09 November, 2015

A restraining device to aid identification of bees by digital photography

by James D. Thomson and Jessica L. Zung

Although pinned voucher specimens are the “gold standard” for identifying insects in surveys, in some circumstances it may be undesirable to kill the study subjects.  If insects can be caught be net and then released, digital photographs can record details that improve the accuracy of identifications.   We describe a simple piston-and-cylinder holding chamber that quickly, temporarily, and harmlessly restrains bees or similar insects for portraiture in the field.  Tested in large surveys of bumble bees in Colorado USA, this device was able to prevent a substantial number of misidentifications. 

Photograph: Students netting bumble bees near the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory in Colorado.  Recent surveys along elevational transects have been conducted for comparison to similar surveys carried out in 1974 (see Pyke GH, Inouye DW, Thomson JD (2011) Activity and abundance of bumble bees near Crested Butte, Colorado: diel, seasonal, and elevation effects. Ecological Entomology 36:511–521).  Because many pollination researchers work at the RMBL, its Research Committee asks investigators to minimize the killing of specimens.

Read the scientific publication in JPE.

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