Re: [beemonitoring] Catching, Processing, and Managing Bee Specimens
- Thanks Jack, those are all good points that I will incorporate, I also realized I forgot to include shipping instructions so am adding those. Will add you to the acknowledgements too.
How is that Hoplitis revision coming?
Sam Droege Sam_Droege@...
w 301-497-5840 h 301-390-7759 fax 301-497-5624
USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
BARC-EAST, BLDG 308, RM 124 10300 Balt. Ave., Beltsville, MD 20705
Bees are black, with Gilt Surcingles
Buccaneers of Buzz.
Ride abroad in ostentation
And subsist on fuzz.
Fuzz ordained - not fuzz contingent -
Marrows of the hill.
Jugs - a Universe's fracture
Could not jar or spill.
Jack Neff <jlnatctmi@...>
Sent by: firstname.lastname@example.org
02/26/2008 04:55 PMPlease respond to
email@example.comSubject Re: [beemonitoring] Catching, Processing, and Managing Bee Specimens
I believe #2 and #3 pins are standard for bees. The
smaller sizes are prone to bending and don't hold
labels as well. Stainless steel is strongly
recommended if the pinned specimens will be spending
much time in humid conditions. Also go for quality
pins, "student" quality pins are prone to fish hooking
and losing their heads. I use #2s for everything as
they are fine for all the medium and larger bees and
the small stuff can either be glued directly to the
pin, double mounted with minutens or glued to paper
points mounted on pins (the latter method is
intermediate between the former two for labor
intensity and aesthetic value). Clear nail polish is
a fast drying alternative to Elmers (or other white
glues). Slow drying time is not a problem for either
of these in hot climes.
Extension nets, such as the Bioquip Tropics net, can
be very handy when trying to collect on cliffs or on
small to medium trees (tall trees will usually remain
out of reach). A cheap extension net can easily be
jury rigged by attaching a regular aerial net to a
bamboo (or similar) pole with hose clamps.
Plaster of Paris isn't necessary for cyanide vials. A
combination of cotton balls and tightly rolled paper
toweling works fine for holding the stuff in place.
--- Sam Droege <sdroege@...> wrote:
> We are often asked many questions about the
> particulars of studying bees.
> For someone just embarking on the study of bees
> simple answers to
> questions like how to properly pin a bee and what
> microscope should I
> purchase are often hard to come by. We have now put
> together a draft
> document that covers the capture, killing, pinning,
> storing, labeling,
> management, and viewing of bee specimens. We would
> like to make this
> document as broad as possible so invite you to look
> it over and let us
> know of any techniques or approaches that differ
> from ours so that we can
> add them in.
> Many thanks.
> Sam Droege
> w 301-497-5840 h 301-390-7759 fax 301-497-5624
> USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
> BARC-EAST, BLDG 308, RM 124 10300 Balt. Ave.,
> Beltsville, MD 20705
> Pale tree-cricket with his bell
> Ringing ceaselessly and well,
> Sounding silver to the brass
> Of his cousin in the grass.
> - William Bliss Carman
> Nets - Almost any sort of insect net will catch
> bees. However, bee
> collectors do have preferences. Most people now use
> aluminum handled nets
> rather than wood. Some prefer the flexible strap
> metal netting hoops as
> these work well when slapping nets against the
> ground to capture low
> flying or ground resting bees. Others prefer the
> more traditional solid
> wire hoops. Hoop size varies from about 12? to 18.?
> The larger the hoop
> the larger the area of capture, but the more
> difficult it is to swing
> quickly due to air resistance and the more netting
> there is to snag on
> branches. BioQuip makes a net that has a pole that
> disconnects into 3
> small sections with a hoop that can be folded into
> itself to form a very
> useful net/pole combination for travel or
> backpacking. Aerial nets rather
> than beating or sweep nets are normally used. A fine
> mesh netting rather
> the traditional aerial netting will keep the
> smallest Perdita from
> Netting Technique - Netting strategies vary with the
> target species,
> habitat, and the preference of the collector. Most
> bees fly very quickly
> and when in the air can readily detect and avoid a
> slow moving net.
> Consequently, to net bees in flight you must swing
> the net rapidly and
> without hesitation. If you hesitate for even a
> fraction of a second the
> opportunity will may be gone. Thus if there is any
> possibility that what
> you see is a bee it is best to net it to confirm
> your suspicion and
> release it if it is not a bee. For some quick moving
> Megachilids and
> Eucerines you will often find them so fast that it
> is often best to simply
> wait in a section with few flowers and swing through
> the flowers when any
> motion in the vicinity is detected hoping that you
> intersect with the bee.
