Discussion about pinning insects

My point of view is the notion that you do this as a hobby does not mean it isn’t scientific.

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I quite agree. However, for the first decade or so I did not and most of the samples from those days have been replaced, so that information is gone. Then again - without that first decade, the latter ones would not have followed.

Now it would likely make sense to start with photography, but at the time it wasn’t really an option for a ten-year-old.

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I listed many reasons on my original post, and none of them included the phrase “because we enjoy putting them in the kill jar”. Taxonomic study requires the taking of specimens. Because you understand this doesn’t mean you don’t love moths. Taking specimens doesn’t mean we don’t find them beautiful. You can watch and photograph hundreds of moths on a sheet, enjoy them, and they will 99% not die, but an entomologist may take a few specimens of something interesting. If you don’t you don’t have a scientific record or a specimen for morphological or genetic study. Less than a 0.001% of the insects on my sheet will go in the jar, and those who do will get scientific immortality in a collection.

I don’t get this moral conundrum when every human kills thousands of insects every year, whether driving, or smashing pests, or gardening or mowing their lawn. To be honest this killing is useless to everyone but too few people seem to notice or care. They care more about a person with a jar and net. As far as beauty goes, just go to a museum and tour their insect collection and tell me that those displays aren’t beautiful. In fact it might be the only place in the world to see so many species assembled in one place for people to enjoy. Seeing a case of many species of Morphos will excite many a kid into checking out entomology.


I am against recreational commercial collecting, or unethical collection. Believe me this exists and is not usually used for science but for profit. There are some “butterfly farms” that actually provide specimens for those displays you see in stores, and it helps employ native peoples and protects wild populations from harvest, but those are not scientific collections as they normally lack data. People have mixed opinions on these.

But maybe see the human collector as you would any other predator of a moth species, and see just how negligible a human collector’s impact is on a moth species. Birds, mammals, parasitoids, and other insects take millions of individuals, and you still see many moths reach an old age where they are so worn out you can’t ID them. The human predators that really matter are logging companies, monoculture farms, land development, pesticides, and cars. People waste their time yelling at the person with a jar and don’t seem to realize that this human is trying to get more data on that species in the interest of learning more about it, so we can protect it. A series of specimens is not going to wipe out a species, and it’s life is a few weeks anyway before it dies. If that specimen sacrifices itself for the greater good of science, then why complain given the big picture?


Thanks for that reply, I can understand those reasons.
I guess I don’t like the idea of an uncommon, beautiful species such as a Ulysses or Birdwing butterfly being collected lots by different people, making them less common in populated areas. I can understand that many more people would kill them ‘for fun’ though.

For the record, neither am I!:joy:

That’s a good point…

that sounds really sad… Its almost like theyre being harvested like crops. I feel bad for animals or plants that get in life just to die its so sad… Im glad that Ive never had any pinned insects before. I know some people that have them for a collection to represent the diversity in the sonoran desert, they told me that they were dead or going to die so It made me feel a bit better.

Lmao I cant tell if that was a joke or an insult to vegans…

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People collect for a hobby? I thought people only did it to study them and for research purposes. That’s weird.

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In a way it was neither. It was meant to imply that if you are not a vegan, complaining about killing insects is not going to be very convincing to me.


I don’t own a vehicle, I don’t use pesticides in my garden, and I don’t have a lawn. And I have been known to go years without smashing pests. This is stating to look like a “butwhatabout” fallacy.

And when you say, “every human,” do you include devout Jains who carefully sweep the ground in front of them, so as to prevent their accidentally stepping on some tiny, unseen creature?

They also provide a product that inherently loses value over time, even for its intended purpose.

Then why are there prohibitions on taking specimens of some species?

There is a difference between someone eating meat because they believe it to be nutritionally necessary for life, and killing an animal for a purpose they know is not so. Again the “butwhatabout” fallacy.

