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How to protect my mounted insect specimens from… insects?

How to protect my mounted insect specimens from… insects?


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I have a modest collection of insect specimens that I caught, prepared, mounted, and dried myself. I'm entirely an amateur collector, so my procedure may be causing me this trouble now, but here's how I preserved them.

  1. Killed in the freezer
  2. Placed in a sealed container on a dry platform, with a 50% isopropyl alcohol solution under it. This lets the specimen thaw and remain moist, while the alcohol prevents rotting.
  3. Kept in container for two to three days.
  4. Stretched over foam and held in place with paper and pins.
  5. Kept on stretching board for three weeks.
  6. Placed in a consumer grade display box.
  7. Stored in a dark, dry closet.

It's been a while since I worked on this hobby, but I do like to pull the collection out from time to time and admire it. Today, I was surprised and disappointed to find that some of my best specimens have been turned to dust by a small caterpillar type bug. There are live bugs in my display case, eating my bugs!

I've had these for years without issue, and now I find this. What can I do about it? How can I keep this from happening again? Should my preservation procedure include some other step? How are they even surviving? There's no moisture in there at all!

I'd rather not put something toxic in my display case, as I like to take them out and examine them without the glass in the way. I don't want to be exposed to toxic things every time I look at them. I hope there's some effective, cheap, and safe thing I can do. I've become rather proud of my collection, but it's disheartening to have worms eating them before they've even eaten me.

Here's some pictures of the devastation:

That stain on the right used to be a specimen.

The big pile of dust there on the left used to be a praying mantis. I don't even know what the pile on the right use to be.

This beetle's entire insides have been eaten.

This horsefly looks like it was mounted a hundred years ago.

Apparently moths and butterflies don't taste very good.

The culprit! This little guy and his pals are responsible. You can see exoskeleton sheddings all throughout the other pictures.


I ran into the same issue when collecting bees in a hot, humid environment. Asarboviralstated, freezing is a great way to help with the infection but keep in mind:

  • It may not kill all of your pests
  • It will not keep your specimen from future pests
  • It may damage your samples

From the USDA website, you could pretty cheaply use paradichlorobenzene or naphthalene:

Two of the most widely used fumigants are paradichlorobenzene (PDB) and naphthalene, both of which are obtainable in balls or flakes. Never mix PDB with naphthalene as they react chemically and produce a liquid that may damage the collection. It should be noted, that most major collections are now moving away from the use of solid fumigants because of health concerns and in some jurisdictions, it is now against regulations to use some fumigants.

That being said, I used a combination of freezing and then naphthalene (moth balls). It's cheap and anecdotally pretty effective for my purposes. I also didn't access my collection frequently once established, so the health concerns were less of a worry for me.

Definitely worth mentioning that there has been talk that using naphthalene or PDB may damage DNA and hurt DNA extractions on down the road, but this is demonstrably false. That being said, keep in mind these chemicals still pose some heath effects - especially with prolonged or occupational exposure - such as poisoning and carcinogenic risk.


As @picapica says, these look like beetles of the genus Anthrena: museum beetles, furniture carpet beetles or something similar. I'd lean towards furniture carpet beetle (Anthrena flavipes) myself, but this isn't a species ID question.

Your best bet would be to use an insecticide. However, pages 18-19 of Story (1998) "Approaches to pest management in museums" list 15 non-chemical ways to deal with these beetles. Based on this source, I suggest you:

  1. physically remove as much of the infestation as you can, then
  2. freeze the whole collection (again, as first suggested in the comment by @picapica).

Dermestid beetles like Anthrena are relatively heat-tolerant and the other control methods are more based around reducing the chance of an infestation in the first place. To be effective, freezing may need to be as low as -30°C (generally domestic freezers will only maintain temperatures from −23 to −18°C) and sustained for up to three days.

Once you've got rid of this infestation, some of the other suggestions to avoid reinfestation may be useful, such as sealing or screening possible routes of entry in the cases to stop beetles getting back in.

Nice collection, by the way!


Adding to the allready fine answers, I would suggest to use some camphor. Camphor is relatively inexpensive. I could buy it at the local pharmacy, but depending on your location, it might or might not be available there.

I successfully used camphor to get rid of Dermestids. However, it is much more effective to prevent infestation than to get rid of one.

