Insect Collecting Basics

Hello fellow insect curators! 

If you've ever wanted to learn how to collect insects, preserve and curate them for your own collection, then you've come to the right place. In this article, we'll focus on the art of insect collecting, preservation and curation techniques will be covered in another article. 

The most important thing you will need to start your insect collection is, in fact, insects. True, there are several pieces of equipment that may make curation easier, but without something to curate there isn't really much point to making a collection, is there? There are many different collection avenues open to you, but we'll just focus on three for now: net collecting, pit fall traps, and general exploration. 

Net Collecting

There are many different types of nets available to the aspiring entomologist. Aerial nets, aquatic nets, and sweep nets are just a few types of nets you can find. For our collecting needs, we generally stick to the aerial net as our main collection method. The aerial net is mainly geared towards catching flying creatures, but it can be used as a light sweep net as well. A sweep net is usually made of a thicker material and is used to "sweep" the tops of bushes and plants in an attempt to knock some of the insects off of the plant into the net. Some insects you might try to catch with an aerial net are: butterflies, moths, flies, beetles, bees, and wasps. 

Pitfall Traps

A less active form of collecting is using pit fall traps. Pitfall traps can be set up with a plastic solo cup, a little water, and some soap. To set one up, dig a hole a little deeper than the plastic cup, but just wide enough that the cup sits snugly. Pour about an inch or so of water in the bottom and add a few drops of soap. Cover the opening of the cup with some bark or anything that provides a small gap for insects to crawl underneath. Ground dwelling insects will crawl under the cover and fall into the soapy water. Don't leave it unchecked for too long, take a look every day to see what you've got. Insects collected this way should be allowed to dry completely once they have been pinned. Please also make sure that you have permission to be digging up wherever you decide to lay your pitfall traps. 


The most entertaining form of insect collecting, by far, is just walking around looking for them. You may run into more or less using this method, but at least you're less likely to be completely bored. Insects like to hide anywhere and everywhere. Turning over rocks, fallen trees and tree branches, leaves, under bushes, in bushes, on flowers, in the sand, these are all excellent places to search for insects. Keep in mind: anything you move you should carefully put back exactly the way you found it. Disturbing and disrupting an environment can be devastating, so when we do it, we should aim to do as little damage as possible. 

Different insects will have their preferred spots, so knowing what you're looking for can make a huge difference in actually finding it. Once you know what their preferred hiding spot is, you can then decide which collecting method will be most helpful in capturing your target insect. If you're just looking to collect what you come across, I'd say grab a net and get outside! Just make sure that you follow the local laws and regulations regarding collecting insects (most places are okay for personal collections, but some places like National Parks are generally off limits). 

Thanks for checking out our post on collecting techniques! Post down below if you've used any of these and your success with them!

~Let's Go Find a Bug


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