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How to best conserve a beetle inside a jar?

How to best conserve a beetle inside a jar?


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Few days ago a giant beetle appeared on my house. Well, it's dead now. Since it attracted some attention from my little girl, I'd like to preserve it inside some jar. What's the best way to do it? What products should I use?

I've researched a bit in the internet, and it's said not to use formaldehyde because the specimen would become too hard (that's not a problem to me, but I don't like using such strong products considering that a child will probably handle the jar).


The answer to this question depends on how you want to preserve it - as a pinned specimen (also dry preservation, most common) or in a liquid. If you want to pin it, placing it in a jar with a cottonball soaked with ethyl acetate (also used in killing jars) is good because it softens the muscles and makes the insect easier to pin and mount. Beetles are then usually pinned with a needle through the right elytra (wing cover), but there are also other ways to pin them. You can also glue the beetle to a piece of cardboard, which is then pinned. Gluing insects generally helps to protect them (so that legs and antennas dont fall of when handling them), but makes it more difficult to see the ventral side and it can also be cumbersome to have large glued beetles in a collection.

If you want to keep it in a liquid, 70-80% alcohol (ethanol) is a good choice, but not stronger (95% alcohol makes the insect stiff and brittle and might distort smaller insects). As you say, formaldehyde is generally not used since it's very toxic and it can also make the insect stiff.

Here are some more good tips on collecting and conserving insects from the University of Minnesota.


Acacia Leaf Beetle - Dicranosterna picea

This page contains information and pictures about Acacia Leaf Beetles that we found in the Brisbane area, Queensland, Australia.

Body length 12mm

This Acacia Leaf Beetle is the most common leaf beetle that found in Brisbane.

They are reddish-brown in colour. We easily found many of them on the Acacia trees, from early summer to later summer. Both adults and larvae feed on Acacia leaves. They usually found on larger Acacia trees of trees taller than 2 meters.

Most other Leaf Beetle adults only found during mid summer season. The Acacia Leaf Beetle adults can be found on Acacia all year round in Brisbane, although larvae mostly found in summer season.

Acacia Leaf Beetle Eggs

Female laying egg on Acacia leaf The egg just laid On early summer, we found something look like insect eggs on an Acacia leaf, near them there was some Acacia Leaf Beetle adults. We believed they are their eggs. We brought them home and a week later, the eggs turned into three little beetle larvae, dark brown in colour, with the same body shape as the later instars. Eggs 2mm, 1st instars 2mm A week later, we found another batch of eggs on an Acacia leaf, the egg colour look a little bit different. We took them home, later in the evening, those eggs started to hatch as shown in the above picture. The dark larvae had came out a few minutes ago and starting to eat its egg case. The lighter brown colour one had just came out. Watch carefully, we can see the other two egg case were about to open.

Larvae and Pupa

Larva body length 5mm Length 10mm Early summer we found many colourful larvae on a Acacia tree in Wishart bushland. Their abdomen is round like a ball, orange-red in colour, with black dots. They were feeding openly on leaves. At first we did not know they are the Acacia Leaf Beetle larvae. Anyway, we thought they should be beetle larvae. We collected two of them and brought them home with some Acacia leave as their food. Pupa length 10mm Just hatched The two larvae had no problem in a jar and kept on feeding on the leaves. We clean the jar and put in new leaves every two days. They were slow moving. About a week later, they went down to the bottom of the jar and rest without motion. A day later, they moult and became pupa. The pupa are not motionless. If disturbed, they will quickly wave their abdomen a few times. After eight days, the two pupa turned into the Acacia Leaf Beetles. After keeping them a few days, we brought them back to the bush.

Leaf Beetle Parasitoids

We found the Leaf Beetle eggs on Acacia leaf in Karawatha Forest during early summer. We brought the leaf home with the eggs. We kept the eggs in a jar and expected to see the Leaf Beetle nymphs came out. However, a few days later, we saw some small black wasp flying inside the jar. Carefully inspected the eggs, all eggs had a round opening, which is the typical mark made by parasitic wasp when they emerge. All five eggs were infected.

The Host Plant

Black Wattles are one of the most common trees in Brisbane's Eucalypt forest and bushland.