However, if you use it, you might not want to store your collection in a part of a building where people spend prolonged times. Also, you definitely want to put your collection in a near-airtight container. Camphor evaporates quickly, and an airtight container is important to keep the atmosphere more or less saturated. Glass, of course, is best. Plastic might permeable, and even get brtittle, depending on the specific material. Sidenote: Professional and (very expensive cabinets) use hardwood boxes with a glass cover cemented in the lid, which have the additional advantage of making it difficult for dermestids to get in.

You should apply it using a watch glass, and not let it come into direct contact with both your collections and the material the specimens are pinned on.


Use borates, like for wood treatment. It's not a repellent like moth balls but it will kill them and not be smelly and it has low toxicity.

Borates are also used in taxidermy, especially for controlling dermestid beetles, however salty crusts can develop so, you might have to play around with the concentration- so that you don't use too much.

Also, peppermint and citronella are fine repellents. There are repellent satchets on the market, but you could probably save your money and just get a dram of peppermint oil or (pure) citronella oil (soak a piece of wood- like cedar).

Also, DEET is good repellent. But these repellents won't last as long as moth balls.


Another addition. If you like to avoid chemicals, I recommend using vacuum bags that are meant to store clothes in, which you can easily buy. They are like big zipper bags that close airtight and keep away the pests. This is an alternative to very expensive airtight boxes. To get rid of beetle larvae that are in your collection, you need to kill them. For me, it always sufficed to freeze at -18, but this might not always work. My home freezer is quite small, so I would re-pin the insects to a smaller box, clean up the 'main box' very thoroughly (also removing bottom plate!!!), and after 3 days of freezing put the insects back. Check your collection at least once a year. I have old museum boxes with lids that do not close so well anymore. Since I use vacuum bags I (5 years now) had no beetle infestation so far.

"Apparently moths and butterflies don't taste very good." Well, you were lucky. These beetles love moths and butterflies the most!


I preserve all my bugs in resin. It is an absolute ton of work, and not always guaranteed to turn out, but I have successfully done over 150 bugs.


I like your collection! I am sorry about the beetle tragedy.
I recommend that in addition to killing the ones you have in the collection (freezing) that you put your collection in a beetle proof container to save what is left. That is not practical for a mounted water buffalo but I am sure you can find a Tupperware-type container that can house your collection and prevent beetle entry.

Also: check the rest of that closet. Those beetles came from somewhere. Carpet beetles ate tracks in one of my nice coats a few years back. You might have a colony in the closet. Remove the stuff, shake it out and spray the floor with roach spray.


Preservation Considerations

Once a specimen is killed, further processing may be required to preserve it over time. Specimens mounted on insect pins or stored in envelopes will dry and become brittle. However, they can be degraded by sunlight or fed upon by book lice (Psocoptera) or dermestid (carpet) beetles (see section, “Insecticides”, below). If humidity in storage boxes is high, specimens will mold quickly, so it is important to keep them dry as in room maintained at moderate temperatures using air conditioning and heating.

Long-term storage considerations:

Effects of light. For insects displayed in the open, they should be placed in indirect light. Exposure to direct sunlight causes color pigments to fade, although colors formed by prism-like butterfly wing scales (e.g., iridescent colors on tropical Morpho butterflies) or other physical features of insect cuticles (e.g., metallic beetles) are unaffected. Light also keeps book lice and dermestid (carpet) beetle larvae away, so there is less of a need for preservative chemicals.

Effects of humidity. One of the fastest ways to ruin an insect collection is to store it in a high humidity environment. Mold will quickly grow, enveloping entire specimens. In the eastern half of Texas, and throughout the tropics, collections quickly mold if not kept in conditions kept dry using air conditioners and heaters.

Insecticides. Specimens kept in the dark, such as in closets, drawers or storage boxes will soon be devoured by book lice and dermestid (carpet) beetle larvae unless protected. These pests of insect collections seem to be able to get into even tightly-sealed boxes, although air-tight seals will help prevent attack to some degree. Generally, however, some type of chemical protection is required. Moth balls containing the repellent – napthalene, or the fumigant – paradichlorobenzene (PDB), have historically been used to protect insect collections. Caution must be used, however, because these materials will “melt” styrafoam often used as a pinning surface in storage boxes. Some specialty products have become available using insect strips containing vapona or DDVP (2,2- dishlorovinyl dimethyl phosphate), e.g. Hercon® Vaportape® Insecticidal Strip, sold through entomological specialty product sources such as Bioquip. Use these materials in tightly sealed collection boxes.

