERIES spittle bugs

*Adults whose larvae fulfill this category may be used
**Stem must be 1″ or less in diameter (i.e., not a log)


No credit whatsoever will be given for a collection that contains erroneous date/locality data, or specimens used previously in other entomology courses.  Insects collected previously by yourself (properly prepared) may be used sparingly.  Trading insects between members of the class is permitted but not encouraged (the date/locality label must show the identity of the original collector).  Cash transactions involving insect specimens are NOT permitted in this course.