Many of this species beetles can be found on the same Black Wattle trees. Both adults and larvae can be found at the same time. They seems perfect large wattle instead of young wattle. On some infected trees, every leaves might have the beetles' bite marks. Thank to Chris Reid for the identification of this leaf beetle. Reference: 1. Dicranosterna immaculata - Botanic Gardens Trust. 2. A taxonomic revision of the Australian Chrysomelinae, with a key to the genera (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) - Reid, C.A.M., Zootaxa 1292, 2006, Fig 39. 3. Wild Plants of Greater Brisbane - Queensland Museum, 2003, p121.


Preserving Insects for Display?

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Inside the killing jar, the ethyl acetate fumes will kill the insect, and the tissue paper is useful to collect excess moisture. Another way of killing collected insects is keeping in the freezer for one day. For soft-bodied insects, cold treatment for 1-2 hours in the refrigerator is sufficient to kill them. If required, thaw insects properly prior to preserving them for display. As for the labeling data, include location, date, environment and name of the collector. Regarding further steps of insect preservation for display, there are various techniques, of which some are explained below.

Preserving Insects in Alcohol

The most common way of preserving soft-bodied insects is keeping them in ethyl alcohol (or grain alcohol) having 70 percent strength. Alcohol of this concentration is useful to retain natural shape and color of insects, without causing dehydration effects. Nevertheless, use 100% ethanol for preserving insect DNA in natural form. So, how to preserve insects in a jar with alcohol? Fill alcohol to the jar containing insect, seal with a rubber stopper and label it. Examples of insects suited for this method are grubs, caterpillar, aphids, fish-flies, etc.

Preserving Insects in Resin

This method of preserving insects is based on insect fossils, which get trapped in tree resin and amber. Although it is a not so popular technique for studying purpose, insects entrapment in resin is done for making personalized jewelry items. For this, select a mold (larger than the insect), and keep aside. Mix craft resin and epoxy resin in specific amounts. Pour this mixture to half of the selected mold, add insect (with ventral side facing down), press down slightly and then fill the remaining half of mold with resin. Allow resin to cure properly before removing preserved insect from the mold.

Preserving Insects in Acrylic

Embedding large bugs in acrylic is another approach. Prepare a working area by laying spare newspapers. Gather the bug to be preserved, mold (sprayed with mold release) and other supplies. Follow the acrylic mixing directions as suggested, and pour it in the mold to about half level. Add insect with its face down, push down slightly to secure the bug and wait for hardening. After it hardens, mix acrylic again and fill the remaining space of the mold. For getting best results, remove preserved bug after 2 days by gentle tapping.

Dry Preserving Hard-bodied Insects

The insect types that fit in hard-bodied category are beetles, termites and butterflies. Needless to mention, these insects are preserved dry, and not in solutions. In order to proceed with preserving hard-bodied insects for display, you will require display boxes and display pins that are long and thin. After killing, you can pin them directly below the head, near the thorax region. Find the middle line first, move slightly to the right and insert a display pin. You can spread the wings of flies, but never pin down the wings directly. Following this, put label and seal the display boxes to prevent pest attacks.

So, this was all about how to preserve insects for display. Collecting and preserving insects is indeed an interesting project for science students and entomologists. But, one word of caution is to take proper care while handling stinging or biting insects. And while purchasing the required materials, it is best to contact biological supply companies or universities. They provide superior quality entomology kits for collection, identification, preservation and display of insects.


Frog Eats Beetle. Beetle Crawls Through Guts to Escape

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Photograph: Shinji Sugiura

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The nice thing about being a frog is that you don’t have to chew your food—just gulp, and down the hatch. The problematic thing about being a frog is that you don’t have to chew your food, which means that if you’ve happened to nab the aquatic beetle Regimbartia attenuata, your food might come out the other end in an undesirable fashion: alive and literally kicking.

Writing today in the journal Current Biology, Kobe University ecologist Shinji Sugiura describes how the beetle, locked behind the frog’s jaws, turns around and scrambles through its digestive tract. In carefully designed lab experiments, Sugiura found that 93 percent of the beetles he fed to the frog Pelophylax nigromaculatus escaped the predator’s “vent”—aka anus—within four hours, “frequently entangled in fecal pellets,” he writes. The quickest run from mouth to anus was just six minutes. The beetles then went about their day as if they hadn’t just spelunked through a digestive system, and even swam effectively.

Apparently understanding their unique predicament, the R. attenuata beetles seem to have clambered through the intestines of the frogs. Sugiura showed as much by immobilizing some of the beetles’ legs with wax—this time, none of them emerged from the anus alive, but as feces, over 24 hours later. This all came as some surprise to Sugiura himself. Given that the predator and prey share habitat in Japan’s rice paddy fields, he hypothesized that the beetle could have evolved some sort of anti-frog defense. “However, I did not predict that R. attenuata can escape from the frog vent,” Sugiura writes in an email to WIRED. “I simply provided the beetle to the frogs, expecting that the frogs spat them out in response to the beetles’ behavior or something.”

Serendipitously, it may be that the adaptations the beetle had already evolved for the life aquatic prepared it for the great journey through a frog’s digestive system. For one, these insects swim quite effectively by kicking their legs, so perhaps they’re in effect swimming through the waste in the frog’s intestines. Also, insects breathe through holes in their hard shells, or exoskeletons. So to breathe underwater, this particular species of beetle traps a small pocket of air under its wing covers, which are known as elytra. (Think of the polka-dotted flaps that a ladybug opens to take off.)

Perhaps it does the same while finding its way through a frog’s innards. “I would imagine that an air bubble would help the beetle breathe, and may provide a little jacket to keep stomach acid at bay while an escape is made,” says Christopher Grinter, collections manager of entomology at the California Academy of Sciences, who wasn’t involved in the research.

But how does the beetle get the frog to, uh, open up the hatch? “Further experiments are needed to investigate how to stimulate the frogs to defecate,” says Sugiura. “However, I speculate that R. attenuata use legs and the body to stimulate the frog’s hind gut.” What that might feel like for the frog is anyone’s guess.


Stunted development

The problem is that in developing organisms there are limited resources available. Previous work has shown that horn size is negatively correlated to other traits such as eye, wing and antennae size.

To test the tussle that goes on between different sex-related structures, Emlen and colleague Leigh Simmons at the University of Western Australia in Crawley, experimentally stunted the development of horns in a brood of larvae of the species Onthophagus nigriventris. They did this by cauterising areas of cells on the surface of larvae that would otherwise have developed into horns.

The pair found that in comparison to a control brood of males which were allowed to develop normally, hornless males grew into larger adults with disproportionately large testes. In general, the pair found an inverse relationship between horn and testes size.


Insect Trivia

Take a swat at these insect trivia questions, courtesy of the University of Maryland Linnaean Games team. Lucky for us, the team is taking it easy on us. In an actual competition, the questions would be approximately ten million times harder.

1. What common bathroom item can be used in a killing jar to collect bugs?

2. What must a female mosquito do before laying eggs?

3. Centipedes have 1 pair of legs per body segment. How many pairs of legs do millipedes have per body segment?

4. Describe the marking on the abdomen of a black widow.

5. During peak production, how many eggs can a queen bee lay per day?

6. What insect was responsible for transmitting the Bubonic or Black Plaque?

7. How did the Hessian fly get to America?

8. Who brought the European honey bee to the US?

9. How many plagues mentioned in the book of Exodus in the Bible were cause by insects?

10. What is the name of the greatest current threat to honeybees in the US?

11. What is the food of honeybee queens?

12. What's a "king" honeybee called?

13. Who is generally considered the founder of entomology?

14. Who is the founder of entomology in the US?

15. Which beetle is featured prominently in many blues, country, folk and rock songs, including songs by Bob Dylan, the Violent Femmes, and The Presidents of the United States of America?

16. In what family of aquatic insect does the male of some species carry eggs on its back?

17. Who won a Nobel price for study of insect behavior?

18. How did the spongillaflies get their name?

19. What is pseudocopulation?

1. What common bathroom item can be used in a killing jar to collect bugs?
Nail polish. It contains ethyl acetate and can be used on a moistened tissue in a jar to kill bugs for collections.

2. What must a female mosquito do before laying eggs?
Eat a blood meal.

3. Centipedes have 1 pair of legs per body segment. How many pairs of legs do millipedes have per body segment?
Two pairs.

4. Describe the marking on the abdomen of a black widow.
A red hourglass.

5. During peak production, how many eggs can a queen bee lay per day?
1,500 eggs.

6. What insect was responsible for transmitting the Bubonic or Black Plaque?
The rat flea.

7. How did the Hessian fly get to America?
On wheat straw brought by Hessian soldiers in the British army during the French-Indian War.