If collection boxes, shadow boxes or display domes become infested with book lice or dermestid (carpet) beetles, place them in a freezer for a number of days to kill these pests.


How to Preserve Insects

This article was co-authored by Samuel Ramsey, Ph.D.. Dr. Samuel Ramsey is an Entomologist and a researcher with the United States Department of Agriculture. Dr. Ramsey has extensive knowledge of symbiosis and specializes in insect disease spread, parasite behavior, mutualism development, biological control, invasive species ecology, pollinator health, and insect pest control. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Entomology from Cornell University and a Ph.D. in Entomology from the University of Maryland. Dr. Ramsey’s research on bees has enabled researchers to develop targeted control techniques to restore honey bee populations worldwide. He also hosts a YouTube series called “Dr. Buggs.”

There are 16 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.

wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. In this case, 88% of readers who voted found the article helpful, earning it our reader-approved status.

This article has been viewed 226,217 times.

Insects are fascinating and complex creatures. Many people find enjoyment in preserving the bodies of dead insects. Individuals commonly preserve insects either for purposes of scientific identification and study, or as a personal hobby. Whether you have found a dead insect outside or in your house, or have chosen to kill insects yourself, there are various methods to preserve their bodies. Soft-bodied insects—such as caterpillars and larvae—are commonly preserved in rubbing alcohol. Hard-bodied insects—especially butterflies, moths, bees, and beetles—are preserved by pinning. If your insect has an exoskeleton, your best bet is to pin it as a dry specimen.


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These butterfly frames are absolutely gorgeous to look at and are incredibly eye-catching. They will make a tremendous addition to any wall and provide a real talking point for lovers of interior design and the natural world alike!

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Heterometrus, which members are also known by the collective vernacular name giant forest scorpions, is a genus of scorpion belonging to the family Scorpionidae. It is distributed widely across tropical and subtropical southeastern Asia, including Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, as well as India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and China (Tibet). It is notable for containing some of the largest living species of scorpions.

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Insects and Wool Textiles

Characteristics
In North America, the casemaking clothes moth, the common clothes moth, the varied carpet beetle, the common carpet beetle, the hide beetle and the harder beetle can all be found.
The life cycle of these insects may be divided into four stages: the egg, the larva, the pupa, and the adult moth or beetle. For the clothes moth, the larval stage will last between two months (a warm humid climate) and six months (a cool climate). These are cream colored oblong caterpillars. The larvae of carpet beetles eat for at least three-quarters of a year. These beetle larvae have the shape of small red-brown caterpillars with numerous fuzzy bristles they moult several times before reaching maturity.
*** The larvae of these moths and beetles will attack hair, horn, feathers, wool, mounted insects (like butterflies), mounted birds, mounted animals, furs, horsehair stuffing in upholstery, wool batting in quilts. Laboratory beetle specimens are fed dog food, but can survive on the dust of (wool) clothes and hair and dead insects in rooms that are not maintained. The larval stages of all these insects prefer a dark, undisturbed environment at room temperature (77°F) and about 50-70% relative humidity.
*** Adult carpet beetles, the size of a freckle and resembling ladybugs, seek light and flowers. They can be found on the window sills in infested rooms. Adult carpet beetles feed on the pollen and nectar of blooming Spirea, asters, dahlias, daisies, sunflowers, Virburnum, Caeothus, goldenrod, and the flowers of wild and cultivated fruits. The bugs can enter a home with these flowers and blossoms.

Infestation
Isolate the infestation by sealing the item (and even its tissue paper and container) in plastic bags. Label the contents of the bag. Do not gratuitously remove suspected items to other (probably uncontaminated) areas of the home. Wear cotton or synthetic fabrics while working upon the infested objects. Remove this clothing and wash it without exposing other areas of the home. All objects that are definitely affected - that show signs of insect damage should be sorted by the remedial possible: a) washing (wet-cleaning), b) dry-cleaning, and c) other: fumigation with sulfuryl fluoride, flash freezing, fumigation with non-oxygen environments.
Fumigation should be carried out by an experienced fumigator: the chemicals are deadly to humans as well as insects. Flash freezing followed by prolonged exposure to sub-zero temperatures reduces the flexibility of the fibers to the point of embrittlement. Special handling precautions are required. Composite objects (made of more than one type of material) will react differently to changes in temperatures.
Once the objects have been set aside and evaluated, the area itself must be treated to rigorous housekeeping: washing of walls and floors, especially cracks and crevices, washing of all drawers and cabinets (including the interior housing spaces upon which the drawers are placed). The use of insecticides alone is not a satisfactory remedy. Your County Agricultural Extension Service will provide additional housekeeping procedures.

