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Insects and other arthropods

Collecting insects

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Very often people start collecting insects because they find them so beautiful
Photo: Espace pour la vie (Ekaterina Konioukhova)

Very often people start collecting insects because they find them so beautiful. You catch a lovely butterfly, you want to show it off, and suddenly you have a fascinating new hobby!

As your collection expands, you’ll see that there’s much more to it than simply keeping pretty insects in a display case. You’ll learn more about them and get better at identifying them. Over time, you’ll probably decide to concentrate on certain kinds of insects. You may have a favourite group – an order or family – and your collection will become more specialized.

It’s a scientific hobby that requires patience, dexterity and attention to detail. Before you can place a specimen in an insect box, you have to catch the insect, euthanize it and mount it. They are fragile little creatures that have to be handled with extreme care. When you start out, you’ll probably break a few legs and a wing or two. That’s normal. Stick to it! You’ll get better with practice. See the Preserving specimens page for detailed instructions.

Insect collections are important research tools for both amateur and professional entomologists. To be scientifically valuable, the specimens they contain must be in good condition, properly mounted and accurately labelled.

Insects in collections are most often grouped by order, family, genus and species. These are called systematic collections. There are also biological collections, where insects are displayed by habitat, for instance, and esthetic collections, based on specimens’ shapes and colours.

Collecting insects can become a real passion. If you “catch the bug,” remember that it’s important not to go overboard. Even here in Quebec, some insects are considered rare or endangered. Don’t take several individuals from a given species at once, unless they are very plentiful. And take the time to watch insects going about their business in their natural habitat so you can learn as much as possible about them. Your field notes will make your collection all the more scientifically valuable.

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