ABOUT THIS ISSUE
2003 Reprint of October 1988 Issue
Published by EMPORIA STATE UNIVERSITY
Prepared and Issued by THE DEPARTMENT OF BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES
1988 Editor: ROBERT F. CLARKE
2003 Editor: JOHN RICHARD SCHROCK
1988 Editorial Committee: TOM EDDY, GILBERT LEISMAN, GAYLEN NEUFELD, JOHN RlCHARD SCHROCK
2003 Editorial Committee: TOM EDDY, GAYLEN NEUFELD, DAVID SAUNDERS
2003 Editors Emeritus: ROBERT BOLES, ROBERT F. CLARKE
Circulation and Mailing: ROGER FERGUSON
Circulation (1988): 1,700
Second Press Run (2003): 5,000
Press Composition: John Decker
Printed by: ESU Priming Services
Online Composition: TERRI WEAST
The Kansas School Naturalist is sem free of charge and upon request to teachers, school administrators, public and school librarians, youth leaders, conservationists, and others imerested in natural history and nature education. In-print back issues are sem free as long as supply lasts. Out-of-print back issues are sent for one dollar photocopy and postage/handling charge per issue. A back issue list is sem free upon request. The Kansas School Naturalist is published on an irregular basis with one to four issues per year. The Kansas School Naturalist is sent by bulk mail to all U.S. zipcodes, and first class to Mexico and Canada and overseas. The Kansas School Naturalist is edited and published by Emporia State University, Emporia, Kansas. Editor: John Richard Schrock, Department of Biological Sciences. Postage paid at Emporia, Kansas. Address all correspondence to Kansas School Naturalist Department of Biological Sciences, Box 4050, Emporia State University, Emporia, KS 66801-5087. Opinions and perspectives expressed are those of the authors and/or editor and do not reflect the official position or endorsement of ESU.
Cover Photo: Beetles form rows in this scientific research collection. The labels underneath each insect take up more space than the insect, so the labels must be kept as small as possible.
The Kansas School Naturalist is indexed in Wildlife Review/Fisheries Review; selected issues are indexed in the Zoological Record.
Many Kansas School Naturalist issues are available online at: www.emporia.edu/ksn/
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. John Richard Schrock received his doctorate in entomology from the University of Kansas and is Professor of Biology at Emporia State University. The drawings and photographs in this issue are by the author.
Richard Schrock received his doctorate in entomology from the University of Kansas and is an Assistant Professor at Emporia State University. The drawings and photographs in this issue are by the author.
Insect collecting is more popular than stamp or coin collecting in many countries. Students who assemble and identify an insect collection are learning about a group of animals that include our main competitors for food and resources and are important vectors of disease. A properly labeled and cared for collection provides important information on the range of insects, their life cycles and food habits. Unlike birds, mammals and other well-known animals, insects often go unseen, and there are hundreds of new species described each year. It is possible that a student collection may contain new state records or even a species new to science.
Insects are driven to extinction by habitat destruction, not by insect collectors. Indeed, we have spent millions of dollars to destroy certain pest species and never succeeded. Most insects live but a few weeks or a season before they are eaten or die and decompose. The insect collector helps preserve the passing beauty of butterflies and other interesting insects.
Beginning an insect collection requires just a few items, although a young collector may want to add more elaborate collecting equipment and storage boxes later. The essentials are: insect pins, labels, a killing jar, an aerial net, spreading boards and storage boxes. Certain insect groups require special hunting methods and a teacher can help students discover this hidden world of insect life.
Dried insects become brittle, similar to potato chips, and handling them directly will break off wings and legs. Before they harden, insects must be mounted on special rust-proof insect pins. This gives them a handle to grab, so they can be moved among boxes and labels can be attached. Regular straight pins used with clothing do not work well because they soon rust and break. Special insect pins are made with a rust-proof black finish ("japaned") and are longer than common straight pins to provide room for labels under the insect. Insect pins come in sizes from thin "00" to thick "5", but size "3" is best for all-purpose use. Youngsters in 4-H entomology can purchase insect pins from the local county extension agent. Pins may also be bought from the biological supply houses listed on the last page.
