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Labeling Specimens

Proper labeling of specimens should be first and foremost in the minds of those creating insect collections. Professional entomologists usually welcome the opportunity to study the insects of a well-preserved and labeled collection, because such collections supply distribution and timing records, as well as other information of value to the profession. There is pride and satisfaction in a collection that includes important scientific value.

To be of scientific value, each specimen must be accompanied by information including the location (county and state) and date (day, month, year) of its capture and the name or initials of the collector. To avoid confusion, the month should be written in roman numerals and should always occur between the day and the year. These data are printed on a small label (Figure 22) placed on the pin beneath the specimen. A specimen in a collection for scientific purposes frequently has secondary labels on the pin indicating the host or habitat of the specimen or its identification (not required in beginning or 4-H club collections).

specimen label

Figure 22

The maximum allowable size of pin labels in 4-H collections is not more than 7/8 inch long and 5/16 inch wide. Most professional entomologists use even smaller labels. Pre-sized labels are provided here and may be created by cutting directly from the page. Homemade labels are cut from stiff white paper, such as index card stock. Collectors find many advantages in cutting a large supply at one time for future use.

The most important label should be mounted closest to the insect. This label must have the name of the state and county where the insect was collected, as well as the date and the name of the collector. The label should be positioned in line with the length of the insect. Additional labels, indicating hosts and identification, may be placed lower on the pin and oriented as in Figure 23.

insect mount with labels

Cut all labels to the same size and from the same card stock to vastly improve the appearance of your collection. Carefully and neatly print information on the label to improve the appearance and the utility of the collection. Fine-point black pens are the best choices for attractive and legible labels. When you plan a large collecting effort in a single habitat or on a single day, use a computer to print partial labels in small type so that only the date and initials of the collector are filled in by hand to save time and effort.

Use a pinning block to place labels at a uniform height on the pins and always orient the labels so that all are read from the same side. These tips make for a very eye-catching display.

Purdue Extension Entomology, 901 West State Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907 USA, (765) 494-4554

Department of Entomology | College of Agriculture | Extension

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