Sorting Insect Specimens

Insect case before labeling and sorting.

In previous blogs I have talked about catching, pinning, labeling and storing insects. I am going to talk about how I process the samples to conserve space. This process is simple but takes time. I started out with a bug case with a few different series of bees and other insects. There is an image of the case I started with above. I go through the case and write down all the location labels and how many insects are in each series. If there are specimens in the series that have plant information I will write that down as well. One such example would be bees collected on Great valley gum plant (Grindelia camporum). I will include that information on the specimen label.

Insect case unsorted with labels ready for specimens.

Once I have recorded all series information I will then type the information on an insect label. The label that I use is in this order: Country:State:County,city, street, GPS coordinates, plant/found on and finally collector. I will put time or elevation on the label if I have it available when collecting the specimen. At this time I will also use the internet to fill in any gaps in my labels. Common things I search for are counties, plant species and GPS coordinates. When finished entering all of those data, I then print the sheet and start cutting. Once I have a few labels cut as shown in the image below, I start to add labels to the insects.
When the insects have location labels, I am now free to start sorting them into different categories. In the images below you can see I started to sort bees into different genus, family or unknown. In the other case pictured, I deposit all other insects that I am not planning on sorting immediately.

Insect case after labeling and sorting.
Unsorted labeled insects.

The main reason for sorting is to start breaking the bees down into smaller more recognizable groups. This makes it much easier when you start to key out the bees. Sorting also helps create space for me to add more specimens. Now that I have created space I started to pin more insects that I have recently collected pictured below. Further organizational and storing ideas to be continued…

Recently caught pinned insects.

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