Insects are pinned in the patterns shown here. Butterflies, moths and dragonflies are pinned in the thorax, directly between the wings. All other big insects are pinned through the thorax just to the right of the mid-line to avoid destroying important identification features. Beetles are pinned in the right wing cover, true bugs in the triangular area, and grasshoppers in the prothorax or "saddle" area. All insects should be pinned upright and level. Leave about 1/4 of the pin above the insect to provide a handle for moving the specimen.
Insects too small to pin directly can be glued to the end of a 1 centimeter long triangular card point, and the base of the card point is then pinned. These card points can be cut from white file cards.
To be of scientific value, a specimen should carry a label telling when and where the insect was captured. The name of the collector and the immediate habitat can also be added. Labels are printed in ink and are made as small as possible. This makes the label permanent and easy-to-read. If labels are too large, they will take up more room than the insects above them. It is logical to give the state before the county, and the date should be in day-month-year order with the month in Roman numerals. The labels shown in the illustration are correct for a specimen collected on October 9, 1989.
Labels under a pinned specimen run with the length of the insect's body. Labels under a small insect on a card point extend out under the card point to the left. This saves space in your collection.
Freshly collected insects must be quickly killed before they are pinned and mounted. Because butterflies and moths shed their dust-like wing scales, it is wise to have a second killing jar to keep other insects from getting powdery. Ethyl acetate is a safe killing fluid used as the solvent in fingernail polish and remover. Available from a druggist, this fluid relaxes insects making them easy to pin and spread on a spreading board.
To make a killing jar, select a heavy glass or plastic jar with a tight-fitting lid. Pour a 2 cm layer of wet plaster-of-Paris into the bottom of the jar and let it dry. When the plaster has hardened, a few drops of ethyl acetate will charge the killing jar. After it has been opened several times, it will need to be charged again. The bottoms of glass jars should be taped so students won't be cut by broken glass if the jar is dropped.
Freezing insects in the freezing compartment of a refrigerator is safe and keeps them fresh for mounting until they are thawed out. Butterflies and dragonflies can be slid inside an envelope or folded piece of paper before they are placed in a freezer. This envelope can temporarily hold the information on the time and place the insect was caught.
Dunking insects in 70% ethyl or isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol is safe. Although the alcohol temporarily wets the wings, the wings soon dry and true colors return. However, insects killed in alcohol will harden and become brittle much sooner.
Experienced collectors and advanced students often use carbon tetrachloride or cyanide jars. Carbon tetrachloride, a dry-cleaning fluid, can charge a plaster-of-Paris-bottomed jar in place of the ethyl acetate mentioned before. Cyanide jars are specially made with the cyanide powder sealed under plaster-of-Paris. Instructions for making these jars can be found in the reference books listed on the last page, and a teacher or an adult entomologist should help in the preparation of cyanide insect killing jars.
Commercial nets can be bought from the biological supply houses, but nets as good or even better can be made at home.
An aerial net is used to capture flying insects and it can be assembled from a broomstick, heavy gauge wire and nylon mesh. Heavy wire (coat hanger is too light) can be bent into a circle about 40 centimeters across with the ends wrapped securely to the end of the broomstick handle with electrician or duct tape. A bag one meter deep can be sewn from nylon wedding veil or a similar durable mesh. The deep net allows the collector to turn the net sideways and trap a butterfly in the bag. A durable cloth rim of cotton muslin extends the life of the net.
An aquatic net for water insects is made with a shallow bag, since the specimens won't escape by flying away. As in the aerial net, an open weave is necessary to allow the water to pass through.
Sweeping nets can be made of heavier cloth to scoop insects from weedfields. Other collecting devices are described in the reference books for young entomologists.
Butterflies, moths, dragonflies, and other insects with big wings must be pinned and spread when freshly caught so they will be easier to identify and make an attractive and orderly collection. Also, the veins and color patterns are easier to observe in a collection of well-spread insects. Spreading boards can be made from many materials. An inch-thick sheet of styrofoam can simply be cut so a center groove receives the pinned body of a butterfly. Balsa, stacked sheets of corrugated cardboard, and regular wood have all been utilized to make spreading boards. However, a smooth surface that mounts the wings at a gentle incline is best, for insect wings often droop slightly over the years as the moisture in the air changes.
