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Insect Collecting Methods, by Joe MacGown

One of the primary goals of the Mississippi Entomological Museum (MEM) is the collection of arthropods, especially insects, in the southeastern United States in an effort to better understand the fauna of this region. In order to adequately sample the various habitats and many different kinds of insects it is necessary to use a wide variety of collecting and trapping methods. However, nothing beats simply being "in the field" and making observations with a keen eye.

Basic collecting can be done by simply catching insects with your hands or a net and putting them into some type of jar. But, for more serious collecting, additional equipment is needed. Collecting supplies are somewhat dependent on the groups of insects being searched for and the time of day they are collected. Supplies needed for day collecting can be quite different than those used for night collecting. The same idea applies to collecting terrestrial insects versus aquatic insects, or flying insects versus soil dwelling insects. Indeed, it is difficult, if not impossible to collect all types of insects by an individual on a single collecting outing. It would also be impractical to carry the many supplies for all collecting methods by a single person. Many collectors only collect those insects in groups they work with, so they can handle the material collected in an efficient manner.

In our museum, we collect a wide variety of insects using many different methods and traps. I have given a list of many of the collecing supplies and traps used by museum personnel and students below. There are additional traps and supplies, and different methods used by other collectors around the world, but this should serve as a starting point anyway. There is some overlap between supplies used for both day and night collecting, therefore those supplies are included in the same list below. Supplies for collecting aquatic insects is given after the list of terrestrial insect collecting supplies. Following the collecting supply lists, a list of different types of traps used for the collection of insects is given. Some of the supplies are more basic than others, if not neccessary, however, the individual can best decide what is most useful to her or him. Not everything below is linked to a page, because it is fairly obvious what some of the supplies are for.

Collecting supplies for Terrestrial Insects

  1. Collecting bag or other container
  2. Insect nets
  3. collecting jars (killing jars/alcohol vials)
  4. Envelopes
  5. Forceps
  6. Beat sheet
  7. Aspirator
  8. Sifter/pan (for leaf litter)
  9. Bait
  10. Hatchet, knife, small garden shovel or other tools
  11. Permanent ink pen and label paper
  12. Log book
  13. GPS unit/maps
  14. Camera (digital or film)
  15. Sunscreen
  16. Repellant

Collecting supplies for Aqatic Insects

  1. Aquatic net
  2. Vials with KAA (Kerosene, 95% ethyl alcohol, glacial acetic acid, and Triton X-100)
  3. Large white pan
  4. Forceps
  5. Rubber boots
  6. Collecting bag or box
  7. Permanent ink pen and label paper


  1. Pitfall traps
  2. Malaise traps
  3. Flight interception traps (also called Barrier traps)
  4. Lindgren funnel traps
  5. Bait traps (various types)
  6. Japanese beetle traps
  7. Blacklight traps
  8. Pan traps
  9. Berlese Funnel


Introduction to insect collecting:

Bioquip-collecting supplies, etc.: