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Insect Collection Instructions

Specimen Preparation and Preservation

  • Preserving Insect Specimens: please refer to Lab 1 Exercise on the course Moodle site for how to correctly store and preserve specimens.
  • See Guide to Mounting Insects on Pins to learn the correct way to pin and point adult insects of different sizes.
  • See Instructions for Spreading Insect Wings to learn the correct way to preserve Lepidoptera and Odonata that require their wings to be spread.
  • See Preserving Insects in Alcohol to learn the correct way to preserve immature specimens or soft-bodied adults.
  • See Specimen Labeling to learn how to properly label each pinned insect specimen and each alcohol vial specimen.
  • Arranging Specimens in Specimen Box:  see examples/videos provided in Labs 1, 2, 9, 10, 11 on the course Moodle site.
  • WHEN IN DOUBT always refer to the course Moodle site or ask the instructor.

Ecological Category Explanations:

Assigning ecological categories (listed below) to specimens is a VERY important part of your collection that is worth ~1/3 of the collection points.  At first it seems like there are a lot of categories.  But remember, you don’t need to assign categories to all your specimens, and some can have multiple categories.  The katydid example from Lab 1 exercise satisfies four categories. Since many insects can meet multiple categories, this is not as difficult as it first appears, especially if you look at the lecture material. 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, put all categories on a single ecological label.  Keep in mind there are penalties for guessing (see Insect Collection Grading Sheet in Moodle for details)

Category Explanation Example
Herbivore – chewing Insects with mandibulate mouthparts that feed on plants grasshopper
Herbivore – sucking Insects with haustellate mouthparts that feed on plants aphid
Parasite of vertebrates Insects that feed parasitically on vertebrate hosts mosquito
Parasitoid Parasitic insects that feed in or on other insects (kill, eat 1 host) ichneumonid wasp
Predator Insects that prey on other insects (kill, eat multiple prey) dragonfly
House Pest Any insect that could be considered a pest in human structures cockroach
Outdoor Pest Any insect that could be considered a pest outside of human structures corn earworm
Pollinator Any insect that pollinates plants honey bee
Active at night Any insect that has its main activity period at night most moths
Social Insect Any insect that displays some level of social behavior paper wasp
Warning Color Any insect that displays aposematic coloration paper wasp
Cryptic color Any insect that uses coloration as camouflage katydid
Chemical defense Any insect that uses chemicals to defend itself stink bug
Aquatic adult Any insect that’s primary adult habitat is aquatic water boatman
Aquatic Immature Any insect that’s primary larval habitat is aquatic mayfly naiad
Resides in leaf litter Any insect/hexapod that’s primary habitat includes leaf litter collembola
Resides in/eats wood Any insect that’s primary habitat/food is wood termite
Case maker Any insect that constructs a defensive case around itself caddis fly larvae
Leaf roller/tier Any insect larva that rolls or ties leaves around itself maple leafroller larva
Leaf miner Any insect larva that mines/feeds between epidermal leaf layers locust miner
Tree/plant borer Any insect that bores/feeds into plant or tree stems corn borer
Gall maker Any insect creating a gall-like structure on plants for feeding/defense oak gall wasp
Seed feeder Any insect that feeds primarily on seeds acorn weevil
Detritivore Any insect that feeds primarily on decaying organic material dung beetle
Geophile/Geobiont Any insect with part of its life cycle dependent on soil as habitat corn rootworm
Mimic Any insect that uses mimesis or mimicry for defense or predation swallowtail larva
Acoustic Communication Any insect that uses sound to communicate with other organisms katydid
Microbe symbiont dependent Any insect dependent on microbes for such things as breaking down otherwise indigestible food termite


Purchasing insect specimens is NOT permitted in this course and will result in 0 points for the insect collection.  No credit will be given for specimens that have 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).

Collection Grading

Please refer to “Insect Collection Grading Sheet” and “Finishing Your Insect Collection” in “Course Resources Quick Links” at the top of the course Moodle site.