Specimen Collecting Tips
A variety of collection equipment can make things much easier for you to capture insects. The following are helpful tools you may consider using if monitoring insect populations are important to you.
- Sweeping net — Effective for collecting insects on plants including trees, shrubs, garden plants and crops
- Forceps — Helpful to pick up insects that may sting or bite
- Plastic or glass jars — Useful to trap and capture insects
- Pitfall traps — Helpful to capture ground insects and monitor their movement
- Lure traps — Use a chemical to attract specific types of insects
- Sticky traps — Monitor insects and pests in your house
To learn more about tools you may want to use and the benefits of each, we suggest you watch the videos on this page.
Taking quality pictures
High quality pictures to confirm identification can be captured by most smartphones. If possible place the subject onto a background that will make all the features of the specimen apparent. For darker colored specimen use a white background for lighter colored specimens a dark background. Multiple photos that ensure good angle shots of the feet, wings, antennae or other body segments can be helpful. Please include a size indicator of the specimen by placing a standard U.S. penny or dime next to the specimen if possible. If the specimen is very small (the size of a pin head or smaller) you may need to use a hand lens to get a clear picture otherwise we may request that you ship the specimen to us or take it to a local extension office. To take a picture using a hand lens the following video can be helpful.
Killing and preserving specimens
Sometimes it is essential to kill specimens to get a good picture of them or to ship them to a professional. To do so you want to cause as little harm to the body of the specimen as possible so they can still be identified. A smashed specimen is usually difficult to identify. It is recommended that specimens be killed using one of the following:
- Submersing them fully in rubbing alcohol for a few minutes
- Not recommended for moths, bees, butterflies or anything hairy
- You can leave them in the alcohol and ship them it
- Placing them in a container and leave them in the freezer overnight
- Placing them in a sealed jar with a paper towel moistened with acetone (nail polish remover)
- Leave them in this jar for at least 30 minutes
For more tips on preserving insects please watch the video.