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Most users ever online was 248 on Wed Dec 12, 2007 11:53 pm

Pinning specimens...any advice?

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Ian Andrews

Joined: 08 Aug 2007
Posts: 180
Location: Pocklington, East Yorkshire

PostPosted: Sun Jul 27, 2008 6:38 pm    Post subject: Pinning specimens...any advice? Reply with quote


Two things...

Firstly, I have just returned from Sutherland, where I spent some time on hoverflies and attempted to micro pin a few to a plastazote foam base, in clear plastic boxes. Used a D3 pin from W and D.

I just wonder whether such a simplistic approach works and /or is worthwhile. Will they 'go off'?

Already, colour has gone from the abdomen spots of Eupeodes latifasciatus, for example, and the heads of various have twisted round.

Does anyone have any advice on how best to keep specimens? I have downloaded a useful piece by Chris Raper on keeping a collection, but would be interested in how others keep specimens looking natural.

Secondly, what is the easiest and most efficient way to report my sightings? Several species I found are new for the area, according to the maps on this site.


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John O'Sullivan

Joined: 05 Oct 2005
Posts: 128
Location: Sandy, Bedfordshire, UK

PostPosted: Mon Jul 28, 2008 10:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Ian,

Collecting is helpful in the study of hoverflies, but preserving specimens is a challenge. Although many specimens will keep their shape and colour well enough to remind you of the living insect, others will distort and discolour. Such things can be minimised with experience, which is best got by practice, though there are some good published guides on how to do it (try Googling to start with). Pinning and allowing to dry is the accepted way with hoverflies. Whatever you do, don't allow them to remain for long in a damp atmosphere (eg in tubes or small contains), because they will go mouldy.

Using pins to spread out wings and legs in a lifelike manner (like a set butterfly) can give pleasing results, but takes a lot of practice to get right. Many collectors are happy if the specimen simply shows the identification, or other interesting, characters, and side-pinning, with a pin or two to hold the legs down and in view will certainly suffice for many specimens.

I could go on for a long time about this, but maybe others will have some succinct tips to give you.

I hope it goes well.

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Joined: 03 Sep 2005
Posts: 342
Location: Shrewsbury, Shropshire

PostPosted: Mon Jul 28, 2008 11:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hello Ian,
I would recommend C3 and B2 pins (D size sounds a little too thick for most hovers). Don't worry about distortion, as it rarely interferes with identifying specimens. The main thing to keep in mind is that the first season of collecting and identifying a family of flies can be a little difficult, but there after it gets easier and easier as you learn the terminology and the jizz of most genera.

I nearly always side pin my flies. This does not look so impressive in a collection, but in most cases it makes specimens much easier to identify, as you can pull the legs down, and move the wings up and out of the way.

I often keep my specimens alive for a good few hours, so that they expel "excess liquid" inside them. I think that this tends to make them discolor.

Chris Raper's guide is very good.

A spreadsheet is the easiest way to keep records. Use the following fields (column headings):

Essential: Species, date, location (use a name found on an OS map), grid reference, name of determiner, name of recorder (usually yourself,

Useful extra fields: Abundance (note of abundance), sex, observations (any notes you want to add), voucher (a note that a specimen is kept, in case it is a critical species that may need to be confirmed by the recording scheme).

Best wishes

Nigel Jones

Nigel Jones
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Roger K.A. Morris

Joined: 06 Nov 2005
Posts: 1645

PostPosted: Tue Aug 05, 2008 9:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hello Ian

Advice from Nigel is good, my one suggestion is smaller pins - I generally use A1 and A2 with B1 and B2 for bigger specimens - only C2/3 for the biggest.

My general rule is the smaller the pin the less the damage to the specimen.

I always side pin.

We can take excel files. I'm happy to check specimens.


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