Some insects have fat bodies while others are very thin. The groove of a spreading board should vary in width to accommodate different insects. Some commercial spreading boards are available with adjustable-width center grooves.
Spreading an Insect
David Schmidt, a high school student, collects butterflies and displays them in glass-top cases. If they are correctly labeled and protected from insects, dried insect collections are valuable to science and can last centuries.
Much hard work and many long hours go into collecting, pinning and spreading insects to make a beautiful and valuable collection. However, insects can be destroyed as rapidly as they are collected if they are not protected.
The two main threats to a collection are live insects called carpet beetles and mold that covers insects with a fuzzy coating. Unless the humidity is very high in a house, or the insects are stored in a wet basement, mold is usually not a problem.
Carpet beetles however can find their way inside the most clean and modern of buildings and penetrate sealed wooden cabinets. In a short time, they can reduce a beautiful collection to a barren box of pins and dust. Therefore, mothballs or similar fumigants are used to protect boxes of insects. Naphthelene mothballs are safest to use and also slow down the growth of mold. Mothballs or mothflakes should be anchored in some container inside the insect box, since a rolling mothball would damage the specimens. Naphthalene moth balls can be melted onto the head of a heated straight pin and pinned in the box with the insects.
COLLECTING SOIL INSECTS
Scoop up a large sample of moist (not wet) top soil or "duff' under hedge rows. The material can be carried in a large grocery bag and should not be allowed to dry out before processing. Estimate the total number of soil insects in your school yard, etc., as did Dr. Byers (see p. 8).
Set up a plastic, metal, or glass funnel as shown illustrated here. Cut a small piece of screen to fit across the inside bottom hole to prevent dirt and debris from falling through. Set a jar of rubbing alcohol (50-80%) under the funnel. Place the sample of soil or leaf litter, etc., in the funnel. Position a gooseneck lamp or other light over the sample to slowly dry out the sample from the top down. Do not use a hot light bulb or position the lamp too dose where it could ignite the dry leaves. (Another means of driving the animals out of the soil is to coat the top of the sample with a layer of naphthalene moth balls and use the odor to drive.them out the bottom.)
The lamp will have to shine for several days to slowly dry out the sample. Springtails and other insects and mites will move around, detect the dryness above, and slowly move down to wetter material until they fall out the bottom. When the sample is totally dry, remove the collection jar. turn off the lamp. and clean out the funnel.
The jar of collected specimens should be poured into a flat dish (a Petri dish works fine) and examined with a stereomicroscope. Students should be able to match up many of the critters with the illustrations of springtails. ants, and mites shown in reference books.
Springtails are small and can barely be seen with the naked eye; they may look somewhat like the specimen shown here. Virtually every cubic inch of top· soil in Kansas has these insects, and they help build rich humus. Springtails are stored in alcohol vials or on slides.
ORDER THYSANURA--Bristletails and Diplurans
Silverfish and firebrats can sometimes be found in attics and closets. Some jumping bristletails are
found in the moist litter of forest floors or in crumbling rotten logs. Because their bodies are delicate, they should be preserved in alcohol in vials.
Proturans are much smaller and cannot be seen without a microscope. In fact, until recently, no one knew these insects existed in Kansas and very few people today have seen them.
|HOW MANY CRITTERS ARE IN THE SOIL IN KANSAS?
A layer of woods soil one inch deep and one foot square was collected by K.U. entomologist Dr. George Byers and his class near the Biological Survey Building on their West Campus. This is a habitat not too unlike that found around a public school. The sample was placed in a funnel and the following organisms were driven out and identified:
Roundworms.............. 11 Insects: Springtails.... 359
Since there are 43,560 square feet in an acre (metric would be much easier!), this count for one square foot provides an estimate of 182,995,560 animals per acre.
Mayflies emerge as dainty flying insects with two or three long tails trailing like a kitetail. They are often found resting on vegetation near streams, rivers and lakes, usually near the month of May. They also come to lights at night if the light is not far from their water habitat. Adult mayflies appear in large numbers but only for a day or two. They mate, lay eggs in the water, and die. The young larvae live in the water and can be scooped up from ponds and streams with an aquatic net.
