Getting started with insect collecting

I’m about to get into insect collecting!

I was wondering what size of pins I should use? And how many I should get? Just a beginner here so no need to get fancy. I am aiming to start with grasshoppers, dragonflies, beetles, and bees/wasps.

Should I be strict on sizes? Like, could I pin a large insect with a smaller pin? But I get that vise versa isn’t very smart.

Any advice or tips?

Thank you everybody!

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To answer your specific questions:

For grasshoppers, dragonflies, beetles: use larger pins, maybe size 2 or 3.

For large bees and wasps, 1 or 2.

Small bees and wasps, I’d use 1.

For really small wasps, point mount them on the tip of a triangle of paper.

As for how many pins to buy, that depends on how many specimens you’re planning on collecting.

I’d start out with the common, invasive species, preferably from your private property or some place that you have permission to collect in.


I just get a set of pins from Amazon that includes 100 of each size (00 through 5), which lasts me about 1 year. As for pointing, I found a template online which you can download and print out. Other useful tools to have are Isopropyl alcohol (to preserve specimens you are waiting to pin), forceps, and a spreading board (they are easy to make).


This is downloadable, and contains information on collecting and preserving all insect groups, including how to point smaller insects. AAFC_insects_and_arachnids_part_1_eng.pdf (
A couple of practical tips. If you plan on spreading Lepidoptera, you will need a stock of smaller pins (#1 or 0) to position the wings, and wax paper strips with sewing pins to hold the wings in place. The smaller the pin, the more likely it will bend when being pressed into a substrate. Pushing a fine pin into the substrate is often easier from the bottom, using bent pliers. You will also need to use a killing jar. The best ‘killer’ is cyanide, which is kind of hard to come by. Ethyl acetate works well but it needs to be stronger than nail polish remover.


Useful information here also:

Methods for Collecting, Preserving and Studying Insects and other terrestrial arthropods


Note: Size 0 and below can be difficult to use, as when pinning a specimen they can twist or best really easily.


If you have laurel in your area (Prunus laurcerasus) you can make a killing jar from that. Take a few newish leaves, tear them up and ram them into the bottom of a small jar or large tube, about 1 cm deep. Put a layer of paper tissue on top, again about a centimetre. Needs an airtight lid. The leaves should go brownish in a few hours and when you take the lid off, it should smell of marzipan. That is the cyanide. If it doesn’t, try the same with a different laurel bush. They vary in potency.

When you have one that does give you a marzipan smell, that will kill insects fairly quickly - knocks them out in a few seconds, but leave them in half an hour to make sure. It will preserve them for months, years if you change the laurel occasionally. It also has the benefit of relaxing them so you can re-arrange leg positions, useful for carding beetles and bugs.


Thank you, this is exactly what I have been looking for! In this case, I think I’ll go for sizes 1 and 2. I’ll start with my yard enjoy that for a long while.

I’ll look into this! Maybe I’ll go for around 200 or 300 total.

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