Prevention
Thorough housekeeping with rigorous spring and fall cleanings of all areas of the home are recommended. Frequent vacuuming of carpets, restricted access and careful grooming of pets are suggested. The sand-grain size eggs of carpet beetles can be easily removed by vacuuming those of clothes moths require more effort as there is an adhesive on the outer layer. Clothes soiled with human urine, perspiration, tomato juice, milk, beer, black coffee, or beef gravy are favored by the clothes moth larvae. Cholesterol (in perspiration/ring around the collar) and yeast on brushed wool (flannel) is the preferred diet for clothes moths. Furniture carpet beetle larvae are partial to beer and tomato juice stained woolens black carpet beetle larvae do not show any preference. Remember that part of the purpose of housecleaning is to inspect all the objects in the home, even the heirlooms and museum quality objects. Inspections of all areas and objects should be part of the fall and spring projects.

Cautionary Notes
Drycleaning is said to kill the larvae of clothes moths and that clothes moths cannot live on a diet of clean wool. Mothproofing will impart a residual protection against moths and beetles. Neither dry-cleaning nor washing nor mothproofing will prevent a voracious group of insects from at least attempting to feed upon your neglected objects.
There are two forms of mothballs: Naphthalene acts as a repellent. Paradichlorobenzene (PBD) acts as a larvacide. Both are known animal carcinogens and possible human carcinogens. For safety, susceptible garments and furnishings stored with small quantities (about 3 1/2 oz. of PDB for every 21 cubic feet of container) must be sealed against out-gassing: use footlockers, galvanized tins or other containers from which fumes cannot leach. Plastics may be sofened by mothballs. If mothballs can be smelled, they are not remaining in the container odors are a potential harm to humans. To remove the smell safely, air garments out of doors: heat and breeze will evaporate the odor.
Fumigation will kill adults and larvae it should kill all eggs but a second fumigation after a 20-30 day incubation period is prudent for a severely infested object.
Vacuuming or brushing is the suggested first step to removing eggs and residues from textiles. However, the brush or nozzle of the vacuum must be washed (with warm water and dishwashing liquid) and dried between objects or object groups so as not to spread the infestation.

Toxicity of Mothballs and Mothflakes (a) All conditions are assumed to be 25° Centigrade: both compounds will be more volatile and more concentrated at higher temperatures.

Chemical,
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How to protect my mounted insect specimens from… insects? - Biology

Perimeter Yard Sprays

In addition to permethrin-treated clothing/footwear a perimeter yard spray creates a good 1-2 punch program. Deer ticks are not found out in the open lawn…short grass, direct sunlight is a hostile environment for ticks. At the edge of the yard where the grass might be in partial shade and transitions to brush, trees, leaf litter this is perfect tick habitat and is the area you want to treat. This includes beneath woody ornamental plantings.

There are companies on the Cape that perform this as a service. The product that they should be using is Talstar (active ingredient bifenthrin). There are “all natural” products that are available but there are no research data to support that they are effective. Besides being highly active against ticks bifenthrin is immobilized when it contacts leaves or soil particles so it will not wash off site or leach through the soil. Product should not be applied around surface waters.

Applications are recommended for mid to late May and mid to late June when nymph stage ticks are active. A fall spray in mid-October can be considered as this is when adult stage ticks emerge.

Homeowners can also do this themselves. Garden centers carry a product under the Bonide brand. Eight is a hose-end sprayer that contains the active ingredient permethrin.

This product was designed to kill ticks on mice. It consists of a cardboard tube which contain cotton balls treated with permethrin. The product concept is that mice will remove the cotton balls and line their nest and self treat.

There were two studies done on this product. Both studies demonstrated that the product had NO material impact on tick populations. The papers can be found in the Research section of this website. It is a product that Larry Dapsis does not recommend.