8. Who brought the European honey bee to the US?
The pilgrims.

9. How many plagues mentioned in the book of Exodus in the Bible were cause by insects?
Three: lice, flies, and locusts.

10. What is the name of the greatest current threat to honeybees in the US?
Colony Collapse Disorder.

11. What is the food of honeybee queens?
Royal Jelly.

12. What's a "king" honeybee called?
A drone.

13. Who is generally considered the founder of entomology?
Aristole.

14. Who is the founder of entomology in the US?
Thomas Say.

15. Which beetle is featured prominently in many blues, country, folk and rock songs, including songs by Bob Dylan, the Violent Femmes, and The Presidents of the United States of America?
The Boll weevil.

16. In what family of aquatic insect does the male of some species carry eggs on its back?
Belostamatidae, or the giant water bug.

17. Who won a Nobel price for study of insect behavior?
Karl von Frisch for his work on communication between bees (i.e. the bee dance)

18. How did the spongillaflies get their name?
The larvae feed on freshwater sponges.

19. What is pseudocopulation?
Pollination that occurs when insects try to mate with flower parts resembling other insects.


Other Methods for Collecting Arthropod Specimens

A lot of insects are attracted to yellow. A yellow pan trap is a quick and easy way to catch them. Set out a yellow pan or bowl and fill it with an inch or two of water. Add of few drops of detergent to break the surface tension. You can either set the bowl on the ground or place it into a small hole so that its top is level with the ground. Insects that are attracted to yellow (some flies, wasps, and beetles) will fall in and drown. It is important to check the pan traps every day because insects begin to decompose quickly in water. Transfer the insects to jars of alcohol or dry and pin them promptly.


5 More Questions

Ask a Question Here are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

Question: Getting Rid of Tiny Beetles Inside?

How do i get rid of tiny beetle like bugs in house?

Answers

You may have to buy an insecticide bomb. Most stores like Walmart and target have them.

Question: Getting Rid of Tiny Beetles in House?

I hope somebody can help me. I'm getting little flea/beetle looking bugs that a tiny what looks like a shell (like a beetle) and wings. I've never seen them fly. Most of them seen to be around my hall and kitchen windows, on the draining board and on the units (not in cupboards yet). They also seem to be on the ceilings, plus some around the light in the living room.

I do have a cat and a dog so I know there not fleas (animal). Could anyone please help me? I don't know what they are or how to kill/treat them. Help me please.

Answers

These could be powderpost beetles feeding on the dry inner walls (studs) of your home. Better check it out. Here is more info : Pictures on bottom of page. Barry

Non Subterranean Termites And Other Wood Destroying Insects

Drywood Termites Termites In Furniture Dampwood Termites Powderpost Beetles Carpenter Ants

Unlike the Subterranean termite, they do not require any contact with the soil. They live in un decayed wood with a low moisture content.

Individuals are in distinct forms or castes - reproductives, workers, and soldiers. Each performs a separate biological function. Only the reproductives are winged (4 wings).

Their are no workers in the drywood termite group - instead the young reproductives and soldiers serve as workers until they mature. The vast majority in the colony is the worker caste and the workers and the reproductives have chewing mouthparts especially adapted for chewing wood. It is the workers who do the wide-spread destruction. The soldiers have powerful mandibles to attack their enemies (usually ants).

Male and Female reproductives up to 1/2 inch long.

Bodies soft and cylindrical in shape, usually pale brown in color six legged they have compound eyes and chewing type mouthparts. During the winged stage there are 4 equal size wings that extend longer than the body by 1/8-1/4 inch.

DIET:
Wood and occasionally other cellulose materials. They eat wood in houses, utility poles, furniture and dying trees. They can not digest the cellulose directly. They have other microorganisms (protozoans and bacteria) in their stomachs that help break down the cellulose which then can be digested by their own metabolism.

They live in small social colonies in dry wood. They mate and fly to new dry wood areas enter a small hole in the wood and start to form a colony.In the first year, colony size may be only around 50 . After 4 years, there may be as many as 700 individuals in one colony. At this time, the colony may swarm to start the cycle over again. After 15 years, the colony will have grown to approximately 3,000 individuals. They do not need a source of water and live off of the water that is produced from the digestion of the cellulose.

