Bug Collecting :: Endeavors in Entomology
I have been fascinated by insects and little critters since I was an infant. It is no wonder that one of my favorite unit studies is on insects. We began our homeschool journey with insects and my kiddos have been adding to their collection ever since. They love examining their specimens with the hand lens and microscope .. their specimens are handled so frequently, that many have lost antennae, legs and wings.
As the summer approaches, I know that we will resume our quest for new specimens - secretly hoping for that prized one we haven't yet observed. This lens was developed to help other parents cultivate a love of the outdoors - particularly of insects - within their children.
I'll walk you through the steps of identification so in the end you will be comfortable naming the order to which each insect you observe belongs. I will also give you several options for beginning a collection of your own. So grab a cup of coffee, sit back and enjoy!
Be Out There - The nature of childhood has changed: there's not much nature in it.
American childhood has moved indoors during the last two decades, taking a mental and physical toll on today's kids. The negative impact of decreased time outdoors includes a doubling of the childhood obesity rate -- accompanied by an incremental hundred billion dollar cost to our health care system -- as well as declining creativity, concentration and social skills.
Some say it takes a village to raise a child. We say: it takes a backyard, a playground, a park. Studies show outdoor time helps children grow lean and strong, enhances imaginations and attention spans, decreases aggression, and boosts classroom performance. In addition, children who spend time in nature regularly are shown to become better stewards of the environment.
Outdoor Learning - The Key to Success
Here are a number of links to organizations - on the national and international level - that are providing families with tools and inspiration to get outdoors.
- National Wildlife Federation
Inspiring Americans to protect wildlife for our children's future.
- Roots & Shoots
Everyday Roots & Shoots groups are taking action to improve their local environments, and make the world a better place for people and animals. The power of youth is global.
- Handbook of Nature Study
One family's online nature journal using Anna Comstock's book Handbook of Nature Study as their textbook and the great outdoors as their classroom. Home of the Outdoor Hour Challenges.
Traditional Insect Collecting
Live insects can be caught with the aid of a net, jar, or by hand. Be careful of those that bite or sting! Insects can then be 'preserved' by:
1) Placing the jar in the freezer for approximately 20 minutes, or
2) Put a few drops of fingernail polish remover (which contains acetone) or rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball and drop it into the jar with your insects. Don't drown your insect - this makes for a poor specimen.
To mount the insect, put a straight pin through the thorax. Very small insects should be glued to a small triangular piece of paper and then a pin can be put through the center of the paper.
Stick the pin into a display such as a piece of cardboard or Styrofoam. Use your imagination!
In the Stream
Are You Squeamish?
Alternative Collection Ideas
If you'd rather not do a traditional mount style collection, consider one of the following options.
- Take photographs and display / share your images in an album (either online or in print).
- Keep a field journal and make detailed illustrations of insects you observe in their natural surroundings.
- Set-up a terrarium (either permanent or temporary) and enjoy watching insects in their habitat. Record daily observations of preferred diet, terrain preferences, etc.
- Build a Squidoo lens of your own of the insects you've observed in the wild.
In the Field
Great Books to Get You Started
Collecting Insects :: Helpful Links
- Home Science Tools :: Insect Collecting Supplies
Find all of the insect collecting supplies that you need for a complete entomology study: insect and butterfly nets, entomological pins, Riker mounts and insect display cases, killing jars, and more. For insect collecting help and project ideas, see
- Starting My Collection
A lesson plant for anyone wishing to create their own mounted collection.
Set Up a Terrarium
Keeping stick insects as pets can be great fun for everyone. Some species are very easy to keep, while others pose more of a challenge to the real insect enthusiast.
Every species of insects requires specific care, depending on its natural habitat. To find out what care the species of your choice really needs, please do a little research on your species.
Of course all insects need roughly the same kind of care; they need an enclosure, warmth, humidity and food.
Guides to Building Insect Habitats
Keep a Journal
Identification Tools - Online Resources to Help ID Your Insects
- Insect Identification Methods
This page is intended to provide resources to aid in the identification of insects.
Nature journaling and biological illustration activities teach children to become keen observers of the natural world by drawing and writing about plants and animals in the field.
Learn Scientific Illustration Techniques
- John Muir Laws Home Page
Home page for John Muir Laws, artist, naturalist, author, and educator. Visit to learn about, classes and programs, drawing tutorials, books, stewardship and nature.
- Science Illustration
Science Illustration | California State University, Monterey Bay
Mountain Pine Beetle
Mountain Pine Beetles - What You Should Know
- Mountain Pine Beetle
Mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae) is native to the forests of western North America. Periodic outbreaks of the insect, previously called the Black Hills beetle or Rocky Mountain pine beetle, can result in losses of millions of trees.
- Oregon Field Guide - Pine Bark Beetles
A tiny beetle which has devastated entire forests in western North America has returned with a vengeance to Oregon. See how the mountain pine beetle is being dealt with. Colorado's mature lodge pole pine forests have been decimated, see how Oregon fo
- Washington State University - Pine Bark Beetles
Pine bark beetles cannot invade healthy pine trees that have sufficient internal water pressure. However, due to many years of drought conditions in the Inland Northwest, these beetles attack and kill weakened trees that are out of water balance. In
See the Larger Picture
Your study of insects doesn't have to be limited to adult stages and specimens. Consider the impact insects have on the environment (pine bark or mountain pine beetles) and observe larval stages when possible as well.
Do You Have a Favorite Insect Memory You'd Like to Share?
Eva Varga (author) from Oregon on August 26, 2011:
Thank you Jimmie & Barb! It is always nice to hear that my lenses are useful to other homeschooling moms!
Jimmie Quick from Memphis, TN, USA on August 26, 2011:
I picked up a dead moth just last night. And I loved catching fireflies and collecting "june bug" (cicada) exoskeletons as a child. Okay, I admit, I still do.
I was thinking of making a lens on insect collecting for nature study, but it seems that you've got it covered here. What a WONDERFUL lens! Hmmmm... maybe a blog post instead.
Barb McCoy on January 27, 2011:
I think the more closely I look at insects, the better I can appreciate their unique place in nature. Who can look at a butterfly wing or a dragonfly's eye and not be impressed with their beauty?
Great lens and I will be adding to my favorites and lensrolling to my nature lenses.