Workshops

Lyme Disease is the most prevalent infectious disease in Massachusetts and is now considered to be a public health crisis. In addition to Lyme, deer ticks can carry the pathogens which cause Babesiosis, Anaplasmosis, Relapsing Fever and Powassan virus, all of which can be very serious and are on the increase.

This program will review the basic life cycle and ecology of deer ticks, incidence rates and distribution of tick-borne illnesses in addition to a database under development on infection rates of ticks. A three point protection plan will be presented: Protect Yourself, Protect Your Yard and Protect your Pet. Tick-Borne Diseases are preventable.


DISPLAY

Display your taxidermy in a cool, dry place away from sunlight (so keep away from windows if possible to avoid UV damage/bleaching!)


Getting a glass dome is probably the single best thing you can do to protect your taxidermy from dust, wear & tear, mischievous pets and other environmental factors.

KEEPING IT CLEAN

Keep your taxidermy clean by de-dusting gently every month by using a hair dryer at arms-length.

Make sure the hair dryer is on the lowest and COOLEST setting and use in the same direction the fur/feathers lay to avoid damage.

AVOID TOUCHING

One advantage of having an uncased specimen, is getting up close and personal with it!

As tempting as it is, please avoid frequently handling/touching taxidermy specimens. Oil from our hands can damage specimens over time.

DEEP CLEAN

For a deeper clean on feathered or furred mounts, apply some warm water to a clean cotton wool ball, squeeze it out as much as possible then gently wipe the feathers or fur in the direction that they are facing, staying away from any painted or varnished areas. Allow it to dry naturally, do not apply heat.

Bring back the sparkle

If the eyes appear a little ‘dull’ looking, you can very carefully use a cotton bud dipped it in luke warm water so it’s damp and use to clean the eyes in a gentle, circular motion to bring back the sparkle. Do not use cleaning product as this could lead to damage.

INSECT INFESTATION

In all of the years that I have been collecting and making taxidermy, I have never had an issue with any sort of insect infestation in any of my mounts as they are kept in a clean environment, so take the following information as a precaution only:

Even though a preserved taxidermy specimen has all of the muscle, membrane and tissue removed from it, been treated, tanned, dried, glued, and mounted to the highest standard to deter bugs, it still could be inviting to some unwanted visitors.

Clothes moths, dermestid beetles, and cockroaches are culprits of infesting mounted trophies for various reasons, and can ruin even the best taxidermy mount.

Keeping your house in good order is the best way to prevent unwanted guests touching your taxidermy, so clean, happy house – clean, happy, pest-free taxidermy! A vacuum cleaner is by far the best pest management tool – Be sure to dispose of the contents of the vacuum cleaner bag after you complete your house cleaning routine.

If you are concerned about insects damaging your taxidermy, it’s a good idea to occasionally inspect your mounts (especially around the ears, antlers and around the mouth) for any signs of pests.

If you find any sort of insect, bug or cobweb like material amongst the fur or feathers, please get in touch as soon as possible so I can give you some advice on what to do next.


How to protect my mounted insect specimens from… insects? - Biology

An integrated multimodal unit on sound for early elementary students

By Rachel Wilson, Leslie Bradbury, Amy Lunceford, and Shannon Stanbery

Covid-19 Distance Learning Options

While we recognize that the cooperative learning aspect of this lesson and being able to observe the acrylic specimens of the insects are important for student learning, some of the activities in this 5E can be accomplished in an online learning format.

Engage: The teacher can read The Very Quiet Cricket book during an online session.

Explore: The teacher can provide students with the data collection sheets, photographs of insects, and informational text resources online, and students could complete this activity at home (with help).

Explain: The teacher could provide students with the link to the board (which is already an online resource) and students could view this at home (with help) and fill out the data collection sheet.

The Explore and Explain activities should be followed by teacher-led discussions with students about what they observed and are thinking about related to their insect.

Expand/Elaborate: The students could look for and find household items (instead of teacher-provided items) to imitate their insect’s sound.

Evaluate: The teacher could provide students with the scaffolding sheet for their presentation. Students could present synchronously online, or present using a number of different technology tools (e.g., VoiceThread), depending on teacher and student skill level.