They infest dry, un decayed wood, including structural lumber as well as dead limbs of native trees and shade and orchard trees, utility poles, posts, and lumber in storage.

The Drywood variety have a low moisture requirement and can tolerate dry conditions for prolonged periods. They remain entirely above ground and do not connect their nests to the soil.

From these areas, winged reproductives seasonally migrate to nearby buildings and other structures usually on sunny days during fall months.

This type is usually found in the humid coastal and subtropical regions (i.e. California, Hawaii, Florida, Arizona, South and North Carolina, New Mexico, Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Puerto Rico). They usually infest attic spaces or exterior wood members exposed to them when they swarm in early spring or summer.

Click on map for a larger picture

Typical signs of infestation include:
1. Shed wings

3. Galleries inside wood are typical signs of a drywood termite infestation.

4. Swarming ants are many times confused with termites, but their differences are easy to recognize. At: Differences between ants and termites ,you will find a list and chart showing you the difference.

5. Piles of their fecal pellets, which are distinctive in appearance, may be a clue to their presence.
The fecal pellets of drywood and dampwood termites

Picture from: © 1996 The Regents of the University of California

Fecal pellets of drywood and dampwood termites. are elongate (about 0.03 inch long) with rounded ends and have six flattened or roundly depressed surfaces separated by six longitudinal ridges.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR TREATMENT IN DRYWOOD TERMITES:
Treatment for drywood termites consists of:

1.Structural fumigation. This is done by a certified pest control operator. The entire building is covered tightly with a fumigation cover and a sulfuryl fluoride(Vikane) or methyl bromide gas is fumigated.

2.Direct Wood Treatment(Spot treatments) To prepare for use of a a liquid, aerosol, or dust formulation, holes are drilled into the infested timbers through the termite galleries, using a 1/2 " drill in larger timbers and smaller drills elsewhere. Insecticide is then forced through these holes to be dispersed through the galleries. DRIONE DUST is labeled for such use. Dusts should be injected in the galleries in small amounts.
Too much dust would clog the galleries, and the termites will wall off and isolate these areas.

When treating limited infestations, aerosols like INVADER and Drione dust may be used. If you inject a water-based insecticide in a wooden beam..it may produce a favorable site for decay fungi. From: UC Pest Management Guidelines-Drywood Termites, you will find information on detection, whole structure vs. spot treatments, eliminating existing infestations, whole structure treatments and long term preventive treatments.

Another very good site to consult about the drywood variety and the options you have can be found at : Drywood options at University of Florida

DRYWOOD AND OTHER NON SUBTERRANEAN TERMITES IN FURNITURE:

Because of their ability to live in wood without soil contact, non subterranean like the drywood termite, powder post beetles, or dampwood termites,are frequently carried in infested furniture and other wooden objects into geographical areas where they are not normally found.

As the name implies, the drywood variety establish in dry, sound wood that may have as little as 3 percent moisture content. They are not dependent upon a constant moisture supply as are the subterranean type.

One of the common symptoms of drywood attack is the accumulation of tiny, straw-colored fecal pellets inside or beneath infested furniture. These pellets sift from small holes in the surface of infested wood or are pushed out through small round openings maintained by the termites for this purpose. The hard fecal pellets have six distinct, concave surfaces. Presence of pellets does not prove damaged wood is currently infested, as pellets continue to sift from furniture for many years after termites are controlled or die. However, large, consistent accumulations of pellets are a convincing sign the termites are still active.

If the furniture is untreated, use TIMBOR or BORACARE.

Spray and allow it to penetrate the wood.
It will last the life of the wood and kill the active beetles.
If the wood is painted or varnished, you will need to strip the finish to use either one of these products.

Drywood Termites and Powder post beetles can be killed by either extreme heating or freezing. It would need 1.5 hours in a heated chamber of 150 degrees F or4 hours in a chamber of 140 degrees F. You can also use freezing temperatures to kill these insects.
Exposure at 156 degrees F for four days will kill them. You will need to take care that either extreme of temperature would not damage the article.

They don't require contact with the soil in order to obtain moisture, but wood with a high degree of moisture is needed. They are usually associated with wood decay. Because of their high moisture requirements, they most often are found in cool, humid areas along the coast.