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You kill tons of insects by just walking even when you for some reason decide to crush the habitat by sweeping it, it really sound as worse idea than just going.
Prohibitios are against commersial taking, series is never as big as amount of specimens taken to sell them, insects rely on habitats other than on twenty specimens.


It is my understanding it is not - it is just much easier that way.

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So the street and sidewalk is a crushable habitat now? Good to know.

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Of course, and if you’re using it it already means you’re ok with habitat destruction that happened to create that road.

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Interesting question. I don’t pin. I have no reason to do so. Since this is a hobby for me, I don’t feel my interests are significant enough to kill the insects that I see. I do know that to identify some insects you need more information than one photo or a series of photos can provide, but I cannot justify pinning insects to satisfy my curiosity alone, especially with insect numbers declining. That said, for many on this site, I can see the value of pinning. Entomology is their field of study and the information is important to science. They know what to do with the insects they pin, and their contributions outweigh the loss of one insect. If I were asked to collect an insect for an expert, I would probably try to do so. I just don’t do it for myself.


Ohh I see

This is a big reason. Maybe not everyone can feel empathy for the life of a creature so different from ourselves; but I think we on iNat can understand the idea of a tipping point – the idea that there is some threshold where a population can be too small ever to recover, and that a-little-here-a-little-there can add up to a lot.

I will say this: when I first went vegetarian, environmentalism was a main reason (that, and I was tired of experiencing “food coma,” which I noticed only happened if a meal had meat in it); but after I had been at it a while, I found myself increasingly caring about the lives of the animals in and of themselves.

I will also say: some of the respondents in this thread seem awfully perturbed by the idea of some of us not wanting to collect or pin insects; seemingly desperate to find ways in which we kill as many as they do. It reminds me of the pushback against vegetarianism.

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I feel like we need to keep things in perspective. As @rayray points out the vast majority of people crush insects when they see them. The only exception is if they fall into the “pretty insect” category like butterflies. If you disagree with this, I think your living in a bit of a bubble or in a place where pest control has been so successful that there aren’t enough insects left around for people to worry about. When insects are found in the home, the typical mentality is, “time to call the exterminator”. While we can talk about and even disagree about what we would want in a perfect world, we most certainly do not live in that world and never will. Taking specimens even just to promote the appreciation of these creatures is a win in my book for the insects. Collecting rare species can be restricted, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. If we are talking about stable populations and limited sampling (which is generally the case), I see no reason why a person can’t go out and collect and even enjoy collecting.

I also have to ask, would you feel the same way if someone pinned a cockroach from an infestation you had in your house? How is a cockroach any less important than a butterfly?

Perhaps it’s not exactly the same, but for me, I enjoy pressing (and yes killing) plants (even rare plants) because I love them. This may seem strange, but it’s all about the perspective. Collecting allows me to better understand the plants so that I can better explain to people what makes them special. Being able to better explain leads to a better ability to teach. A better ability to teach imparts a better appreciation in others. A better appreciation in others leads to greater thought given to them by the general public. I’m not going to apologize for enjoying this process when it is part of the necessary work to help people understand. Also, I wouldn’t want to bar a novice from the opportunity to have the same experience and teach his or her friends about these creatures. As I said, perhaps you don’t feel the same for plants, but is an insect really more important than the plant that sustains it?

Perhaps I’m of a different mentality because I grew up in the country where death was a common part of life (and there were plenty of times where it was more merciful to put an animal out of its misery than just to leave it suffering), but I really don’t get why so many people are upset with the idea of killing insects.


Just stop pretending that people who don’t pin insect are saint ones and who do that are doomed people with no empathy to non-human life, examples were presented to show nobody is that good and insect populations are decreasing because of habitat loss, without stopping it nothing will change to positive side, with or without collecting them, it’s a known fact for entomologists, kinda weird to behave like they know nothing about subject of their work and pretend they’re happy to kill anything, leading species to extinction while in fact it’s done by people who have little idea about insect existence.