> When netting off of flowers, ideally it is best to
> swing through the
> flower with the bee centered in the middle of the
> net. Again, a quick
> swing is demanded here and although this will often
> result in the
> beheading of the flower, bees readily detect the
> presence of a slow moving
> net and will flee. If there are prickly plants in
> the area then care must
> be taken before swinging to make sure there are no
> pricker bushes,
> beggar?s ticks, or hitchhikers nearby or your net
> may tear or become full
> of difficult to remove seed heads as you swing. When
> in the field usually
> one hand will hold the tip of the net bag against
> the pole and clear of
> the ground and vegetation until you make your swing.
> If a bee is flying low to the ground, resting on the
> ground or on a flower
> that lies close to the ground then the best approach
> to capture is to slap
> the net quickly and firmly over the bee. Once done
> you must lift the net
> bag vertically to encourage the bee to follow its
> natural tendency to fly
> or crawl upward rather than try to escape under the
> rim. In some cases you
> must wait a few moments for the bee to start
> crawling up the net. Once the
> bee is half the way up or higher you can pull the
> net out and back and
> snap the bee to the bottom of the net for retrieval.
> Removing Bees From the Net - Once you have a bee or
> bees in the net there
> are several ways to remove them. In all cases it is
> best to vigorously
> snap the net to drive all the insects to the bottom.
> You can then safely
> grab the bag just above where the insects are
> resting. Even the larger and
> more aggressive bees can?t get at the hand that is
> closing off the net due
> to the bunching of the netting. If you are timid,
> are worried about the
> specimen escaping, or have numerous insects in the
> net, you can kill or at
> least pacify your catch by stuffing the specimens
> and the netting into
> your killing jar and loosely closing the lid over
> the specimens and the
> netting. In these cases it pays to have your jars
> well charged with
> cyanide or ethyl acetate so that the specimens
> quickly quiet down or you
> will waste a lot of time waiting. Once your
> specimens are quiet you can
> open up the net and drop them directly into the kill
> jar without worrying
> if they will fly away.
> Most take a more direct approach and bring the open
> kill jar into the net
> and trap the bee against the netting. Slapping the
> hand on top of the
> bottle or test tube through the netting is at times
> useful to drive the
> bee to the bottom so the bottle can be safely capped
> without the bee
> escaping. More than one bee at a time can be put
> into a bottle this way,
> but at some point more escape than are captured.
> Because seeing the bees
> through the netting can be difficult (hint: use your
> body to shade the
> netting to better see the bees) some have taken to
> hanging the net on the
> top of their head using one hand to hold the net out
> and up and then using
> the other hand to reach in and collect the specimen
> with the kill jar. It
> is important in this situation to keep holding the
> net out so the bees
> move away from your head and to use small collecting
> jars or large test
> tubes that can be handled with one hand. Despite
> having your hand (and
> sometimes your head) in the net with the bees most
> collectors are rarely
> Using Ice and Dry Ice - If it is important to keep
> bees alive or very
> fresh, then you can bring along a cooler of ice or
> dry ice. You can then
> continuously net bees with one net and once the net
> is full you can place
> the entire net end into the cooler. If the cooler is
> filled with ice the
> bees will remain alive but inactive, if the cooler
> is filled with dry ice
> they will freeze. You then continue collecting with
> a second net and once
> that one is full the bees in the first net have been
> chilled or have
> perished and you can transfer them to jars in the
> cooler for further
=== message truncated ===
John L. Neff
Central Texas Melittological Institute
7307 Running Rope
Austin,TX 78731 USA
Never miss a thing. Make Yahoo your home page.
- In response to your how-to guide...
I use elmers gel, not the white glue. It is water soluble and tackier.
In your section about labelling and sorting specimens, I have come up with
my own solution. I am working on several different research projects and
need to keep the specimens separated. However, it is much easier for me
to identify all the individuals in a particular group at once. I cut up
brightly colored paper into small squares (about the size of a label).
Each research project is designated a different color. The specimens of
my larrea project get green tags, the long-term project gets yellow tags,
etc. At the end of each year I end up with a very colorful collection.
Then I can identify the bees, one taxonomic group at a time. At the end,
I can enter the data into the appropriate data base and remove the colored
tag. That way, I know when all my data is entered because the colored
tags are gone. This is especially useful if you don't have a scanner.
On Tue, 26 Feb 2008, Sam Droege wrote:
> We are often asked many questions about the particulars of studying bees.
> For someone just embarking on the study of bees simple answers to
> questions like how to properly pin a bee and what microscope should I
> purchase are often hard to come by. We have now put together a draft
> document that covers the capture, killing, pinning, storing, labeling,
> management, and viewing of bee specimens. We would like to make this
> document as broad as possible so invite you to look it over and let us
> know of any techniques or approaches that differ from ours so that we can
> add them in.
> Many thanks.
> Sam Droege Sam_Droege@...
> w 301-497-5840 h 301-390-7759 fax 301-497-5624
> USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
> BARC-EAST, BLDG 308, RM 124 10300 Balt. Ave., Beltsville, MD 20705
> Pale tree-cricket with his bell
> Ringing ceaselessly and well,
> Sounding silver to the brass
> Of his cousin in the grass.
> - William Bliss Carman
> Nets - Almost any sort of insect net will catch bees. However, bee
> collectors do have preferences. Most people now use aluminum handled nets
> rather than wood. Some prefer the flexible strap metal netting hoops as
> these work well when slapping nets against the ground to capture low
> flying or ground resting bees. Others prefer the more traditional solid
> wire hoops. Hoop size varies from about 12? to 18.? The larger the hoop
> the larger the area of capture, but the more difficult it is to swing
> quickly due to air resistance and the more netting there is to snag on
> branches. BioQuip makes a net that has a pole that disconnects into 3
> small sections with a hoop that can be folded into itself to form a very
> useful net/pole combination for travel or backpacking. Aerial nets rather
> than beating or sweep nets are normally used. A fine mesh netting rather
> the traditional aerial netting will keep the smallest Perdita from
> Netting Technique - Netting strategies vary with the target species,
> habitat, and the preference of the collector. Most bees fly very quickly
> and when in the air can readily detect and avoid a slow moving net.
> Consequently, to net bees in flight you must swing the net rapidly and
> without hesitation. If you hesitate for even a fraction of a second the
> opportunity will may be gone. Thus if there is any possibility that what
> you see is a bee it is best to net it to confirm your suspicion and
> release it if it is not a bee. For some quick moving Megachilids and
> Eucerines you will often find them so fast that it is often best to simply
> wait in a section with few flowers and swing through the flowers when any
> motion in the vicinity is detected hoping that you intersect with the bee.
> When netting off of flowers, ideally it is best to swing through the
> flower with the bee centered in the middle of the net. Again, a quick
> swing is demanded here and although this will often result in the
> beheading of the flower, bees readily detect the presence of a slow moving
> net and will flee. If there are prickly plants in the area then care must
> be taken before swinging to make sure there are no pricker bushes,
> beggar?s ticks, or hitchhikers nearby or your net may tear or become full
> of difficult to remove seed heads as you swing. When in the field usually
> one hand will hold the tip of the net bag against the pole and clear of
> the ground and vegetation until you make your swing.
> If a bee is flying low to the ground, resting on the ground or on a flower
> that lies close to the ground then the best approach to capture is to slap
> the net quickly and firmly over the bee. Once done you must lift the net
> bag vertically to encourage the bee to follow its natural tendency to fly
> or crawl upward rather than try to escape under the rim. In some cases you
> must wait a few moments for the bee to start crawling up the net. Once the
> bee is half the way up or higher you can pull the net out and back and
> snap the bee to the bottom of the net for retrieval.
> Removing Bees From the Net - Once you have a bee or bees in the net there
> are several ways to remove them. In all cases it is best to vigorously
> snap the net to drive all the insects to the bottom. You can then safely
> grab the bag just above where the insects are resting. Even the larger and
> more aggressive bees can?t get at the hand that is closing off the net due
> to the bunching of the netting. If you are timid, are worried about the
> specimen escaping, or have numerous insects in the net, you can kill or at
> least pacify your catch by stuffing the specimens and the netting into
> your killing jar and loosely closing the lid over the specimens and the
> netting. In these cases it pays to have your jars well charged with
> cyanide or ethyl acetate so that the specimens quickly quiet down or you
> will waste a lot of time waiting. Once your specimens are quiet you can
> open up the net and drop them directly into the kill jar without worrying
> if they will fly away.