Pacific dampwood termites (at times called a "rotten wood termite") is a major pest at low altitudes along the coastal areas of California, Washington and Oregon.

Winged reproductives are dark brown with brown wings. Soldiers have a flattened brown or yellowish brown head with elongated black or dark brown mandibles. Nymphs are cream-colored with a characteristic spotted abdominal pattern caused by food in their intestines.

Dampwood termites nest in wood buried in the ground.

In nature, they are commonly found in tree stumps and fallen tree branches. In your home the most likely areas to find them would be an older wood deck, leaky roof eaves, leaky showers or tubs, or substructures with inadequate ventilation or plumbing leaks.

The Dampwood termite is much larger than the drywood and subterranean, measuring in at 3/8 to 3/4 of an inch. They can swarm periodically throughout the year and it is common to see the swarming reproductives caught in spider webs next to exterior lights since they are instinctively attracted to light.

The work of the colony is done by the immature soldiers or reproductives, there is no worker caste.
Swarms are small.

They produce a fecal pellet similar to the drywood termite's, but it is slightly larger and has a more irregular shape. Damage in wood can be identified by a velvety appearance in the galleries.

They produce distinctive fecal pellets that are rounded at both ends, elongate, but lacking clear longitudinal ridges common to drywood termite pellets flattened sides are noticeable.

The Nevada dampwood termites are slightly smaller and darker than the Pacific species reproductives are about 3/4 inch long.

The Nevada dampwood termite occurs in the higher, drier mountainous areas of the Sierras where it is an occasional pest in mountain cabins and other forest structures it also occurs along the northern California coast. It differs from the Pacific dampwood in being subterranean in "habit". It attacks only moist wood. This termite is of horticultural importance because it frequently attacks the underground parts os shrubs an young trees. It occurs often in citrus groves.It is also found in fence posts, baseboards and door frames of buildings. Flights occur in July and August in evenings after rains.

The Florida dampwood termite is found in the extreme southeastern counties of Florida and in the keys. It lives naturally in damp( but solid) logs near salt water, and is common pest of buildings in this limited area. It is not subterranean by nature, although it may enter logs beneath the soil.

Control of Dampwood Termites:

Chemical treatment may be not necessary for the control of dampwood termites. Since the dampwood termite requires wood with a high moisture content, correction of the moisture source is necessary. This normally means replacing the existing infested and saturated wood in conjunction with elimination of the moisture source.

Common correction methods:

Increase the ventilation in the affected area, reducing the moisture and repair leaky showers and plumbing.
Make sure you have proper drainage.
Construction needs to be designed to avoid contact of wood and soil.
If the damp wood is not accessible to be removed, treatment of the soil with an effective insecticide or termite baiting systems would be necessary.

Picture courtesy : UC Riverside Entomology

In this section we will discuss four types of Powderpost beetles in four families: Lyctidae, Bostrichidae, Anobiidae, and Cerambycidae. Adults do little damage, it is the larvae that does the major part of the damage.They go through a complete metamorphosis: adults, eggs, larvae and pupae.

Beetles can enter your home many ways. One of the most common ways they can enter your home is though a window that is not screened. A lot of these pests are attracted to light, and will easily enter your home that way.


Air Pressure Science Experiment: Balloon and a Jar

Use heat to change the air pressure inside a bottle causing a balloon set on top of the bottle to squeeze into it.

When you first set the water balloon on top of the jar, the air pressure outside the jar and the air pressure inside the jar are the same. As the fire burns, air, heated by the fire. rises and pushes its way out of the jar. This hot air pushing out past the balloon causes the balloon to wiggle. However, while hot air is going out, no new air is coming in (the balloon works like a one-way valve, letting air out but not in). So now there is less air, less stuff, in the jar. With less stuff taking up space in the jar, the pressure inside the jar is less than it used to be, that is, less than the air pressure outside the jar. Since the pressure outside the jar is now greater than the pressure inside the jar, what will happen to the balloon?

  • One large glass jar (a big maraschino cherry jar from a bar works well)
  • One balloon
  • Water
  • A bit of paper
  • Matches
  1. Fill the balloon with water until it&rsquos a little too big to fit through the mouth of the jar.
  2. Light a bit of paper on fire and drop it into the jar.
  3. Quickly place the balloon on top of the jar.
  4. Observe carefully.