ORDER ODONATA--Dragonflies and Damselflies
This dragonfly nymph has shed its smaller exoskeleton and expanded to become a bigger larva. Such soft aquatic insects are usually preserved in alcohol vials.
Dragonflies fly fast and are a great challenge to catch. Dragonflies spend their time catching insects in midflight and they greatly reduce the numbers of mosquitoes and midges in the area. Like mayflies, they stay near water and the young live and develop in ponds and streams. The young are underwater predators, feeding on other organisms and providing food for fish. As they grow bigger, the larvae shed their hard exoskeleton and form a new larger skin, as shown in the dragonfly larva to the right.
Damselflies are dainty fliers and flit among the grasses near bodies of water. Their larvae are also aquatic. Soft-bodied larvae cannot be preserved dried on an insect pin, but must be stored in a vial.
ORDER ORTHOPTERA--Grasshoppers, Cockroaches, Crickets, Walkingsticks and Mantids
Insects in this order mature throughout the summer season and large adults are usually conspicuous in the fall. However, the few cockroaches that live indoors can be collected year around. Nearly all are easily collected by hand or aerial net, and a few crickets and katydids are active at night and come to porch lights.
The American cockroach lives year around in
Since earwigs are active at night, they are not commonly seen and are not usually common in Kansas. Some are attracted to porch lights.
The termite found in Kansas is often located in rotten logs, old lumber at sawmills, etc. Winged adults may be collected when they swarm each year, but their wings come off easily. Since the workers are soft-bodied, termites should be preserved in vials of alcohol.
Stonefly nymphs are aquatic and are found under stones in streams or along shorelines. The adults emerge and some fly to lights where they are easily collected. Others rest on bridge foundations and vegetation near the water. Some stonefly adults even emerge on mild winter days! Adults should be pinned and spread. Larvae are preserved in alcohol vials.
This is a rare insect resembling a small termite in appearance. In Kansas a student might locate their small colonies under pieces of wood in old sawdust near a sawmill. They sometimes are collected when rotting logs are processed through the Berlese funnel shown on page x. They are soft-bodied and should be preserved in alcohol.
These "booklice" and "barklice" are not parasitic lice but chew on molds and pollen and debris. Although they are the size of lice, most have wings as adults. They may be found in the bottom of bags of rice, grain or flour containers. A collector is virtually guaranteed finding psocids if an abandoned bird nest is jostled around on a white sheet of paper--the small psocids appear as little specks crawling across the paper.
ORDER MALLOPHAGA--Chewing Lice
Lice that occur on birds are in this order. Chewing lice also infest mammals. The easiest way to collect an insect from this order is to inspect a chicken (the chicken head louse is very common). Different lice infest different hosts--a loon louse will be a different species. Also, lice are very selective where they live on a host (those under a chicken's wing may be a different species from the head louse). It is difficult to identify lice without using a microscope. Chewing lice have a broad head and a narrow thorax. Lice are too small to mount even on a card point and should be preserved in a vial of alcohol or mounted on a microscope slide.
ORDER ANOPLURA--Sucking Lice
Sucking lice are only found on mammals. They can be distinguished from lice in the previous order because they have a narrow head and broad thorax. Head lice and crab lice occur on people and outbreaks occassionally occur at schools. Therefore, school nurses usually have experience locating and identifying these insects. The hog louse is large and easy to find on pigs at a farm. A pair of forceps is useful for grabbing and pulling off both the sucking and chewing lice mentioned above.
Thrips are little insects about the size of a hyphen. They are pests of onions, pear tree buds, gladiolus, and many other flowers. It is virtually impossible to pluck a leaf from the fuzzy light-green mullein plant that does not have thrips on it. Thrips are also extracted in Burlese funnel samples. Because of their small size, thrips are preserved in alcohol vials or on microscope slides.
ORDER HEMIPTERA--True Bugs
The wide variety of insects possessing a beak and front wings that are half leathery and half membranous are the "true bugs." This includes stink bugs, chinch bugs and other terrestrial bugs that mostly suck plant juices. Therefore, many can be located on a host plant (like squash bugs). Nearly every sycamore tree leaf has a lace bug. Some are predatory and attack other insects (see picture) or feed on man (bed bug). You would need an aquatic net to catch water striders and their relatives (see picture), water boatmen, backswimmers, or giant water bugs. Many bugs from both land and water are attracted to lights at night.
