Gary Hevel began his kinship with Nature when quite young in his hometown of Oswego, Kansas. Early experiences were with snakes and other reptiles. At the Smithsonian Institution (since 1969), Gary is the public point-of-contact for the Department of Entomology. He produces the monthly departmental newsletter, EntNews, and is routinely involved in collections maintenance, curation and loans of beetles from the research collection. Through the years he has led or joined insect collecting trips to 24 worldwide countries and territories, and has collected some 200 new species of insects, with a dozen of those named for him. His latest research effort has been a four-year survey of insects in his back yard, resulting in an estimated 4,000 different species (see Oct. 2004 issue of Smithsonian magazine). This effort attracted the attention of a public television company in Japan, which sent a film crew to his residence in September, 2004 to film the story. The resulting documentary, “Bug-Hunter,” was broadcast nationally in Japan in December of that year. This documentary has recently been updated to an English language version, which is currently appearing some fifteen times per month as “Insect Microcosm” on the Smithsonian Channel (Direct TV, Channel 267). Gary has appeared in radio, television and newspaper interviews on the subject of entomology, and his busiest time with the news media was during May of 2004, when he was point person for fielding media questions about the emergence of the seventeen-year cicadas in the eastern United States. One afternoon during that period, he was interviewed on live radio transmissions two times by the BBC (British Broadcasting Company). He is pleased to have appeared in the book, Adventures of Riley: Mission to Madagascar, in the form of a cartoon, commenting as an authority on an aspect of insect life, as a sidebar to the story. Gary is witness to the fact that entomology is not for sissies. His entomological experiences include being stung by a European hornet, a cicada killer wasp, and a scorpion; and being bitten by a masked hunter bug, a wheel bug, a unique-headed bug, a minute pirate bug, a copperhead snake, and a squirrel.
Insect Collecting - Spreading Wings of Butterflies and Moths
This video will show how to start an insect collection and shows how to spread wings of butterflies and moths.
Gary Hevel: Hi, I am Gary Hevel. Today, we were talking about how to build a bug collection and what we want to do right now is tell you how to spread Lepidoptera butterflies and moths. We have a butterfly here that was killed yesterday and we have placed it on this board. Let me show you this board generally. It's an adjustable middle with a little eye screw here. So we can change the middle of that to adjust to the size of the body of the insect.
So, butterflies have scales on them and it's very difficult to work with unless you are very careful. So what we are doing now is just pinning the butterfly in the center of the thorax with this number three pin. Pins have different strengths and this is a number three. We generally put it up to about that height and then the insect as you would expect, goes into the spreading board center. So we put it exactly in the center, push it down to the level of the wing on each side and then grab some smaller pins to put through the wings.
We position the middle of the body with a brace pin while we do that rather than have too much swing to the wing. So, we are grasping the edge of the wing here through dimension and pulling it up that way and similarly here. Takes a bit of practice once you get into it, it's nothing very difficult otherwise they wouldn't have assigned it to me. But we do the same for the other side and bring the wing up that way, adjusting a bit, looking somewhat to the left and right to see it's more or less square. We can adjust the wing height just a bit by moving the top of the pin this way.
So in general, that's about ready to cover up. We use art tracing paper for this and we cut them down to the height, the length of the wing. One on each side of course, so we clip both of these at the same time. Then there is something called a clothiers pin, it's a glass headed shorter strong pin to put, to use this way in this case with insects rather than clothes, pulling the antenna out of the way. Then getting my fingers in here to hold down the paper while I pull out the temporary pins and then generally, just putting the clothiers insect pins in position that way on either side. Removing these temporary pins and pulling toward me with the paper as I put the pin in to have everything taut and that's not quite over yet because we want to bring the abdomen up to a normal position. More attractive that way and with insects of this size, we can also put the pins in places where the antennae are decent looking and look very good that way.
The only other thing now that we want to do -- actually two things is put a label on it. So this was collected yesterday. I will put August, the 17 and that's ready. Now the second thing we have to do is put this aside and wait, normally about 10 days, 10-14 days on a insect of this size will work fine. Then it's a reverse process. We just take the label paper off, hold the insect up. Keep the information of the collecting date and place with this specimen until we do labeling at a later point.
The other wrinkle to this situation, I did want to say today is that sometimes the insects will become dry before you can get to them, after a couple of days sometimes. But you can place them in a not so very sophisticated device called a relaxer and this is a humidity chamber and we call it a relaxer. It is simply a plastic shoe box with wet sponges in the bottom. So a dried specimen could be placed in here either by pin or on some paper if it's not pinned and that is left for about 8-10 hours overnight usually when we are trying to prepare something in the morning. So that works very well that way.
I have done specimens from 1910 collected in the Philippines in that very process, they just regain the moisture and are able to move around not as well as today's specimens, but still very movable. That pretty well takes care of that, except I do want to say large specimens, large butterflies and moths are very easy to do. The tiny moths are very challenging and we probably won't look at that today but you can experience the larger at first and build yourself - work yourself down to very tiny moths. Some very, very tiny and that's more of a challenge in more of those and they the large kinds of insects.
The next thing we want to try and look at is the labeling of specimens and we will get to that shortly.