> Most take a more direct approach and bring the open kill jar into the net
> and trap the bee against the netting. Slapping the hand on top of the
> bottle or test tube through the netting is at times useful to drive the
> bee to the bottom so the bottle can be safely capped without the bee
> escaping. More than one bee at a time can be put into a bottle this way,
> but at some point more escape than are captured. Because seeing the bees
> through the netting can be difficult (hint: use your body to shade the
> netting to better see the bees) some have taken to hanging the net on the
> top of their head using one hand to hold the net out and up and then using
> the other hand to reach in and collect the specimen with the kill jar. It
> is important in this situation to keep holding the net out so the bees
> move away from your head and to use small collecting jars or large test
> tubes that can be handled with one hand. Despite having your hand (and
> sometimes your head) in the net with the bees most collectors are rarely
> Using Ice and Dry Ice - If it is important to keep bees alive or very
> fresh, then you can bring along a cooler of ice or dry ice. You can then
> continuously net bees with one net and once the net is full you can place
> the entire net end into the cooler. If the cooler is filled with ice the
> bees will remain alive but inactive, if the cooler is filled with dry ice
> they will freeze. You then continue collecting with a second net and once
> that one is full the bees in the first net have been chilled or have
> perished and you can transfer them to jars in the cooler for further
> Baggie Catcher - A second useful capture system, particularly when working
> with individual specimens, is to use large baggies and pop the open end
> over flowers with bees on them. The bees can then be sealed in the bag and
> placed in a cooler of dry or regular ice to preserve them until taken back
> to the lab.
> Kill Jars - Several companies make kill jars. Traditional jars are made of
> glass with a layer of plaster of paris at the bottom. At the start of the
> collecting day, enough ethyl acetate is added to the plaster so that it
> soaks in but leaves no liquid on top. If you are using the jar regularly
> then the ethyl acetate will need to be recharged every couple of hours as
> it evaporates. Ethyl acetate has the advantages of not being as toxic as
> the most common alternative chemical (potassium cyanide), not a controlled
> substance, and relaxes the specimen a bit more than cyanide (useful
> if the genitalia are being pulled). It has the disadvantage of needing to
> be recharged often thus requiring that the ethyl acetate be brought into
> the field or that several charged kill jars remain available. Additionally
> ethyl acetate adds moisture to the killing jar that can end up matting a
> specimen?s hairs.
> Most collectors eventually end up using a cyanide based kill jar. BioQuip
> makes kill jars with a hollow plaster top underneath the lid that can be
> charged with potassium cyanide crystals. Alternatively cyanide jars can be
> made from any glass or plastic container. A layer of cyanide crystals are
> placed in the bottom of the container and then a layer of sawdust and then
> wet plaster of paris is poured over that. The jars are left open for a few
> hours outside or in a hood and then closed. Such jars can remain effective
> for over a year. Cyanide jars usually work immediately in the field, but
> if they don?t knock down specimens right away a drop of water or a bit of
> spit (don?t lick!) will cause the crystals to begin giving off gas. Many
> collectors use test tubes or narrow vials with a cork top as collecting
> vials. These are useful when there is a need to keep collections separated
> in the field, such as when collecting off of different plants species.
> Tubes can also be handled easily with one hand while in the net. Vests,
> aprons, hip packs, and carpenter belts are handy ways to keep a number of
> collecting vials handy.
> Most people will wrap the bottom of glass jars and vials with duct tape to
> reduce the chance of the glass breaking or at least shattering in a fall.
> Additionally, it is handy to place a bit of paper towel in the bottom of
> each jar to absorb the extra moisture from the bees collected and the
> nectar they regurgitate.
> After bees have been captured and placed in a kill jar they usually quiet
> down in just a few seconds (depending on how charged the jar is), but if
> the specimens are taken out of the jar too soon and pinned some may ?wake?
> back up and begin to move again, albeit usually only very slowly. Usually
> half and hour or so in the jar will prevent this.
> Pinning - Bees can be pinned directly from the jar into boxes, or they can
> be washed first. If the bees are dry and not matted down then pinning
> directly to a collecting box is best as it preserves the pollen load for
> future analysis and speeds up the entire process. However, if the bees are
> matted from too much moisture and regurgitate, then washing and drying
> them using the protocols listed in that section are advantageous as they
> result in better looking and easier to identify specimens. If the pollen
> load is not going to be analyzed then washing the specimens also has the
> advantage of eliminating the pollen from the scopal hairs and diminishing
> the ?dustiness? of the specimens.
> Each person develops their own process when pinning bees. Some pin under
> the microscope which usually results in very accurate placement of the
> pin, but many pin by eye. One technique is to hold larger specimens
> between the thumb and forefinger with the pin ready in the other hand.