ORDER HOMOPTERA--Cicadas, Hoppers, Aphids
These insects also possess a beak, but their front wings are uniformly leathery or membraneous. Spittlebug larvae live inside the spittle seen on weeds (see picture).
Leafhoppers thrive in weeds and grasses and have to move fast to avoid our lawnmowers. A sweeping net will collect hundreds of them in an old field in less than a minute. Many planthoppers come to lights and everyone who has cleaned out overhead lampshades has collected leafhoppers.
During each summer, noisy cicadas emerge from the ground having fed on tree roots for three or four years. They leave behind empty shells (see picture) and fly to trees to sing for mates.
Many Homoptera can be pinned directly or glued to card points. However, the scale insects also belong to this order and a whole twig must be collected with scales attached. Soft-bodied aphids, sometimes called "plant lice", should be preserved in alcohol.
ORDER NEUROPTERA--Dobsonflies, Lacewings, Ant Lions, etc.
This is an ancient group of insects with soft bodies and very netted wings. Some can be collected by sweeping vegetation, especially near water. Big green lacewings, small brown lacewings, dobsonflies, fishflies, and some rare neuropterans are attracted to lights at night. The larvae of lacewings run around on vegetation eating harmful insects. Ant lion larvae produce funnel depressions in loose sand and dusty soil to trap ants to eat. The larvae of some Neuroptera are aquatic.
ORDER COLEOPTERA--Beetles and Weevils
Forty percent of all insects, and one of every five living species is a beetle. So far, over 30,000 species have been described for the United States. Beetles occur on nearly every species of plant, competing with us for grain and other crops. Some beetles eat other insects or clean up dead plant and animal matter. The larvae are "grubs." Beetles show up virtually everywhere, and are collected with aerial, sweeping and aquatic nets, at lights and with funnel samples.
ORDER STREPSIPTERA--Twisted-wing Parasites
In this group of small insects, the females are parasites on other selected insects. A Kansas collector's best hope of finding these uncommon insects is to inspect paper wasps visiting flowers. Wasps carrying these parasites will appear to have BB-sized projections between the body plates of the abdomen.
Scorpionfly adults are common only in eastern forests, where they rest among the vegetation. They eat insects and are quite harmless to man. The larvae scavenge on the surface of woodland soil and some larvae and life histories remain unknown.
Among the insects that come to lights at night, especially near bodies of water, will be narrow moth-like insects with long hair-like antenna. These caddisflies have caterpillar-like larvae that build cases and live as hunters and grazers in ponds and streams. Very close examination of their wings will reveal fine bristles rather than the layers of scales found in the next order.
ORDER LEPIDOPTERA--Butterflies and Moths
Butterflies and moths develop from caterpillars (see picture) and most feed just on specific plants. Collecting caterpillars and rearing them in a jar is not difficult if they are fed daily with leaves from the host plant (usually the plant on which they were found). Butterfly caterpillars will eventually form a chrysalis; moth caterpillars will usually spin a coccoon. The adults that emerge will be "perfect" specimens for a collection.
The hairstreak is a fast-flying small butterfly that earns its name.
This moth holds its wings outright, just as it would appear if perfectly spread in a collection.
An aerial net, often called a butterfly net, is necessary for capturing most butterflies in the field. Exotic specimens show up following storms that blow them in from hundreds or thousands of miles away. Care must be taken not to hold Lepidoptera by the wings, for the color of wings is on the fine scales that rub off easily.
Many moths are attracted to lights at night. However, a few moths (like some beautiful underwings) never come to lights. Adult Lepidoptera have a long proboscis and only feed on liquids. Just as butterflies come to flowers to suck up nectar, some moths are attracted to sweet fluids and "sugaring" is the best way to collect these moths. A solution of brown sugar, molasses and stale beer is mixed. The young entomologist then walks a trail in a woods before dusk, painting the mixture on trees, stumps and fenceposts. Well after dark, the trail is walked again. The eyes of the moths sipping on the sweet fluids will glow in the flashlight beam.
