Classifying Insects

Collecting and classifying insects should involve the following aspects:


Collecting insect is a simple matter due to their abundance, but care must be taken. Some may bite, sting, or give of an unpleasant odor so be careful. Insects occur in almost every habitat except the marine environment. They may be found in vegetation, in the soil and leaf litter. Look under logs. Leave an outside light on at night and watch them gather.
A good way to collect many insects with little effort is with the use of a sweep net. Just sweep the net through weeds and grass and the net will be full of insects (as well as spiders). Also in the net will be plant particles from the weeds and grass. Empty the contents of the net into a ziplock bag. Be sure to record the collection data for each location and plants swept. As soon as possible place the bag of insects into a freezer which will kill the insects. This killing method is painless to the insects, involves no chemicals, and may be left frozen for future use indefinitely. For the teachers at Temple ISD the bags of insects will be provided by the science consultant on request.


Pinning: The left images above illustrate how to pin an insect. The insect should be positioned in a level position. Notice that the pin is a little to the right of the midline.

Spreading: Moths and butterflies should be spread before drying takes place so that the wings can be fully displayed. Two pieces of styrafoam are placed close together with a gap between them (see middle image). This gap should be the width of the insect`s body. The wings should be covered with strips of index card material secured by pins. The wings then should be arranges so that the margin of the front wings are at a right angle to the body. The back wings should then be pulled down for full exposure. After several days the insect will dry and the wings will keep their position after removing the paper strips.

Pointing: For insects too small to be pinned directly make a small paper triangle of index card material and bend the point of the triangle downward. Stick an insect pin through the triangle as shown in the above right image. Using Elmers glue attach the bent point to the side of the insect. Be sure that the insect is in a level position.


Insect collections should be stored in tight-fitting wood boxes with four inches of vertical room inside. Inside, at the bottom, should be a thin layer of styrafoam to hold the pinned insects in place. The tightness of the box is necessary to keep live insects from eating the dead pinned ones. A good source of insect collection containers is "parent involvment".


The identification chart below is useful for classifying most of the common insect to their order. Order is one of several taxonomic categories. Below is the most common taxonomic scheme using the a beetle as an example:
Kingdom: Animalia
____Phylum: Arthropoda (animals with jointed legs)
________Class: Insecta (arthropods with 6 legs)
___________Order: Coleoptera (beetles)
______________Family: (The orders consist of many families.)

To obtain an image to download and print for the students using 0.5 inch margins choose Insect Download.


Collecting and collections are useless unless accompanied by the data. A good scientist not only collects things but also collect information. With insect collecting the insect label (made from index cards) is a good place to record the field data. The label stays below the insect on the pin. Date, location, and collector are minimal datum. Be neat when writing on the labels. The use of very finepoint ink pins enhance neatness.


Each class has access to a Virtual Reality computer program. This program will allow the compiling of multiple images into a final product. This product will allow the viewing of the insect at different angles by simlpy dragging the mouse across the screen. This is a highly suggested activity. Training will be given in executing this program when requested. The images taken will make a valuable addition to the science website.