Insects of Iowa

Collecting and Pinning Specimens

Night Lighting

This is the sheet setup I use to collect. I took tent  poles from a dome tent and made the pole. I took a sheet and sewed a band along the edge for the tent pole to pass. I use two of the metal posts that are used for an electric fence. I put the poles in the ground and then place the sheet over the poles. This gives it rigidity. I have two 15 watt fluorescent bulbs that I bought from Bio-Quip that I hook to a gel cell battery or a jump start battery. I place the extra sheet on the ground to keep moths and beetles from falling into the grass.
a: I have some kill jars that I use to dispatch the insects. I put them into stamp envelopes and place them into the freezer when I get home. This ensures that they are dead and keeps them from drying out till I get them pinned.
b: Although I still use kill jars sometimes, I have started to catch the specimens in vials that I put into the refrigerator over night and then into the freezer the next morning for a half hour. This keeps the specimens fresh and the freezer kills them prior to spreading. This method keeps the specimens from drying out either from the ethyl acetate (a method) or from being froze overnight. For larger specimens either method is okay but for the micros, you need to keep them as fresh as you can.
Night Lighting

This is another simpler method that involves tying a rope between two trees and hanging a sheet over the rope ( use clothes pins to keep the sheet attached to the rope). Let the bottom of the sheet stretch out the front for a catch basin.

Another method of collecting is to make a mixture of beer and brown sugar. I add brown sugar to a can of beer till it makes a thin paste. This mixture should be made a couple of days before using and let set outside to ferment. The mixture is then spread on trees using a paint brush. I like to paint about a dozen trees along a trail. You need to mark the trees so that they can be found after dark. Moths are attracted to the mixture and can be collected after dark. Be very quiet when approaching the trees as the moths can be skittish. I like to put a piece of red cellophane over the flashlight as this red light doesn't spook the moths as much.

Beetle Trap

Container placed at ground level which allows beetles to fall in but then can't climb back out.
Berlese Funnel
Dragonfly Netting

Nets with long handles, better if non-white colored netting and then work along streams, rivers and lakes. Specimens captured can be placed in stamp envelopes and processed later.
Malaise Trap

Insects fly into the trap, go to the top and then fly into a catch container. A container is also placed on the ground and catches insects that fall. This method collects the insects in alcohol and this can make identification diffucult for many of the moths. This method is intended to be left for several days and then the specimens collected.
Pan Trap

Simple trap. Can be any kind of bowl, placed at ground level with alcohol in it for a killing agent.
Pill Bottle Capture

Using pill bottles or small containers to capture insects on flowers or other plants.
Sweep Netting

Just as it's name implies, you sweep a net through vegetation and then check the net to see what you have captured. A heavier net than a typical butterfly net is recommended if you are sweeping bushes instead of flowers and grasses.