How to deal with potential collectors

  • over the years I have dealt with many people in tropical countries who claimed to be interested in collecting phasmid and shipping me their eggs. Unfortunately 90+ % of all these people turned out to be useless, untrustworthy or crooks and scammers. I have lost quite some money, because I am a bit too credulous at times. So here some suggestions based on my experiences, maybe these will be helpful to others
  • action speaks louder than words !
    do not naively belive all the flowery words a potential collector sends, expressing his eagerness to collect what you want. Don't send any money before your contact proofs his serious interest with current photos of specimens and eggs he actually collected
  • a photo still isn't a good enough proof !
    some people are so scrupulous that they will copy photos from the web and send these as proof. Usually they have no idea about phasmids, so they will send you photos of any interesting-looking phasmid. So sometimes they even send photos of species which do not exist in their country (like an Achrioptera photo I got from an indonesian contact). Or they will send old photos while they do not have any freshly collected material in their posession. Therefore I demand photos which show the collected specimens together with a specific code written on a pice of paper. And I give them the code, which could be something like X3ZH8Q. This is the only way for you to be sure that the photos you get show current material. And this way he can not send the same photos to different persons
  • don't trust your collectors ID's or identifications. These people have no idea about phasmid taxonomy, and their ID's are usually incorrect or plain speculation. Ask some serious phasmid taxonomist for an ID of your new culture
  • make sure that you get informations from your collector about the exact locality where they have collected their specimens. Also make sure that your collector does not mix specimens from different locations. This is important in order to preserve the scientific value of each culture. More on why do we keep cultures pure you find here
  • don't be surprised if after a short initial contact you will get lines like "my child just died, I urgently need money for the funeral" or "my house burned down and I have lost everything". Do not fall for this. If your contact comes up with such lines then he is not all interested to put serious endeavour into collecting phasmids or their eggs for you. They just want your money without any counterperformance. If they are serious then they know how they can earn some money
  • on the other hand, do not expect to get eggs cheaply. In most tropical countries it isn't easy nor cheap to reach promising places. Therfore at first ask them to search in their neighbourhood. And if you are lucky enough to find one of those few trustworthy collectors, then be prepared for costs of at least 2 US$ per egg for common species and 4 US$ per egg for extraordinary species, ususally excluding shipping costs. The other option is that you fly there yourself, but that won't be any cheaper...
  • when to pay ....
    it is your decision whether you pay in advance or not. Usually you won't get anything if you do not pay in advance, so you have to take a risk. At least do not pay before you have photographic proof as described above
  • offer them a simple, easy-to-do and safe technique to pack up the eggs. And demand a photo of the packaging process and the final package. Otherwise you might get an omelette instead of intact eggs
  • express shipments (with delivery service companies like DHL or Fedex) are quite expensive, often 50 - 100+ US$. On the other hand regular airmail shipment is rather cheap, often less than 10 US$. But regular airmail shipments usually take a long time, 2 - 4 weeks from asian countries to Europe is the norm not the exception. Still such a duration should be OK for most species. I have received eggs of many species this way. But sometimes it even takes 6+ weeks for whatever reasons, and in such cases the hatching ratio might be reduced considerably
  • ordering phasmid eggs via postal services is always a risk, even within Europe. Many things can happen which can reduce the viability of the eggs. So do not expect success all the time