Photo: May is “Behind the Scenes” month on Insect of the Week, featuring images of the collection rooms.

Undergraduate intern Stephanie is transferring beetles in the family Scarabaeidae into insect unit trays and drawers. The insects were donated to the Field Museum by a collector who specialized in beetle specimens over 5cm long. The large beetles pictured are Hercules beetles, subfamily Dynastinae. Dynastes hercules and are found in the rainforests of Central and South America.

© The Field Museum, Photographer James H. Boone, Zoology - Division of Insects 2012
Photo: Part of the work that goes on behind the scenes includes imaging specimens from our collection for researchers around the world. Each year we receive several photo requests for some of our Holotype specimens (original specimens that were used to describe the species). Images of the specimens can sometimes fulfill the research needs of scientists and replaces the need to send the specimen by mail. We include a photo of all the labels associated to the specimen, which provides original data. The beetle pictured is in the family Buprestidae, Chrysobothris vivida (no common name). It is not the emerald ash borer, Agrilus planipennis, which is also a small green buprestid.
© The Field Museum, Photographer Daniel Le, Zoology - Division of Insects 2012
Photo: The Division of Insects receives thousands of specimens as donations to the collection each year. Once in a while we receive dried specimens that are not pinned but wrapped in paper or plastic. Recently we received a collection that included a variety of insects neatly packaged in plastic. These specimens were collected in Indonesia and Africa.
Once the donation is accessioned, the work behind the scenes begins. Dried insects are very stiff and brittle, but providing a source of moisture “relaxes” the muscles so the parts can be moved without breaking. This process can be done in a plastic container lined with wet paper towels, and a piece of plastic or foam on top of the paper towels to work as a barrier. The specimens are placed on top of the barrier and the container sealed for 24-48 hours. Moisture builds up in the container and seeps into the specimens, “relaxing” them. They can then be pinned, labelled, and added to the collection.

© The Field Museum, Photographer Daniel Le, Zoology - Division of Insects 2012
Photo: Our curation standard for the pinned insect collection is to physically organize the specimens by order, family, and subfamily phylogenetically, based on evolutionary development or history. All lower levels of taxonomy such as tribe, genus and species are then arranged alphabetically. The scientific names are checked against a current published checklist to ensure that all names are valid. The unit trays are labeled along with the drawers, cabinets and rows. The point of this standard is for quick and easy access to the material housed in a collection of over four million (pinned) specimens. The specimens are then databased and in the case of the giant butterfly moths (Lepidoptera: Castniidae pictured here), each specimen was cataloged and imaged. You can check out our entire Castniidae holdings online at: http://emuweb.fieldmuseum.org/arthropod/lep.php 

© The Field Museum, Photographer Daniel Le, Zoology - Division of Insects 2012
Photo: Another major activity that takes place behind the scenes is processing specimen transactions. In addition to receiving and curating donations we also loan out our specimens to researchers and students just like a library loans out books. It’s impossible for everyone who wants to study our specimens to visit our collection so the alternative is to send our specimens to them.
The top photo shows various transactions that were recently dropped off to be processed. These include donations, outgoing loans, returned loans and incoming loans.
Staff from the Division of Insects also borrow specimens from other institutions. We process hundreds of transactions each year involving tens of thousands of specimens. The bottom photo shows an outgoing loan ready to be shipped to Australia. To ensure the safe arrival of the material the specimens are braced with insect pins to keep them from moving.

© The Field Museum, Photographer James H. Boone, Zoology - Division of Insects 2012
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The Division of Insects receives thousands of specimens as donations to the collection each year. Once in a while we receive dried specimens that are not pinned but wrapped in paper or plastic. Recently we received a collection that included a variety of insects neatly packaged in plastic. These specimens were collected in Indonesia and Africa.
Once the donation is accessioned, the work behind the scenes begins. Dried insects are very stiff and brittle, but providing a source of moisture “relaxes” the muscles so the parts can be moved without breaking. This process can be done in a plastic container lined with wet paper towels, and a piece of plastic or foam on top of the paper towels to work as a barrier. The specimens are placed on top of the barrier and the container sealed for 24-48 hours. Moisture builds up in the container and seeps into the specimens, “relaxing” them. They can then be pinned, labelled, and added to the collection.

© The Field Museum, Photographer Daniel Le, Zoology - Division of Insects 2012

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