Terms & Concepts: Air Pressure

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Instructions:

You’ve gathered your gear, so let’s get started! First, pour or pump hand sanitizer into the vial, filling about 2/3 full:

I overfilled mine when I was taking the photos – you definitely want to leave more space at the top! Next, put a bug in the vial and press into the hand sanitizer using forceps or a toothpick:

Don’t worry too much about the exact position at the moment. Just get them into the gel. Notice how many air bubbles are in the vial with the bugs:

That defeats the purpose of creating gorgeous display bugs! The original tutorial spoke of a few different ways to get the bubbles out, but I followed their preferred method and boiled my vials. This has the dual purpose of getting the air bubbles out of the gel surrounding the bug and removing the air bubbles from inside the bug if you are using dry specimens. Fill a saucepan with about 1 inch of water (water should come about halfway up the side of the vials) and place the open vials upright on the bottom of the pan:

Carefully bring the water to a gentle simmer, taking care not to let the vials fall over. Simmer for 10-15 minutes or until most of the bubbles are gone. NOTE: Be very careful that no hand sanitizer comes into contact with the burner or any open flames or it will burst into flames! ANOTHER NOTE: Unless you want little glass-shard-and-alcohol-gel bombs simmering on your stove, be sure to leave the lids off. The gel inside the vial will boil, so this is where over-filling the vials like I did becomes a problem. It’s not the end of the world if they boil over, but it does give you extra work later. After the bubbles are gone (there may be some large bubbles coming up from the bottom – don’t worry about those too much for now), carefully remove the vials from the water. Your vials should look like this:

No bubbles! Now position your insects in the gel as you would like for them to be displayed:

You can be as picky as you want during this stage! The insects will become soft as they boil in the hand sanitizer, so you can position legs and antennae and other parts relatively easily at this stage, even if you used dry insects. I didn’t care so much about the exact position of the body parts, so I just put them in the center of the vials where they were easy to look at. If there are any remaining bubbles, remove them with an eye dropper or pipet with a bulb:

Next, you need to fill up the rest of the vial. Leaving air at the top of the vial will eventually result in air bubbles working their way into the gel. I also learned through trial and error that putting cold hand sanitizer on top of hot sanitizer results in a WHOLE lot of bubbles! Let the vials cool to about room temperature, then add more hand sanitizer:

To avoid getting bubbles later, you don’t want to leave any headspace above the gel. Fill your vials a little overfull so that some hand sanitizer will squish out when you put the lid on:

If there are bubbles in the gel after you top off the vials, remove them with the pipet or eye dropper as described above. Then, screw on the lids!:

Wipe the excess hand sanitizer off the glass around the lid. Then, if your vials boiled over like some of mine did, run them under some hot water for a few seconds and wipe the vials with a soft cloth until all the gel remnants are gone and the glass is clear.

Voila! You now have some spiffy insects suspended in the center of a vial, perfect for displaying, taking to outreach events, showing to your colleagues, letting little kids look at, giving as gifts to your entomologist friends, etc. The insects will remain in place, regardless of how you hold the vials:

I think these are going to be fabulous for my outreach events! The insects are a hundred times easier to deal with when suspended in the alcohol gel than when left in vials of alcohol. You can also see all the parts rather well, even if the bug is pretty far from the edges of the glass. I can think of two downsides though. One is that, though this method is easy to do, it is a bit fiddly and thus takes some patience and time. The two vials I created for the photos together took about 45 minutes. Second, depending on the style of lid on your vials, you may need to check the hand sanitizer levels inside the vial now and again. I will be checking my display vials often so that I don’t get bubbles. Because bubbles are bad. At least if you’re a compulsive perfectionist about this sort of thing like I am… :)

Because you can suspend things inside the gel, you can do some fun things with your vials. Maybe try layering several morphs of the same species in one vial. I’m thinking of creating some life cycles vials that will demonstrate how my water bugs develop from an egg into adults. You could layer a whole bunch of insects in one really big container and use it as a home decor item. Okay, okay. I’m probably the only person in the world who would ever do that, but I would love it! Still, there are lots of possibilities. Play around and have fun!

Print, save, or e mail this tutorial in PDF format! Click on this link and the PDF will appear in a new tab or window. Also, the original tutorial has more images of completed vials, including some vials containing several specimens. Enjoy!