I n working with the second-grade teachers at a local school, we designed a six-day integrated science and language arts unit to investigate the structures that insects use to make their sound vibrations. We were inspired by The Very Quiet Cricket (Carle 1990), which was used as the focus text for the unit, as well as Bug Music (Rothenberg 2013), which prompts readers to think about the noise that insects make as an inspiration for music. While Robertson and Meyer (2010) engaged middle grades students with the songs and sound wave images of various insects to teach about sound, we wanted to have concrete, physical examples to demonstrate sound energy vibrations to young learners. We designed a unit using multiple modes of representation for the insect body parts and their vibrations, including physical specimens, video, photographs, diagrams, and informational text. In addition, students represented their understanding using drawing, writing, and speaking. Using multiple modes of representation in the presentation to and production by students of science concepts is beneficial for early elementary students’ learning (Wilson and Bradbury 2016), as well as for supporting the science learning of students with learning disabilities ( Taylor and Villanueva 2014). By including various visual representations (physical specimens, video, photographs, and diagrams) along with more traditional informational text, science information is made more accessible to developing and struggling readers.

Formative assessment probe.

Engage

Each day of this six-day unit included about an hour of instructional time. On the first day, we gave students a modified version of Keeley, Eberle, and Farrin’s (2005) “Making Sound” formative assessment probe (Figure 1) to see if students were making the connection that when insects make sound, they are vibrating something. We then discussed with students which objects vibrate or not when they make sound. We made a class list of things that do vibrate, maybe vibrate, and do not vibrate. The most common choices that students were unsure of included the praying mantis and the wind.

Figure 2

Then, the teacher read The Very Quiet Cricket (Carle 1990), which highlights common insects and the sounds they make, including a cricket, praying mantis, bumblebee, dragonfly, locust, and cicada. After reading the book, the teacher asked, “Which of these insects have you heard before? What ideas do you have about why insects make sound?” The teacher explained to the students that they would be put in groups to become an expert on one of six insects from the book and how that insect makes sound. As the final activity of the day, students observed acrylic coated preserved insect specimens of the six insects on trays throughout the room.

Explore

The focus question that students were trying to answer in the explore activity was: How do insects make sound? On the second day of the unit, students were placed into groups of three or four to research one of the six insects. Each group had at least one higher level reader and one lower level reader, as well as one or two grade level readers, so that struggling readers could be supported by their peers in the group in using the informational texts and writing. Each group received a preserved specimen and a photograph of their insect, plus hand lenses. Students observed their insect, drew it on their data collection sheet (see Supplementary Resources), predicted what sound their insect makes and where it lives, inferred how their insect moves (based on its body parts) and what it eats, and composed one question about their insect.

While walking around among student groups, we asked them questions to help them see why their organism was classified as an insect, notice any unique structures, elicit any prior experience with the insects, and begin to make connections between the structures of the insect and how they make noise. Some students noticed that all of the insects had wings, but they had never seen a praying mantis fly and wondered if it could. Students wondered if their insects lived in trees or in the ground. They also wondered if and how some of the insects differed from others they were familiar with (for example, honey bees and bumblebees, and crickets and locusts and grasshoppers).

Explain

After students got to know the structures of their insect, they gathered together on the class rug for a whole-class discussion, starting with the body parts that all insects share (six legs and three body segments). We displayed a diagram of a familiar insect, an ant, to point out what we meant by body segments and legs. We asked students to share what other body parts their insects had and which ones they thought might be involved in helping their insect to make sound. We also used this discussion as an opportunity to review what students had already learned about sound and vibrations to help them start making the connection that ANY sound involved vibrations made by an object (disciplinary core idea PS4.A, Wave Properties). Students mentioned that sounds are vibrations and that a force is needed to start a vibration. When needed, we asked them prompting questions about what body part the insect was moving to create a force that might start vibrations and sound waves. Most student groups were able to make this connection easily, but the praying mantis group in each class needed extra prompting to recognize that blowing air through holes also creates a vibration, similar to playing a wind instrument (e.g., flute or saxophone).

