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Killing bugs and Cleaning bugs

 
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lauriek
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Joined: 25 Nov 2007
Posts: 2404
Location: South East UK

PostPosted: Mon Feb 25, 2008 7:25 am    Post subject: Killing bugs and Cleaning bugs Reply with quote

A couple of questions...

What do my fellow stackers use to kill bugs? I've been using my freezer, stick the bug in there for an hour or so has usually done the job, except I just caught a wasp in the house the other day, did this, left it in there /overnight/, started shooting a stack and the little bugger started moving around. Seems to be freezer proof!

Secondly, I notice you guys who produce the best shots (Charlie, Rich etc) your bugs always seem very clean. Mine always seem dusty by comparison, even if they are fairly fresh bugs. I use my mouth to blow on them, as much as I can, but that doesn't seem to remove everything. Do you guys bathe yours or something??

Any tips appreciated!
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rjlittlefield
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Joined: 01 Aug 2006
Posts: 20481
Location: Richland, Washington State, USA

PostPosted: Mon Feb 25, 2008 8:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Freezing is arguably best, when it works.

When it doesn't, or if I'm in a hurry, I use ethyl acetate. This is a classic insect killing agent because it works quickly, leaves specimens relaxed, does not alter colors, and is not very toxic to humans. I purchased mine as 99% pure from Bioquip. But I hear that it's also a common ingredient in nail polish remover. I haven't explored that avenue yet, but I will, the next time I need to travel by airplane.

I think you were joking, but bathing actually works OK for a few specimens -- notably the ones with no hair or soft scales. A very fine modelmaker's paintbrush also works, especially if you trim it back to just one or a few hairs. Charlie introduced me to the CO2 duster, which generally works quite well although I have managed to break a few specimens with its very high speed stream. Before I had the CO2 duster, I used a large syringe to pump air through a small needle.

But probably the most valuable cleaning tool in my whole kit is my stereo microscope. That's the one that lets me see what needs to be removed, and go after it specifically. If I didn't have the scope, I'd probably cobble together something like a loupe or a 10X magnifier on a fixed stand, so that I could work with both hands while still viewing magnified.

Hope this helps!

--Rik
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DaveW



Joined: 04 Aug 2006
Posts: 1702
Location: Nottingham, UK

PostPosted: Mon Feb 25, 2008 10:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

One way they used to recommend to kill viewfinder bugs in cameras that I believe lived on the gelatin flakes that fell off the film was to cut up a bit of a cats or dogs flea collar and put it in your gadget bag. Don't know how attractively the bugs die from a photogenic point of view though!

DaveW
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Charles Krebs



Joined: 01 Aug 2006
Posts: 5805
Location: Issaquah, WA USA

PostPosted: Mon Feb 25, 2008 12:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'll second Rik's comments.

Freezing works well with many specimens, but is a disaster for some... notably many soft bodied spiders. The eyes of some insects also seem to deteriorate more rapidly after freezing, getting a mottled look. I find this common with moths and butterflies.

Ethyl acetate (mine is from Bioquip as well) works well. I've looked over (and tried) various non-acetone nail polish removers. You need to check the ingredients. Many use methyl acetate as a main ingredient, some use ethyl acetate. (Here in the US a large grocery store chain is Kroger. They own other chains as well... such as QFC where I live. Their "house brand" non-acetone nail polish remover is primarily ethyl acetate.) These work, but I have experienced situations where some of the other ingredients seem to leave an oily film on the specimen, even if it has not contacted the liquid.

Rik mentioned one thing I think is absolutely needed, and that is a low power microscope (preferably stereo) to help in preparing the specimen. It need not be some optical masterpiece. I suspect even the cheapest Chinese scope would be just fine for this purpose.

Be sure the containers you use are scrupulously clean. One specimen in the container at a time.

I use fine "artist" brushes and very fine tweezers to clean the specimen, if needed. I also use "canned air" (Dust-Off brand) with a very gentle stream.
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augusthouse



Joined: 16 Sep 2006
Posts: 1195
Location: New South Wales Australia

PostPosted: Mon Feb 25, 2008 2:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I purchased a small dissecting microscope that came with a 10x and 20x objective (eyepiece? looks like an objective but it is also an eyepiece) It has a glass stage and 2 angled wrist supports. I knew it would come in handy; plus it's a beautiful gizmo. It's also a great tool for jewellers. Mine cost $30.00 S/H and is a bit different to the link below. It is extremely stable. Eyepiece/objective assembly has course focus. The one I own was made in Japan by 'Nikken' - that is not a spelling mistake.

A stereo scope would be more comfortable to work with.

See eBay item number: 230225264181

Craig
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DaveW



Joined: 04 Aug 2006
Posts: 1702
Location: Nottingham, UK

PostPosted: Tue Feb 26, 2008 2:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"The one I own was made in Japan by 'Nikken' - that is not a spelling mistake"

Sounds more like one of these trademark rip-off's where they put out a product that has a name almost like Nikon to confuse people into thinking they are buying a Nikon, but different enough so they cannot get prosecuted for using their brand name.

I gather it was often done with British products by far eastern manufacturers where they even printed boxes in a well known bicycle chain manufacturers colours but spelt the name slightly different so they could not be sued. But it was obviously designed to mislead many purchasers into thinking they were buying the genuine product if they are not too familiar with the original spelling.