> Another finger from the hand holding the pin can be used help hold the
> specimen steady and help in inserting the pin accurately into the bee?s
> scutum. Others pin larger bees using a pair of forceps or tweezers,
> trapping the specimen on a foam pad. Expanded polyethylene foam (often
> referred to as Ethafoam) or cross-linked polyethylene foam (our preferred
> foam) is better than polystyrene foam (usually referred to as Styrofoam)
> for pinning purposes. Styrofoam is not supportive enough; both labels and
> specimens will bend too much when pinned upon Styrofoam.
> Specimens are best pinned through the scutum between the tegula. If at all
> possible the pin should be to one side or the other of the mid-line. The
> midline of the scutum often contains features that are very useful in
> identification and these can be destroyed by the pin. Most museums prefer
> that specimens be pinned on the right side. The height of the specimen
> should be such that there is plenty of pin left above the top of the
> specimen. This will permit someone to pick up the specimen without
> breaking off an antenna but the specimen should not be so low as there
> isn?t room for two or more labels below plus room for the pin to go into
> the foam. Height can be set with purchased insect pinning blocks, or with
> pieces of foam of the correct height, but be aware that large bumblebees
> need to be adjusted downward to make sure there is room at the top of the
> pin for grasping. After a few uses of the pinning block it is best to
> adjust specimen height by eye as that will be the quickest.
> Gluing Small Specimens - If specimens are too small to be pinned they can
> either be placed on a point or glued to the side of a pin. Glues that are
> reversible should be used and include white glues, clear nail polish,
> shellac, hide glue, and others. The use of points is traditional. Points
> are very small, acute triangles of stiff paper that are cut out using a
> special punch which can be ordered from entomological supply houses. The
> pin is placed through the base of the point, the pointed elevated on the
> pin to the same height as pinned specimens, and the small bee is glued to
> the tip, usually on its underside.
> When pinning a specimen directly to the pin, rather than to a point, the
> specimen is glued on its side or the underside between the thorax and
> abdomen. Most museums prefer that specimens be glued on their left sides.
> Gluing specimens to the side of the pin has the advantage of speed, better
> prevention of glue hiding useful characters, and a specimen that is easier
> to view under the microscope because its axis of rotation is minimized and
> the point is no longer there to hide the view or block the light.
> Specimens should be glued to the pin at the same height as those that are
> pinned. We use tacky glue in our lab, it?s a thicker white glue than the
> more common Elmer?s and school glues and permits specimens to be glued
> immediately set up right in the box. Use of regular white glue requires
> leaving the pin resting on the specimen for 5-10 minutes prior to picking
> up the pin. From our limited investigations Aleene?s Original Tacky Glue
> in the gold bottle appears to be the best gripping tacky glue.
> Our process of gluing small specimens begins by spacing specimens out
> across an Ethafoam pinning pad. A short line of glue is then placed along
> the edge of a specimen tray or any other small box. Having glue line the
> thin edge of a tray is the most convenient way to get glue on to the pins
> in that it minimizes the amount of glue left on the pin and its easy to
> fit your fingers on either side of the box edge. Too much glue left on the
> pin will obliterate the specimen?s characters. All you need is simply
> touch the line of glue with one side of the pin at the correct height and
> pull it away. If you still think there is too much glue on the pin you can
> touch it with a finger tip which will pull away the excess. The head of
> the pin can then be held in one hand, the tip placed on the foam, and the
> body of the pin flexed over the prone specimen so that it comes in solid
> contact with the side or underside. The pin then can be transferred along
> with the specimen to the box of specimens being created.
> Bee Boxes - There are a variety of drawers, cabinets, and boxes available
> to hold specimens. We prefer to use the simple cardboard specimen box with
> a completely detachable lid and an Ethafoam bottom for everything except
> for housing our synoptic collections. These boxes are stackable, the date
> and location can be written on the outside in pencil and then erased when
> reused, relatively inexpensive, and, unlike hinged lid boxes, are
> convenient to use in cramped spaces on a desk or worktable. Such boxes can
> be made from scratch and we provide in a separate document directions on
> how to make specimen boxes from pizza boxes.
> After a batch of specimens is washed dried and pinned we place them in a
> cardboard specimen box. At the upper left hand corner of the box, a tag
> with the date, place, site or batch number is pinned. This tag is usually
> the same tag that was placed in a batch of specimens stored in alcohol
> when the specimens were originally captured. A line of specimens is pinned
> to the right of the tag and continues running from top to bottom and left
> to right like a book until complete. The next tag is placed immediately
> thereafter and so forth until the box is filled. In general it helps if
> each box contains specimens from only one region. We label the year across
> the top of the box, then the month and then the locality, so that we can
> quickly pick out the box we want.
