11 Replies Latest reply on Sep 3, 2013 11:23 PM by Lezlie Durst

    Insect collections

    Joe C. Moore Mentor

      Quick and dirty question here...


      1.  Do any of you have your students do insect collections?


      2.  If  so, how do you keep the bugs from stinking?  They REEK!!!!   Maybe I am not managing the assignment criteria/handling instructions correctly.


      Thanks in advance for the help.



        • 1. Re: Insect collections

          My Ag I students do an entomology unit in which they are required to collect and identify 20 insects.  I have them get an empty shoebox and some styrofoam as well as baby food jars.  You can add plaster of paris to the bottom of the jars to make them easier to use.  We use cotton balls soaked in rubbing alcohol to kill the insects once we have them in the jars.  This seems to keep them from stinking.  It is also really important that they not add anything to the jars (ie sticks, dirt, leaves or grass).  Invariably the girls feel sorry for their bugs and want to build them a home in the jar, this seems to contribute to the stench- which will stink out your whole school......Once they have collected and killed their insects we decorate the boxes.  On the inside of each lid they affix their labels for the insects.  For example an insect would be pinned and labeled 1; on the inside lid of the shoe box 1. would correspond to that insect's identification.  This works well because then the insects can be pinned and labled and the lids still close so the boxes can be stacked.  Good luck!

          • 2. Re: Insect collections
            Joe C. Moore Mentor

            Thanks for the info.   I will definitley be able to use it the next time around.


            I guess my question wasn't totally complete though.   The stench issue arrises after they have been pinned and placed in the shoe box.   I have the kids use the plastic rubbermaid shoeboxes from Wal-Mart.   We use acetone as the killing agent (ie; fingernail polish remover).   Would that be a contributor?


            You are right, they will run you out of the room!


            Any more ideas would be appreciated.





            • 3. Re: Insect collections
              Charles Casada Mentor

              Had the same problem using the shoe boxes so I had students use Saran wrap as the lids and used clear shipping tape around the edges to seal them.  This solved my problem and even had some of the better collections on display for 10 plus years. 

              • 4. Insect collections
                Lezlie Durst Hero

                Here are somethings I use when I am teaching Entomology.

                • 7. Re: Insect collections
                  Melanie Bloom Top CoP

                  My entomology project always seems to fall between fall frost and spring thaw, so we're a little limited on collecting insects.  So each student gets to pick one species to focus on.


                  By the end of the project, they have to create an anatomically-correct replica (larger size with styrofoam balls, pipe cleaner, paint and other craft items) and a webpage on www.myfakeprofile.com.  The fake profile is like a facebook page - they have to list friends (symbiotic relationships, etc), family (think genus!), make wall posts (from predators and prey, etc).


                  When they're done, we make "collection boards" with foam core boards and sort the critters by taxonomic classification.  They also share their pages.


                  When the unit is done, I have them hang the critters from my clasroom ceiling - I have 10 years' worth of critters (more than 250 now) hanging back there and it's an immediate attention-getter for visitors.  Students who return to visit love to find their critter (yes, 10 years later!) This photo is a little old - we have a lotmore up there now, but you get the idea.



                  I give them a "worksheet" of items to research (which I do not have electronically anymore, it's that old!)

                  • 8. Re: Insect collections
                    Joy Snellgrove Neighbor

                    You can avoid the chemical odor by freezing your insects. I learned this technique from a University Entomologist. The insects are kept in plastic bags/bottles in the freezer until ready to pin, but at least 24 hours.They are soft enough to pin with just a few minutes. They actually smell worse when they have been closed up. The tightly sealed plastic boxes may be adding to the odor (think gym locker).

                    • 9. Re: Insect collections
                      Brian Tomlinson Top CoP

                      Some of the larger bugs do have "meat" under the exoskeleton.  I'd suggest placing them high in a room or garage with good air flow to help dry them out.  Freezing works well too because you can basically freeze dry them.  It shouldn't take more than a day or two.  Much longer and they insects will be quite brittle and harder to pin. 


                      Formaldehyde used to do a good job of killing and preserving specimens at the same time, but it is hard to come by these days due to EPA standards.  Ethyl acetate is used as well because it not only kills insects in a kill jar but on many insects, especially butterflies, it often relaxes the wings before they parish to make the presentation better one they are pinned.  It doesn't pull moisture out of insects easily, so you would still have the odor problem. Access to that may be an issue as well.


                      Good luck,


                      Brian Tomlinson


                      • 10. Re: Insect collections

                        Melanie, can you share your instructions for the entomology project. Also a list of materials. I really like the idea, just hope I can make it work!

                        • 11. Re: Insect collections
                          Lezlie Durst Hero

                          This is a fun website. It is set in London but the workbooks are really easy to modify and use


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