Packing & Transport


The traditional and still most commonly used method to pack dead insects on an expedition is to place them in „butterfly-bags“.    

Eingetütete PhasmidenThis means that the freshly killed specimen is papered and placed into a paper packet to dry. This method is very good for Lepidoptera but due to the reasons mentioned in the introduction, quite unsatisfactory for phasmids. Apart from the insects drying to slow due to their soft and large bodies, a clear disadvantage of this method is, that the long, thin legs and antennae are easily broken during transportation or when removed from the packets. Very long and thin species are very difficult, or often impossible, to relax completely for being re-set. This problem can be partly solved by already placing the insects in the paper packet with the legs more or less moved in the desired final position. Another possibility, instead of using simple paper bags is, to place the specimen on a piece of soft paper (e.g. tissue) with a stable cardboard backing. Often cotton-wool is used instead of tissue but this may cause damage when removing the phasmids, which particularly concerns to very long and thin species. Then cellophane is placed over the phasmid and stapled around the edges of the cardboard. The specimen(s) should have the legs folded or laid flat on the paper and should not be moveable within the packet, as this would cause damage. Now, in both cases the packed phasmids need to be dried which can be achieved by the use of different methods, some of which are discussed and explained below. The most prolific and easiest way to ensure rapid dehydration is, to include silica gel in each of the packages or „butterfly-bags“ (à see method No. 3).
A second, still very widely used method to conserve dead insects (e.g. Coleoptera, Orthoptera) is, to immerse them in 70% ethanol. This method effectively preserves the specimens but will seriously discolour them. For expeditions it is only of limited use due to the weight and airline safety regulations, which prohibit the transport of larger quantities of inflammable liquids.

When the specimens collected on an expedition are wished to be transported without drying them, there is a method which works almost perfect with brown or black phasmids of all sizes and many other insect orders. It is however quite unsatisfactory for green or very colourful phasmids, as it includes the use of ethanol, which discolours the specimens. The freshly killed specimens are packed in tube-like paper packets, which are folded from a piece of white printing paper and need to be about 3 cm longer than the phasmid. One end is closed by being folded and stapled. Before the insect is packed, an individual number or the exact collecting data need to be written on the paper pack; this is best done with a pencil as this is resistant to ethanol. Then the phasmid is pushed forward into the packet with the antennae, mid and hind legs laid backwards and the front legs folded. Afterwards the other end of the packet is closed by being folded and stapled. When several layers of paper are used, the packets effectively protect the specimens and just little space is needed to transport large numbers of paperd phasmids. If individual numbers only are written on the paper packets, these and the corresponding, precise collecting data need to be noted in a separate field book. Finally, the packets are placed in an airtight plastic container and are slightly moistened with 70-85 % ethanol. When back home and ready to set, the specimens can be easily unpacked by carefully opening one or both ends of the paper packet.
On the flight back home, the papered phasmids are best stored in ones luggage, or for the case that not enough space is available, sent home by post.

The great advantage of this method is, that the phasmids are well preserved and can be retained for more than a year if the paper packets are kept moist by adding fresh ethanol from time to time. The specimens will slightly dehydrate but remain completely flexible and can be easily dried and set back home. Although almost perfect for all kinds of brown or black phasmids, this method discolours green or or very colourful species and is thus not very satisfactory if the original colour is wished to be preserved. Better results concerning to colour preservation are achieved by immersion in a solution of cane-sugar and formaldehyde or evisceration and stuffing with cotton-wool.