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Collection Instructions

Each student will submit an insect collection by the deadline printed in the course syllabus.  Late collections will not be accepted.  The collection must be housed in Schmitt boxes or cigar boxes, and specimens must be mounted on insect pins (not ordinary household straight pins) or preserved in vials of alcohol if soft-bodied.  See the Guide to Mounting Insects on Pins and also the Diagram of Pinning Locations to learn the correct way to handle different types of insects.

Each pinned insect and each vial of alcohol must contain a date/locality label which includes the following information:

Current students may request customized date/locality labels by completing and submitting a Label Request Form.

Determination (ID) labels indicating family or order names should be printed separately on white card stock paper.  These labels may be generated on a laser printer or printed in black India ink with a crow-quill pen or fine Rapidograph.  Only the first specimen of each family needs to have a family name label.  Push this label up on the pin to the level of the lowest step on the pinning block.  Order name labels should go on empty pins (ones with no specimen) at the beginning of each order in your collection.  For specimens in vials, put the order and family names on a single label and, after the ink is thoroughly dry, drop both the date/locality label and the ID label into the vial (with the specimen in the alcohol).

Minimum collection requirements are as follows:

  1. Representatives of 12 insect orders.
  2. Representatives of 35 different families, including at least one from each of the following orders:
    • Odonata
    • Orthoptera
    • Hemiptera
    • Neuroptera
    • Coleoptera
    • Hymenoptera
    • Lepidoptera
    • Diptera
  3. You must have at least one immature belonging to each of the following eight orders (in alcohol):
    • Odonata
    • Neuroptera
    • Ephemeroptera
    • Trichoptera
    • Coleoptera
    • Diptera
    • Hymenoptera
    • Lepidoptera
  4. In addition to the above taxonomic requirements, your collection should contain representatives from all of the following ecological categories.  Specimens you select to fulfill each ecological category should be marked with a separate "ecology" label on the pin or in the vial.  This label should be printed according to the code in the following table.  If your label goes on a pinned specimen, mount it flush with the bottom of the insect box; if it goes with an immature, put it into alcohol with the specimen.
# 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 - at least five individuals of the same species and stage of development that show polymorphism or individual variation 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)

A single specimen may fulfill two or more ecological categories -- if so, print all the category code names on a single ecological label.  The aim of this requirement is to have you observe insects in many different ecological niches, thus you should have a good reason for associating each insect with its ecological category.  It is not necessary (or desirable) 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 previous table.

Unless otherwise indicated on the ID label, all pinned insects are assumed to be adults for grading purposes.  Points will be deducted from the collection grade for pinned immatures since this represents your failure to distinguish developmental stage.  Immatures of all orders should be placed in vials of alcohol.  This includes aquatic nymphs (mayflies, stoneflies, and dragonflies); terrestrial nymphs (grasshoppers, true bugs, etc.); and the larvae of all holometabolous insects, whether aquatic (caddisflies, beetles, flies, etc.) or terrestrial (ants, bees, beetles, flies, caterpillars, etc.).  See instructions for Preserving Insects in Alcohol.

In addition, it is also desirable to preserve most soft-bodied adults in alcohol.  Generally, this would include members of the following classes or orders:

Protura Diplura Collembola Thysanura
Archeognatha Isoptera Ephemeroptera Psocoptera
Phthiraptera Thysanoptera Siphonaptera Hemiptera (aphids & scale insects)



Specimens on pins should be arranged in the boxes with all families of one order following a single label for that order and all specimens belonging to each family following the specimen bearing the family name.  This minimizes the number of labels your must prepare.  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 our teaching collection should follow your main collection in a column headed "SURPLUS".

Always keep a fumigant (moth balls) 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.  If you wish to keep your collection after you complete the course, you must purchase your own vials and pinning boxes.  We encourage you to donate collections and/or specimens for use as teaching material in future courses.

Grading of the Collection:

Category # Required Points/Category Total
Insect Orders 12 10 120
Immatures 8 5 40
Families 35 5 175
Ecol. categories 45 5 225
Total 560 = A-
Extra points allowable:
Extra orders 4 5 20
Extra families 4 5 20
Total bonus points 40



If all specimens of a given category are misidentified, no credit is given for the category, and two points are deducted for each misidentified specimen.  If at least one specimen is correct, credit will be given for the category, although two points will be deducted for each misidentification.  Similar deductions are made for ecological misidentifications.



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, etc.



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 & Plant
Forestry Parasitology
Odonata Protura Orthoptera Orthoptera Hemiptera
Ephemeroptera Diplura Hemiptera Hemiptera Phthiraptera
Plecoptera Collembola Diptera Diptera Diptera
Trichoptera Thysanura Thysanoptera Isoptera Siphonaptera
Hemiptera Archeognatha Coleoptera Coleoptera Hymenoptera
Neuroptera Isoptera Lepidoptera Lepidoptera Strepsiptera
Coleoptera Orthoptera Hymenoptera Hymenoptera
Diptera Coleoptera



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.