METHODS THAT MAKE THE GOOD COLLECTOR

GOOD collecting is an art which is not easily acquired and experience in it counts for a lot. The good collector is not only a collector but a naturalist as well; he must know the habits of his animals—where they live, the plants they feed on, etc., in addition to the methods of preparing them for his collection. A beginner in entomology is well advised to collect insects fairly generally rather than to specialise in the members of one order. This fosters a broader outlook and at the same time gives the worker a good practical knowledge of different kinds of insects, their haunts and habits. This knowledge contributes towards a more intelligent appreciation of the problems with which he will be faced at a later stage when he is more or less in possession of the principles of his study and can therefore select a group in which to specialise.

The ordinary butterfly net and a sweeping net are the chief pieces of apparatus required by the insect-hunter. The butterfly net is used for catching insects on the wing as well as those which frequent flower heads. The sweeping net is

made of strong material like unbleached calico and is used for sweeping vegetation which might tear the ordinary butterfly net. By sweeping we mean the dragging of the net to and fro amongst the herbage in such a way that insects, such as weevils, for instance, fall off the plants into the net. Another homely, but useful, instrument is an umbrella which can be inverted beneath the leafy boughs of trees; when the leaves are gently struck with a stick a rich haul of insects tumbles into the umbrella and can be captured. This process is known as beating.

CAPTURING INSECTS WITH LIGHTS AND TREACLE Ej^VERYONE knows how moths are attracted into lighted ./rooms at night; this foible can be employed to the advantage of the collector. If he sits by an open window at night, and puts a lantern outside, quite a number of insects are attracted by the light and all the collector has to do is to collect them as they come. An attractive bait for many insects is made from brown sugar, treacle and a little beer plus a little aromatic essence of aniseed. This mixture can be painted on the sheltered sides of palings and trees at dusk; when visited an hour or two after application a goodly company of insects will reward the collector for the labour involved. This operation is called ‘sugaring.’ Flower heads, hedges and bushes yield many insects when swept with the net in the summer months. Patches of cow-dung should be examined for beetles. Rich winter sources for beetle-collecting are the mosses torn from the bark of trees and the decaying leaves on the ground. Moths and butterflies can be reared from the pupa which are frequently found round the roots of isolated trees and have to be dug for with a trowel. Butterflies and moths can be transferred from the net to pill boxes with glass bottoms, and for most other insects glass tubes may be used.

Before passing on to the question of killing insects it must be emphasised that no locality should be ignored as useless until it has been examined—rarities may be found in the least likely of places.

THE RIGHT WAY TO KILL AN INSECT

THE process of killing must be a painless one which allows only the minimum of struggling on the part of the victim, so avoiding damage to wings, etc. Probably the most-used

killing agent is the wide-mouthed cyanide bottle which can be purchased from any dealer. An insect stiffens when killed but it can be relaxed in an air-tight box containing a cork damped with hot (and therefore sterilised) water and a trace of carbolic acid to kill any mites or parasites which would destroy the specimen.

Wood-lice, centipedes, spiders and mites can be collected in tubes filled with methylated spirits. Shrimps and larger Crustacea may be killed and kept in 10 per cent formalin. Whatever you collect should be carefully labelled as to locality and date at once and identified later. The insect is there but your memory may fail you as to when and where you obtained it.

It is a wise thing for naturalists to collect and rear larva? as there is still much yet unknown in regard to life-histories. Eggs, too, should be collected and their subsequent development on their food plants followed through the various stages to the perfect insect: such experiments are of supreme value and interest and assist the naturalist towards a more complete understanding of the various phenomena connected with metamorphosis.

SOME books FOR THE STUDENT OF INSECT LIFE THERE are a number of books about insects and other forms of life mentioned in this article which the student and collector will find attractive supplements to practical work, and stimulants to fresh experiment. Insects, Their Structure and Life by G. H. Carpenter (Dent) gives an outline sketch* of the whole subject of entomology and has interesting chapters on insects and their surroundings and pedigrees. There are also descriptions of the various orders of insects. The same author has written a delightful little book called The Life-story of Insects, which is one of the Cambridge Manuals of Science and Literature.

British Insects and Hozo to Know Them by Harold Bastin;Methuen) is a readable account written from the natural history point of view. For an advanced and comprehensive survey of insects, the reader should turn to Text book of Entomology by A. D. Imms (Methuen). Social Behaviour in bisects, by the same author, and published in Methuen’s series of Monographs on Biological Subjects, is a valuable

review of work done on social insects, and should be consulted. This also applies to another book in the same series called Mimicry by G. D. Hale Carpenter.

In addition to these insect books there are three interesting works published in Benn’s Sixpenny Series—Insects by F. Balfour-Browne, Insects and Industry by J. W. Munro, and Ants by Julian S. Huxley. Other admirable books are published in the Wayside and Woodland series (Warne). A most readable account of the Crustacea is given in Life of Crustacea by W. T. Caiman (Methuen).

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