> Control of Pests ? Simple cardboard boxes are not pest proof. Dermestid
> beetles are the primary pest of insect collections. Fortunately,
> infestations are usually small usually one beetle larvae in a box
> scattered here and there. An infected specimen is usually easy to spot as
> small black droppings and shed skin are visible below the specimen.
> Control and prevention take place according to the literature by freezing
> the box at -20C (about zero degrees Farenheit) for 3 days, thawing for a
> day and then freezing for another 3. In a pinch kitchen freezers appear to
> work too. Mothballs and pest strips can be effective but carry some
> apparent health risks with long-term exposure. Spring is a good time to
> freeze your entire collection as that is when dermestids appear to be most
> In humid conditions (such as July and August in Maryland) unprotected
> specimens, particularly those just caught, can turn into balls of mold.
> Either take them into an air-conditioned space or put them in plastic bags
> or tightly closed bins that contain active desiccants.
> Labels ? Following pinning labels are produced for each batch of
> specimens. We use a label generating program available on the
> www.discoverlife.org web site. Each batch or site is given a unique site
> number and each specimen is also given a unique specimen number. On each
> label the specimen number and site number are listed as well as the
> country, state, county, latitude, longitude, date of collection, and
> collector. A small data matrix is present on the label that encodes the
> specimen number and permits the specimen to be scanned with a hand-held
> scanner directly to a database while remaining specimens remain in the
> box. These data matrices are included automatically in the free
> Discoverlife system ( http://www.discoverlife.org/label/) or can be added
> using commercial software such as BarTender (
> In a good museum cabinet specimens deteriorate only very slowly and can
> last for well over 100 years. That is not true of the paper used in making
> labels. Paper that is not archival or acid free gradually deteriorates.
> Fortunately, archival paper is readily available in office supply stores.
> A heavier weight paper is also important to use so that the label stands
> up to handling and the pinning process. A 65 pound paper is good label
> Specimen labels are quickly added to specimen pins by laying them across a
> piece of Ethafoam, the thickness the desired height of the label on the
> pin. To increase the durability of the Ethafoam it can be glued to a piece
> of plywood to form a sturdy pinning surface. To manufacture a pinning
> board, smear white or wood glue across both surfaces, rub together, and
> then place another (unglued) board on top of the foam and pile books or
> other heavy objects on that board to clamp the foam and board tightly
> together. Let dry overnight. It can then be used as is or the edges can be
> trimmed with a saw for a nice and tidy look. Labels are oriented along the
> same axis as the specimen.
> Organizing Specimens for Identification - After the specimens are labeled
> and those labels checked against the original row labels in the box, the
> specimens can freely be moved about for identification. We usually sort
> and identify only those specimens in a single box rather than try to merge
> specimens across many boxes. In this way multiple projects in multiple
> states of completion can be tracked and are less likely to become
> When identifying specimens we make a first pass through the box and
> identify everything identifiable without using a guide. These are taken
> out of the box and pinned to a separate foam board. This board is set at a
> 45 degree angle next to our microscope. As new species are detected a
> determination label is created (available as a modifiable Excel file from
> us). The determination label is pinned to the board separately from the
> specimens so that it can be easily viewed. All subsequent specimens of
> that species are then placed to the right of the label. Bees that cannot
> be immediately identified are kept separate and identified at the end
> using computer and paper guides.
> Once Bees are all identified they are then placed back into the original
> box. Bees are placed in the box in rows starting at the upper left corner
> and going from left to right top to bottom with determination labels
> interspersed at the beginning of a new group of species. Females are
> placed so their label is positioned vertically and males positioned so
> that their labels are horizontal. Positioning the sexes this way permits
> those who enter the data to quickly ascertain and check the sex without
> having the check the label.
> Entering Specimen Data - In the system that we use each specimen has a
> scannable matrix on its label and data entry consists of scanning each
> specimen directly from the box into an Access database. The scanner has a
> feature that sends a linefeed character at the end of scanning in the
> number, thus moving the cursor down one line to the next cell where the
> next specimen can be scanned?and so forth until that species is completely
> entered. Access has a nice feature that permits default values for
> database fields. Thus genus and species field defaults can be set to the
> current species being processed and as the scanner enters a number and
> drops down a line the data for the other fields are automatically entered.