It's a pity, because as you say, the products are often well made and could trade under their own names, but of course they are hoping to cash in on all the brand advertising the known maker has used.

DaveW
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Graham Stabler



Joined: 20 Dec 2007
Posts: 209
Location: Swindon, UK

PostPosted: Tue Feb 26, 2008 5:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm a little unusual as I often dissect the specimens, in those cases I use CO2 (from small hobby welding bottle) and then decapitate with small scissors.

Otherwise I would use CO2 followed by an insect killing fluid (as per others), I try to avoid convulsions that might leave wings in funny positions. I tried ODing them with CO2 but after at least 30min in a CO2 environment they came around, perhaps not a very pure CO2 or maybe leaks.

Worst moment was when I had a decapitated blow fly under the scope, it might have even been abdomenless, I pressed on the thorax to see the wing action and actually started it up. The muscles are stretch triggered and the system is resonant so even without a head they flap like mad. I jumped out of my seat!

Graham
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Hairyduck



Joined: 07 Mar 2007
Posts: 98
Location: UK

PostPosted: Tue Feb 26, 2008 5:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Might be worth trying a bottle of argon instead of Co2 Graham, it's quite a common method of euthanasia in lab animals from what I've heard
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DaveW



Joined: 04 Aug 2006
Posts: 1702
Location: Nottingham, UK

PostPosted: Tue Feb 26, 2008 8:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Did a quick web search and found these:-

http://bughunter.tamu.edu/killingspecimens.htm

http://www.forestpests.org/h2cpfs/insectprep.html

http://community-2.webtv.net/guestsbook/CleaningDegreasing/

DaveW
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rjlittlefield
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Joined: 01 Aug 2006
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Location: Richland, Washington State, USA

PostPosted: Tue Feb 26, 2008 8:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

One of Dave's links mentions heating, and that reminds me...

A couple of times on business travel, I've wanted to take home usable specimens of the local wildlife found in arguably not the best chosen hotels.

It turns out that an ordinary ziplock bag, submerged in the hottest available tap water, does quite a credible job of dispatching even large and active cockroaches. Rolling Eyes

--Rik
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lauriek
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Joined: 25 Nov 2007
Posts: 2404
Location: South East UK

PostPosted: Tue Feb 26, 2008 8:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Some excellent info in this thread, many thanks guys! Looks like a cheapo stereo microscope just moved up my wanted list!
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rjlittlefield
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Joined: 01 Aug 2006
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Location: Richland, Washington State, USA

PostPosted: Fri Feb 29, 2008 10:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

One other thought...

Many insects do a really good job of cleaning themselves, given some time to do it.

Sometimes just keeping the live bug in a very clean container for a few hours will work wonders.

--Rik
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lauriek
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Joined: 25 Nov 2007
Posts: 2404
Location: South East UK

PostPosted: Fri Feb 29, 2008 11:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rik,

That's actually something which had occurred to me. I normally put the pots in the fridge as soon as I get home. I presume the cold in there slows them down quickly to the point they won't do that. (I'm almost certain this is the case). I wonder what the ideal temperature is to keep them at in a sealed pot so as not to hurt them but not to cool them down too much that they stop moving... I always figured it was cruel to keep them alive in a tiny pot at room temperature, but I'm not so sure now!!

Cheers!

Laurie
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Planapo



Joined: 07 Nov 2006
Posts: 1533
Location: Germany, in the United States of Europe

PostPosted: Sat Mar 01, 2008 4:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Laurie,

Quote:
I just caught a wasp in the house the other day, did this, left it in there /overnight/, started shooting a stack and the little bugger started moving around. Seems to be freezer proof!


This time of the year a wasp caught in the house in England is most probably an inseminated young female/queen(-to-be) in hibernation, and thus in a physiological state to cope with freezing temperatures to some extent.

Quote:
I always figured it was cruel to keep them alive in a tiny pot at room temperature, but I'm not so sure now!!


Room temperature without direct sun light shouldn´t be a problem for most of the land arthropods commonly found. Too low moisture is more of a problem, a slightly moistened piece of tissue etc. can solve this. And make sure the "sealed pot" has holes that allow for air ventilation.

The chemicals and methods for killing have already been mentioned above. With ethyl acetate the animal is stunned first, and with larger specimen it can take several hours until they are really dead and won´t start moving again when taken out of the killing jar. When they are dead they have to be taken out of the moist jar and conserved, as otherwise decay or mold will ruin them.

And generally, IMO, one should try to make sure that an animal caught and killed for taking a photograph doesn´t belong to a rare, endangered or protected species at least.

--Betty
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lauriek
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Joined: 25 Nov 2007
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Location: South East UK

PostPosted: Sat Mar 01, 2008 8:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the info Betty! I feel slightly guilty now knowing she was likely a queen to be, I kinda suspected this anyway (when she failed to freeze) but hey, there's no shortage of wasps round here!! Plus since I've got into this super-macro work with dead bugs I like wasps a lot more than I used to!

I'm completely with you on the rarer bugs, I deliberately didn't catch a couple of beautiful 'Volucella' hoverflies last year, they're not endangered but they aren't very common in the UK either...
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