We began the third day by reading the book The Noisy Bug Sing Along, by John Himmelman (2003) to show examples of insects that make sounds, review characteristics of an insect, and reinforce that all of these insects used vibrations to make their sounds. Then we told students that they would be researching how their insect makes sound using videos, photographs, and informational texts, just like scientists do, by seeing what other scientists know about a topic. These multiple modes of information were compiled into one resource on a class website (Figure 2). The school had access to Discovery Education and so students were able to login and access their board, but we also were able to display the same information on a Padlet board. Padlet is a tool that anyone can use to create a multimedia, one-page website with text, photos, and videos, and thus, can be used to create a “board” similar to that on Discovery Education. Videos were chosen and edited so that students could see their insect moving and making their sound at the same time. The photographs showed students the body parts used in making the sound. We wrote text next to their video and photograph at a level accessible to the students. Each group of students had access to one iPad on which to view the board. While students viewed the board, they had a graphic organizer to help them keep track of the information they were learning about their insect (see Supplementary Resources), as well as a diagram of their insect and its structures. Students worked to research their insect, creating drawings of their insect and circling the parts used to make sound (Figure 3). While students worked, we visited groups to check for understanding and prompted students to describe the sound their insects made (Does it sound high or low to you? How would you describe your insect sound? How would you write that down? What letters does that sound like?).

A student conducts research online

When students had finished their research, we had them come back together on the rug for a discussion of their insect and how it made sound. Table 1 shows each insect and the body part(s) used to make their sound that we wanted students to notice in their video, photograph, and diagram. As each group talked about their insect, we made sure to reinforce the idea that whatever body parts that insect uses to make sound, the insect is exerting a force to cause the body part to vibrate, thus creating a sound. Each group was able to connect which body parts were involved in making noise, but some needed support in thinking of the body parts as vibrating. For example, the praying mantis group understood that air was pushed through the spiracles to create a hissing sound but did not think of the abdomen as vibrating. We concluded the Explain portion of the unit by revisiting the list of “sounds” from the assessment probe in the Engage stage and talking through the examples to make sure students understood what was vibrating to create the sounds.

Expand/Elaborate

On the fourth day, we explained to students that their task was to choose from a variety of objects to find one or more to make a similar sound to that of their insect. Materials that were made available included: kazoos, tissue paper, whistle, comb, baby food jar with beans or sand inside, plastic egg with marble inside, balloon, duct tape, zipper, paper to rip, wax paper. Students were encouraged to consult the web board to listen to their insect make sound. When students were ready to choose a material, they were asked to explain to the teacher why they were choosing that material before they were allowed to take it off the materials table. This scaffolding step helped to make sure students were thinking about how the material made a sound similar in pitch and volume to their insect. This activity also supports performance expectation 2-PS1-2: Analyze data obtained from testing different materials to determine which materials have the properties that are best suited for an intended purpose.


4.) Killing insects is essential to studying biological function

Pan trapping is often used to identify arthropod presence in a given area. Here, pan traps are being used to survey for oceanic island arthropod biodiversity
Image from here.

This last one is admittedly the purpose of killing insects which the posters above were talking about. Collecting insects is essential for documenting their presence for a number of reasons. Many insects (as discussed in our first post) are simply too small to see, and a lot of collection methods kill the insects during the course of collection. In addition, a lot of important insect parts need to be extracted for species-level identification. Often the methods required for this aren’t possible to perform on live insects, and when they are they often injure the insects anyways. The posts written by taxonomists give more details about these methods.

There are a lot of research methods which require live field collected insects. Sometimes, you’re interested in biological characteristics of insects in the real world and captive reared insects just can’t be used to answer those questions. Other times, the insects you’re interested in may be impossible or impractical to rear in captivity. Bee research is a good example of this sort of limitation, there are a lot of bee species which can’t be reared in captivity. In bee research, researchers are often interested in real-world responses and this necessitates the capture of live insects from the field. Questions about presence, life history, abundance, and seasonality are all most effectively answered through collection techniques that kill the insects, but otherwise these questions, like questions about native pollinators, could not be answered.


Bug Gear

Here’s what you need to get closer to insects, whatever your level of experience.

Starter: Go with what you’ve got. Use a prime lens with extension tubes or a front-mounting close-up lens such as the Raynox DCR-250. Even better, try a reverse-mounting ring. If your lens aperture is controlled electronically (most modern optics work this way), you’ll need a reverse adapter control, seen below. A variety of brands are available. You’ll probably want a focusing rail, too, because it’s far easier to focus extreme close-ups by moving the camera back and forth.

Intermediate: Get a dedicated macro lens. John Hallmén uses a 180mm f/3.5 Sigma EX DG macro, a long focal length that allows extra working distance—good for bugs. He also uses the Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 Macro, which can provide up to 5X life size without extra tubes or accessories. At that magnification, a bug 0.3 inches long fills a full-frame sensor.

A macro rig for providing even light John Hallmén