> Thus data entry becomes simply a matter of pulling the scanner trigger and
> periodically resetting species and sex information either by hand or by
> changing the defaults. Access has another nice feature which sets off an
> alarm or sound if a number is entered twice, something that can easily
> happen in a crowded box of specimens.
> After the data are entered by one person another person cross-checks the
> specimens and the database. After that final check the bees are dispersed
> to final resting spots in museums, sent to other colleagues, or their pins
> are recycled for reuse.
> Choosing and Purchasing a Microscopes - Using bowls or nets it is easy to
> quickly amass a large collection of bee specimens. Unfortunately, unlike
> most butterflies, bees (even the bumblebees) need to be viewed under a
> stereo or dissecting microscope to see the small features that
> differentiate among the species. While even inexpensive microscopes and
> lights can be of some use, in the long run they lead to frustration.
> Inexpensive microscopes usually have poor optics, very low power, small
> fields of view, difficult to set or fixed heights, and their stands are
> usually lightweight and often designed such to make specimens difficult to
> Unfortunately, a good microscope is not cheap. New, our experience is that
> an adequate microscope costs over $1000 and good ones run over $2000. That
> said, microscopes with even moderate care can be seen as a one time
> investment. Additionally, because a good microscope has optics that can be
> adjusted and cleaned (unlike most inexpensive ones) it is usually safe to
> buy a used or reconditioned microscope from an online dealer (buying off
> of E-Bay or Craig?s List is more risky as the seller has less of a
> reputation to risk). There are many used microscope sites and we have
> purchased microscopes from several of them and have never had a bad
> experience. In two cases the purchased microscopes had a problem and in
> both cases they were repaired for free. Usually, used prices are about
> half the cost of new.
> Good stereoscope brands to consider that we have experience with include
> Leica, Zeiss, Olympus, Wild, Wild-Heerbrug, Nikon, and Meiji. We can
> supply you with some model numbers from our collection or you can send us
> web sites with the microscopes you are considering and we will be glad to
> give you our impressions. Of special consideration are the Bausch and Lomb
> StereoZoom series. These microscopes have been around for years and often
> form the core of college biology and entomology department teaching labs.
> These are adequate to good scopes and we have about 5 in our lab. They are
> readily available used from $500 -$900 online. Their negatives include a
> view that is not as good as the better scopes and I my personal preference
> for zoom magnification on the side rather than on top as is the case with
> student scopes. Finally, be aware that many of these scopes only go up to
> 30X power with the standard 10X oculars, though higher powered models
> exist and higher power replacement oculars are readily available.
> Magnification - Magnification power needs some mention here. Any adequate
> to good scope will have variable power settings. We have never seen any
> instance where the lowest magnification was an issue, but a useful scope
> should go up to about 60X power or higher, something that many good scopes
> do not achieve with the standard 10X ocular. If the scope does not go to
> that high a power it is a simple matter to change the magnification by
> purchasing a higher power set of ocular pieces (these are the eyepieces
> that you look into). Oculars simply slide into tubes on top of the scope
> and readily removed (as some of you who have turned a microscope upside
> down have found out) although sometimes there is a set screw that needs to
> be released first. That said, replacement oculars, while almost always
> available for every model and brand, can be expensive to purchase.
> Magnification is determined by multiplying the magnification of the ocular
> lens (this number is listed usually on the side of each ocular piece but
> sometimes is found on the top and is most commonly 10X) by the zoom or
> magnification level which is listed on the zoom knob. Note that some
> manufacturers list the zoom levels multiplied out with the assumption that
> you are using 10X oculars.
> Most higher-end microscopes come with a zoom magnification where all
> powers are available in any increment. In some scopes, powers are
> available only in steps. I haven?t found the scopes that move in
> increments to be any major hindrance. I have found, however, that scopes
> that have the magnification/zoom feature available on the sides of the
> scope in the form of a small knob are the easiest and quickest ones to
> use. The ones with the knob on top or located as a movable ring around the
> base of the scope head take more time to change. Often the magnification
> is changed several times when viewing a specimen.
> Measuring Reticule - Some microscopes come with a measuring reticule in
> one of the oculars but most do not. A measuring reticule is a very small
> ruler etched into a piece of glass. These are useful for taking precise
> measurements or, more often the case, taking relative measurements. This
> piece of glass is inserted into the bottom side of one ocular. All or
> almost all oculars are built in a way that they can be taken apart for
> cleaning. Often there is a threaded tube inside the body of the ocular
> that holds the lenses in place. If taking one apart be gentle as the
> threads can be delicate. Measuring reticules can be ordered online or some
> microscope dealers will custom make one for you.
