image used as white space
MSUcares header Link to home page
Logos of MSU, Extension Service, and MAFES Links to home page of website.

4-H Entomology

Displaying 4-H Insect Collections

Insect collectionMaking an insect collection is an excellent way to learn about insects, and insect collections are one of the main components of the 4-H Entomology Project.  Well-prepared insect collections are eye-catching and attract the attention and interest of most people who see them in an exhibition.  When most people seen an insect collection they just have to come closer and check it out!

4-Hers may exhibit their insect collections at local County Fairs and 4-H Exhibit Days, as well as at the State Fair.  Many collectors also exhibit their collections locally at places such as libraries, Co-Ops, or feed and seed stores.  The main venues for exhibiting 4-H insect collections for competition is at 4-H Club Congress, for Senior 4-Hers, and at District 4-H Project Achievement Days, for Junior 4-Hers. 

General guidelines and requirements for 4-H Insect Collections are discussed below. See Extension Publication #317, 4-H Introduction to Entomology for additional infrmation about making insect collections. For information on how to make a display box, see Information Sheet #653, Standard 4-H Display Box.

  • Collections should be in a standard Cornell Drawer sized box.  Dimensions are 16.5 inches x 19 inches x 3 inches.  Glass coverings are preferred, but plexiglass may be used.  Collections may be in commercially purchased Cornell Drawer boxes with press-on tops, or in commercially-made or home-made boxes with slide-in glass or plexiglass tops.

  • Insects should be arranged by orders, working from top left down to bottom right.  In general, orders should be arranged alphabetically, but flexibility is allowed when necessary to best fit the specimens to the available space--some orders will contain more specimens than others.

  • Label your collection.  The collector’s name, age, club, county, along with the number of Orders and specimens should be written on a label or piece of tape that is fixed across the top lip of the box.

  • Label each of your specimens.  Date and locality labels are placed on the pins first, and should be positioned just under the legs of the specimen.  Common name labels should be placed on the pin so that they rest flat on the floor of the box with a space between the two labels.  Every pin should have two labels, 1) date and locality and 2) common name or family.

  • Use only insect pins for pinning insect specimens.  Follow the instructions in Extension Publication 317, 4-H Introduction to Entomology, for pinning and labeling insects.  Soft-bodied insects, such as caterpillars, may be placed in leak-proof vials containing ethyl alcohol.  Be sure vials are well-secured in the box so they do not roll around and damage pinned specimens.  Labels for specimens in vials may be placed on a pin near the vial.

  • Take appropriate precautions to protect specimens from being damaged by dermestid beetles.

  • The minimum requirements for first year collectors to display an insect collections in competition are: at least 10 orders and at least 50 insects.

Some of the more important criteria used in judging insect collections are:

--  number of different orders represented
--  total number of specimens in collection
--  accuracy of identification, to order, and common name (if known), or family
    (identification to genus and species is not required, or encouraged)
--  uniformity of mounting and labeling
--  neatness and arrangement
--  condition of specimens
--  correct size display box (19 inches x 16.5 inches x 3 inches)


Specialized Collections:  Specialized collections are usually made by senior 4-Hers who have already completed an outstanding general insect collection and reached the point where they want to specialize.  Examples of specialized collections include collections that only contain only butterflies, or only beetles, or only members of one family of beetles.  Specialized collections can also focus on some other area of commonality.  For example, one could make a collection of insects that bore in wood, insect pollinators, non-native insect that now occur in the state, or insect pests of vegetable gardens.  Some collectors even choose to specialize in collecting non-insect arthropods such as ticks or spiders or arachnids as a group.  Specialized collections may be entered in 4-H Insect Collection contests, but in most cases collectors who have advanced to this level are doing so for their own interest rather than for competition.