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preserving hand collected or net collected bees for short or long term storage

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  • beeman_4602
    The following is the description of a technique for preserving fresh bee (or other insects) without using a freezer. I believe it will be in The Handy Bee
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 14 12:51 PM
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      The following is the description of a technique for preserving fresh
      bee (or other insects) without using a freezer. I believe it will be
      in The Handy Bee Manual at a later date. I thank Mike Arduser and
      Sam Droege for looking it over.


      Using a chlorocresol humidor for bee collections
      Rob Jean

      For those of us that enjoy net collecting but do not have the time to
      prepare and pin up our day' s catch the same evening, here is a
      technique for preserving specimens in a pliable state for extended
      periods of time (6 months-1yr or longer if moisture conditions are
      kept right). This is a simple technique I learned from Mike Arduser,
      Natural History Biologist, Missouri Department of Conservation, who
      uses it exclusively and rarely pins anything until he runs it through
      a chlorocresol humidor. The technique requires: 1.) a pint or quart-
      sized plastic container with a tight seal (I use a 4 cup or 1 qt
      Ziploc Twist N Seal container, but I have used on occasion up to 1/2
      gallon sized containers) 2.) paper towels, 3.) chlorocresol (a
      antifungal crystalline substance with a sugar-like consistency
      available from Bioquip-item #1182B - $18.45/100 grams) (chemically =
      p-chloro-m-cresol or 4-chloro-3-methylphenol), 4.) a few strips of
      duct tape or its equivalent, and 5) a few drops of water.
      To make the humidor, start by putting one rounded teaspoon of
      chlorocresol in the middle of one heavy paper towel or two
      lightweight paper towels. Then fold the paper towel(s) around the
      chlorocresol so that the chlorocresol is enclosed in the paper towel
      (s), and so that the folded paper towel(s) can fit into the bottom of
      the plastic container. Tape the loose edges of the paper towel(s)
      with narrow strips of heavy (duct) tape, using as little tape as
      possible. Thus, the container will have a securely sealed, but
      porous, chlorocresol "packet" at the bottom. You should do this under
      a fume hood or outdoors as chlorocresol has a strong smell and it can
      be harmful if inhaled or swallowed. Once the chlorocresol packet is
      in the container you simply have to play with the moisture level to
      get it perfect. In most cases keeping the paper towel damp (not
      soaked) is enough to keep the specimens moist and pliable enough to
      spread mandibles and pull genitalia, sternites, etc., but you will
      probably have to experiment a bit with this before you get it right.
      Specimens will dry up and become brittle if there is not enough
      moisture (but can be rehydrated in a few days usually). If there is
      too much moisture hairs will become matted on specimens and make them
      harder to identify later. Again, you may have to play around with
      the exact moisture conditions for the container/humidor you are
      using. One good thing is that the chlorocresol goes a long way (10
      years or longer according to Mike A.). I have been using this method
      for two years and I am still on my original doses of chlorocresol in
      my humidors (I carry two with me at all times when collecting).
      After I have the humidor I can catch specimens on flowers without an
      immediate need to pin. I can keep each collection event (different
      flower species, times of the day, etc.) in separate glassine
      envelopes or paper triangles within the humidor. Glassine envelopes
      and paper triangles are great to use in this situation because they
      are easy to write data on and because they allow the moisture in the
      humidor to get to the specimens. With periodical checking on the
      moisture levels in the container (I have to check mine every week or
      two) specimens can last several months to a year according to Mike
      Arduser. The specimens stay fresh as the chlorocresol wards off
      fungal agents. The chlorocresol also seems to relax specimens
      somehow which makes mandible spreading and genitalia pulling a little
      easier in bees. One caution: pollen loads (particularly apines and
      panurgines) can become soupy in the humidor and may inadvertently get
      stuck or plastered onto other bees. Also, specimens will smell like
      chlorocresol for some time after they come out of the humidor. Good
      luck and I hope this method saves some preparation time.

      Robert Jean
      Missouri Department of Conservation/Indiana State University
      Terre Haute, IN
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