> Adjusting, Cleaning, and Storing Microscopes ? Most good scopes are fairly
> sturdy and don?t go out of adjustment without suffer some sort of blow. In
> our experience we have come across two primary adjustment issues. The
> oculars don?t focus in the same plane or image the oculars are processing
> are out of alignment. If no matter how much you play with the width of
> adjust of the eyepieces the images don?t completely align then the scope
> has significant problems and will have to be repaired professionally.
> Differential focus is usually something you can fix. Small differences in
> the focal distance of the oculars can be accommodated by your eyes, but at
> some point they eyestrain will become apparent and uncomfortable. In most
> scopes one or both of the tubes that the oculars slide into are
> adjustable. These focusing eyepieces are easy to determine as there are
> zero, plus, minus, and tick marks to align. To adjust the focus so that
> both eyepieces are in the same focal plane, place a piece of graph paper
> or something similar on the base of the scope and shine a good light on
> it. Adjust any adjustable eyepieces to zero. If there is one eyepiece that
> is fixed then open that eye and close the other. Change the focus of the
> microscope so that the grid is in sharp focus. Now close that eye and open
> the other. If the grid is not in alignment then adjust the focus of that
> eyepiece until it is. If, as it sometimes rarely happens, after adjusting
> in both directions you still cannot get the eyepiece in focus then try
> sliding the eyepiece up slightly to see if that works. If that doesn?t
> work then likely the other eyepiece is the one that has to be adjusted
> upwards. If the microscope has set screws you can use them to fix the
> height, if not then you will have to work out some other mechanical means.
> Usually, however, such and extreme situation indicates that something is
> generally wrong with the scope or the oculars and you might check the
> oculars to see if the lens are loose or you have mismatched oculars from
> some other scope.
> The objective lens of a microscope almost never needs to be cleaned.
> However, the top lens of the oculars often do, particularly if the person
> using the scope likes to press their eyes close and wears make-up (mascara
> is the worst). After trying a number of cleaning methods we use lens paper
> and window cleaner as needed. To keep the dust out of the oculars we found
> it simplest to just put a baggie over both lenses.
> Holding specimens and General Microscope Setup - Most people when viewing
> specimens under the microscope naturally place them on a piece of clay,
> foam, or some sort of stand. We try to avoid this as it is far faster to
> view specimens when held in the hands of the observer. To hold specimens,
> pick up the head of the pin using the thumb and forefinger of your
> dominant hand. This allows you to easily spin the specimen around the axis
> of the pin. The point of the pin is then either lightly pressed against
> the middle or forefinger of the other hand or some hold it between their
> thumb and forefinger.
> It is important to place the bottom sides your hands on the base of the
> microscope, this stabilizes the hand so the specimen is held steadily even
> under high magnification. With hands in place, the specimen can be quickly
> and efficiently rotated in all directions while the observer looks into
> the microscope. To take full advantage of this the focal plane of the
> microscope should be raised such that the specimen is roughly in focus
> (usually about 3 inches above the base of the microscope) when the hands
> are in place. Once this focus is set on the microscope it is never moved
> again as any change in focus is accomplished by moving the specimen rather
> than moving the focus knob. If the magnification level needs to be changed
> then the hand holding the head of the pin can retain the specimen while
> the other hand changes the magnification without having the eyes leave the
> The final part of microscope setup is to adjust your chair or the table
> holding the microscope such that you do not have to bend or strain your
> body to look into the microscope.
- "What a wonderful document! I especially liked the information on the
label generating program (with which I was unfamiliar) and strategies
for removing bees from the net. I'm used to capturing spiders, which
do not fly away...
I was responsible for programming the 'home printer' part of that
labeler. Pick is doing the work to incorporate it into the larger
discoverlife system. I do use my little bit of it for a quick labeler
and have used it with my field biology course. If someone would like
to give it a try I would be interested in any comments you may have
(like how well it worked).
You can use the simple web based form located here
by following the link at the bottom of the page for insect labels.
Each label is unique based on the specimen number.
Depending on how many labels you are making it will take a little time
to build the label page. 50 labels take about 20 seconds to assemble.
When pick finishes his version I would definitely suggest using it.
Dr. Daniel Kjar
Assistant Professor of Biology
Division of Mathematics and Natural Sciences
1 Park Place
Elmira, NY 14901