Guide to Insect Collecting

What is Insect Collecting?

What do you usually do when you see an insect? If you’re like most people you’ll probably wave your hand to make it go away or, in some cases, try and quash it. While many of us try to ‘deal’ with them, some people prefer to preserve insects and find beauty in them. Insect collecting is a fairly popular educational hobby. It is not a hobby just for children; it was considered a popular adult hobby in the Victorian age. References to insect collecting can be found in the literature and poetry.
Xerantheum: A complete resource for new insect collectors, covering the topic from the equipment needed to collecting insects till preserving and displaying them.
Cornell University Insect collection: The world’s leading insect research center that holds a large number of preserved insects. The site gives a brief description of insects online.
USNM Entomology Collection: The second largest collection of insects from all over the world. The museum is open to the general public.
Canadian National Collection of Insects, Arachnids, and Nematodes: One of the world’s best collections of insects which contains about 16 million specimens, near Ottawa.
Oxford University Museum of Natural History: One of the biggest collections of insects in the UK. An electronic catalogue helps researchers access the collection easily.
The University of Queensland: A wide collection of insects from Australia and some limited collection from all over the world.
Western Australian Museum: An insect collection from mainly Western Australia, but specimens from other parts of Australia and the rest of the world are also present.
Discover Life: A resource that offers tools to identify and differentiate species of living organisms including insects.

Insect Identification

Insects can be found everywhere, from our houses to streets, to parks, etc. So if you are an insect collector, you can have your pick and build a large collection. Since there are so many of them it is no wonder they form the largest class of the animal kingdom.
When an insect is captured, it is identified by its anatomy. Their body is divided into three parts: head, thorax, and abdomen. All insects have 3 pairs of legs; however arachnids (with 4 pairs of legs) such as spiders are also collected by insect collectors. Almost all insects also have a pair of antenna and eyes. Most insects have an outer covering called an exoskeleton, which makes it possible to preserve them in their original form after they die.
Bug Guide: A complete guide with pictures of bugs from different regions that help in identifying bugs
What are Insects? This article describes the basic anatomy of insects to help identifying and classifying them
Insect Identification: A guide about most North American bugs, along with tips to identify insects through anatomy, mouth parts, etc. The site contains a bug finder that helps a common man in identifying insects around them.
Insect Identifier: A guide by which an insect can easily be identified by going through different options.
University of Minnesota: The article is a guide to collecting and preserving techniques of insects.
How to Collect and Display Insects: This person has chosen to write a blog about their personal experiences while collecting insects.
Practical Advice about Insect Collecting: This site has a lot of good information about catching different insects and also includes pictures.
Insects Collections for Sale: Insects are preserved and labeled according to their location and date of catch (for USA only)

Some Commonly Collected Insects

Butterflies: Even if you are not an insect collector, you probably can’t resist trying to catch butterflies. They are one of the most beautiful and colorful insects around and a favorite among people of all ages. If you have tried catching one, you know it’s not easy. Instead of rushing towards it, you need to sneak up and quickly put a net on it. Once it is in the net, delicately pinch its wings in an upright position on its back and put it in a jar.
Dragonflies: These are also beautiful creatures but very quick and difficult to catch. You need to drop the net on top of them. Since dragonflies easily lose their color after they are caught, keep them in a paper envelop so that at least some of the colors are preserved. Collectors also put them in acetone, which helps preserve the color but hardens the body and it breaks easily.
Monkeysee: Useful video tips and methods for catching and preserving insects.
Insect Collection: A guide about what you need to collect insects, preserve them and then label and display them.

Techniques Used to Collect and Preserve Insects

There are many techniques and tools for collecting insects. The most basic method of catching insects is by one’s hands or by using a net. However, to build a large collection, specialized tools may be necessary. After an insect is caught, it is normally preserved in a glass jar or box with a glass top. Since insects can be fragile, you need to be very careful when handling them. The type of insect and other factors dictate which tools to be used to catch them. These are some of the commonly used insect catching tools:

  • Glass jar
  • Collecting bags
  • Nets
  • Envelopes
  • Forceps
  • Beat sheet
  • Barrier traps
  • Funnel traps
  • Bait traps
  • Pan traps
  • Pitfall traps

The equipment used for insect collection can be bought from any good education supplies store. Many websites offer these tools online for purchasing.
Mississippi Entomological Museum: Offers a service to identify any bug for a fee. It also offers students loans for their studies and research.
Leptraps: Offers a wide range of traps used to catch or collect insects. To order, an ordering form is printed and mailed to the given address.
Forestry Suppliers: An online shop for different products related to forests, agriculture, etc. Insect collecting supplies are also available here.
Educational Science: A website that offers insect collecting kits, insect pins, and display boxes, etc.
Australian Entomology Supplies: Books and other items related to and used for insect collecting are available here.
Dried Insects Specimen: Insect collecting supplies are available. Wide range of dried insects is on sale for school projects.
Terra Treasures and Adventures: A website that offers high quality preserved insects with Dominican amber.


Weird and Unusual Insects

The following are some especially gorgeous bugs you should be on the lookout for in your backyard:
Hercules beetle: As the name suggests, this is one of the strongest insects around. It grows to about 6 inches in length and can hold an enormous amount of weight on its back. Can you guess how much? A whopping 850 times its own weight! Despite this massive strength, it’s not aggressive and believes in ‘live and let live’.
Assassin bug with backpack: This bug uses a strange and unique method to trick its prey as well as hunters. It carries the remains of its earlier preys on its back in the form of a backpack. The strange pile of insect debris attracts its prey and if a predator comes along, it easily confuses the hunter by shedding the backpack and keeping the predator busy with it.
Bombardier beetles: This bug has one of the most unique defense mechanisms found among insects. The bombardier beetle’s small size often attracts larger predator insects but it’s not very easy prey. When a predator attacks, with a loud popping sound the beetle sprays a dangerous mixture of chemicals at precise locations on the body of the hunter.
Bullet ants: ‘Ants can’t shoot you with a bullet, so why is this little critter called bullet ant?’ you might ask. These ants have a lance-like organ on their abdomen from where they inject a toxin in their prey’s or predator’s body. Its sting is considered the most painful among all insects and can cause severe pain, nausea, shivering and even short term paralysis.
Weird-looking insects: Some of the most peculiar-looking and amazingly unique insects on the planet.
Insects: Tons of authoritative information on insects.
Tropical Lycaenidae: A beautiful butterfly. Here is a useful guide


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