ORDER DIPTERA--True Flies
This is a large order of insects with two wings. The larva are maggots and live in many environments: stagnant swamps, decaying debris, flesh and mining in plant leaves, etc. Adults can often be collected by plopping a net over garbage cans, waste heaps, or animal manure. Some mosquitoes (see picture), crane flies and others are attracted to lights at night. A sweeping net will harvest flies as well as leafhoppers in the order Homoptera. The larger flies are pinned, but smaller ones are mounted on points or in alcohol vials or on slides. A pin should pierce the insect to the right of center to preserve important bristles used in identification. Larvae are stored in vials.
Fleas may seem common until you need one for your collection. They parasitize birds and mammals. Unlike lice, fleas spend much time off their host, and fleas can be found in carpet, doghouses, animal bedding, etc. Rarely fleas are mounted on points in a collection; usually they are mounted on slides
ORDER HYMENOPTERA--Bees, Wasps and Ants
These insects occur about everywhere and require general collecting methods. Some will come to lights at night. An aerial net is useful for the females that sting, and the young entomologist will soon become skilled at maneuvering stinging insects into a killing jar.
COLLECTIONS IN KANSAS
Many private collectors live in Kansas and maintain important collections of butterflies, tiger beetles, and other insects. Most college and university biology departments use insect collections in zoology classes. However, two Kansas universities have major collections used in research, teaching and public education. The collections listed below have hall displays and are open to the public by arrangement; contact the person listed to arrange a tour.
Dr. Steven Ash, Director
Snow Entomological Museum
University of Kansas
Lawrence, KS 66045
Chair, Dept. Entomology
Kansas State University
Manhattan, KS 66506
In addition, arrangements can be made to tour the most extensive butterfly collection in Kansas by contacting: Dr. Charles Ely, Museum of the High Plains, Fort Hays State University, Fort Hays, KS 67601 (913) 628-5887.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Bland, R.G. and H.E. Jacques. 1978. How to Know the Insects. 3rd edition. 409 pages. Wm. C. Brown Co.,
135 South Locust, Dubuque, IA 52001 (5th grade up)
Borror, D.J. and R.E. White. 1974. A Field Guide to the Insects of America North of Mexico, (Peterson
Field Guide Series) 404 pages. Houghton Mifflin Co., 1 Beacon Street, Boston, MA 02108 (paperback
$11.95) (7th grade up)
Borror, D.J., D.M. DeLong and C.A. Triplehorn. 1981. An Introduction to the Study of Insects. 5th edition.
852 pages. Saunders College Publishing, 383 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10017 (cloth $41.95)
(high school levels up)
Edmonds, Jr., W.T. 1976. Collecting and Preserving Kansas Invertebrates. 101 pages. Tech. Publ. 3 of the
Kansas State Biological Survey, Lawrence, KS (Out-of-print but available in libraries)
Klots, A.B. and E.B. Klots. 1977. 1001 Questions Answered About Insects. 260 pages. Dover
Publications, Inc., 31 East 2nd Street, Mineola, NY 11501 (paperback $5.00)
Mitchell, R.T. and H.S. Zim. 1964. Butterflies and Moths. 160 pages. Golden Press, Western Publishing,
850 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022 (paperback $2.95 - 5th grade up)
Smith, R.C., E.G. Kelly, G.A. Dean, H.R. Bryson and R.L. Parker. 1943. Common Insects of Kansas (also
under title "Insects in Kansas") 440 pages. Kansas State Board of Agriculture, Topeka, KS. (Out-of-print but available in many school and public libraries.)
Steyskal, G.C., W.L. Murphy and E.M. Hoover. 1986. Insects and Mites: Techniques for Collection and
Preservation. U.S.D.A. Misc. Publ. 1443. 103 pages.
Zim, H.S. and C.A. Cottam. 1951. Insects. 160 pages. Golden Press (see above address under Mitchell;
paperback $2.95 - 5th grade up)
SOURCES OF SUPPLIES AND EQUIPMENT:
Carolina Biological Supply Company
Burlington, NC 27215
P.O. Box No. 61
Santa Monica, CA 90406
P.O. Box 4748
Baltimore, MD 21211
4901 West LeMoyne Street
Chicago, IL 60651
Ward's Natural Science Establishment
3000 Ridge Road East
Rochester, NY 14622
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