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Collecting Bugs

Collecting bugs is an exciting hobby for most children, and can be absolutely captivating for children who enjoy nature, science and exploration. Along with being a fun hobby, bug collecting can be a great educational tool. This hobby increases research and science skills as children read and study about their bugs. It also helps them eliminate (or avoid) any bug phobias so often present.

Bug collections can be vast and detailed or simple depending on the collector. Some children begin collecting bugs by using readily available supplies such as mason jars, plastic bags, or even plastic food containers. If you want to keep the bugs alive or just keep them for a short time, placing some food and supplies found in the bugs natural habitat can sustain the bug for weeks or even months depending on the species. For adult collectors, the beauty and rarity of certain bug types can be a rewarding collection to create.

The Hobby History Of Bugs

Bug collecting is a widely known and enjoyed hobby because of the range of purposes it serves. Collecting bugs can be done for hobby, scientific study, or even profit. The majority of bug collectors tend to do it as a hobby, but scientists can also greatly benefit from bug collecting. Regardless of the reason, bug collecting is an easy hobby to begin and grow due to the abundance of interesting bugs that can be found virtually anywhere.

Historically, bug collecting is referenced in early European cultural history, literature, and songs. Large bug collections exist, but most bug collections are smaller and more personal. The display and arrangement of the bugs is a highly personal experience. The personal nature of these collections often results in hidden personal collections rather than larger exhibits open to the public. Most current collections open to the public tend to be curated and managed by Universities or wealthy individuals.

Did You Know – Bug Fun Facts

  • A total of 69,292 beetles, 17,561 flies and 529 roaches are just a few of the species that call University of Central Florida’s collection of arthropods — known as the Bug Closet — their home.
  • The study of insects is termed entomology. Not to be mistaken with the very similar sounding, yet entirely different study of the origin of words – etymology.
  • Some of the most beautiful collections involve placing the bugs in display boxes or “drawers” for showing.
  • Arranging bugs into collections involves using small but sturdy pins known as insect pins

Getting Started Collecting Bugs

Collecting BugsOne of the best reasons to start collecting bugs as a hobby is that no training is needed to start a bug collection. Parents should however still be cautious about letting their children pursue bug collecting alone. Children can come across dangerous bugs such as bees, wasps or other stinging insects. If they don’t find any vicious bugs, they might find some prickly habitats such as sticks, metal, bushes, and anything else that might scrape or irritate the skin.

To start a basic bug collection a few key pieces of equipment are needed. The first key supplies necessary to start collecting bugs are storage containers. The type of storage container needed will depend heavily upon the types of insects that will be collected. The most popular storage containers can either be purchased or made at home and they include bug boxes and collecting jars. Tweezers and bug nets are also important tools for catching insects in the wild. A magnifying glass or microscope should also be considered for up-close inspection of collected bugs. A notebook or field journal can also be useful so children can log their discoveries.

Many insects, such as ants and caterpillar larvae, are available for purchase and can be found at pet shops or on the Internet. Although you might get the temptation to purchase your bugs, the best way to learn about the bugs is by going outside your home and looking for them. Taking a book on bugs with you is a great way to gather more information about how to find bugs.

Among other benefits, collecting bugs is one of the most economical hobbies for children because insects can be found everywhere and in virtually every season. Not only is bug collecting very economical, it is also an easy hobby and requires virtually no start up time. Children can head outdoors with a few basic supplies and begin the exciting hobby of collecting bugs immediately. If or when their enthusiasm wanes, you can also release the collected bugs and wash your containers until the next adventure begins.

Steps For Collecting Bugs

Step One

Before children begin collecting bugs, an adult should review any necessary precautions about dangerous insects. It is best to set parameters on how far children can go to search for bugs to avoid having children wander too far away. For adults desiring to take their hobby to a higher level, it is still important to take precautions so that no matter what insects are encountered, the collector is kept out of harm’s way.

Step Two

Many insects move slowly, and children will easily be able to scoop them up or pick them up with a pair of tweezers. Other insects, such as dragonflies and butterflies, move swiftly and can be much more difficult to catch. An adult can show a child how to effectively swing a net to try to catch a flying insect, and encourage them not to give up if at first they don’t catch anything. It takes time and practice to catch the fast, flying insects, as well as care – as delicate wings and body parts can easily be damaged by rough handling. For adult collectors, the importance of finesse and care is equally as important.

Step Three

Once an insect is caught, it should be transferred carefully to the proper storage container. If the insect will be kept alive, it will need a food source and proper air supply. If the insect will be kept for study, it is best to place it in a jar with a tight fitting lid that allows little to no air supply.

Step Four

If the collector is not planning to keep and study the insect, they should take care to preserve the life of the bug and eventually release it back into the wild unharmed. Children especially should always be encouraged to thoroughly wash their hands and storage containers after handling insects to prevent the spread of illness and bacteria.

Step Five

As equally important as catching and collecting bugs is the fun conversations you can have with your child regarding their pursuit and explorations. Show interest in your child’s hobby and encourage them to learn more. In addition to learning more about insects, collecting bugs is a hobby that can teach your child the value of natural conservation.

Tips And Tricks

The following tips and tricks can help you child get the most out of collecting bugs as a hobby…

  • Patience is key. It can take time and quiet observation to find and capture many insects. Some insects, such a butterflies and dragonflies, won’t come near if there is too much movement or an abundance of commotion.
  • Purchasing insects and insect kits can add a whole new dimension to bug collecting, often giving children the opportunity to observe insects such as ants creating their homes or caterpillar larvae changing into butterflies. These insects can be fascinating additions to a bug collection.
  • It is best to create a natural environment for the living, captured insect in order to give children the opportunity to observe the bug as it would behave in its normal environment.
  • Many unsuspecting mothers have happened upon live bugs roaming their homes as children begin new bug collecting hobbies. This can be easily avoided by making sure lids are always fastened securely, and sizing air holes appropriately.
  • Having an adult show interest in the bug collection and captured insects will make the hobby much more rewarding for a child.

Growing The Bug Collection

Curating a beautiful insect collection is one of the easiest and most impactful ways to grow the hobby of bug collecting. Here are a few ideas to expand the hobby of collecting and displaying insects…

  • A great way to elevate a collection is to purchase fancy boxes, tags, and many other supplies that will help to arrange and easily maintain a professional and visually appealing, organized insect collection.
  • Taking classes on environmental science can do a lot to further understanding and appreciation of the hobby.
  • Present your collection to a local Boy or Girl Scout troop as a practical way to share your interest and knowledge with others.

Related Resources

Check out the following resources for more information about collecting bugs…

University of Wisconsin Entomology Department -Useful tips and tricks for the avid bug collector

InsectNet.com – An online network for bug collectors – allows collectors to chat and exchange questions related to the hobby.

Cal Berkeley – Tips and resources for how to properly set up a collection

Related YouTube Videos

Check out the following videos to learn even more about starting this hobby.