1. A magic charm, talisman, or spell. 2. Magic power.
Comments on Curation.
Regrettably, I have borne witness to many a tiger beetle collection spoiled by poor curation. Hence, the impetus for the present series of posts.
I collect specimens straight into double-seal vials of 95% ethyl alcohol (isopropyl or 70% can also be used). Several vials will easily fit in a cargo pocket, safari vest or backpack. Thus, hundreds of specimens can travel safely being held in a liquid medium, and, if need be, stored until time permits to begin the degreasing process. I also use the same system when collecting New World Acmaeoderini (Buprestidae:Polycestinae).
Before storing, I insert a small piece of paper with basic locality data written in pencil into the vial. Other collection and locality details are jotted down in a field notebook for later reference.
To secure the vials while en route, I use a vial tray adapted to fit inside of a wooden cigar box ...
A piece of opened-celled rubber foam (upholstery foam) fits between the vials and box lid minimizing any jarring or rattling during transport.
Okay then, ... so what is "degreasing" and why is it necessary?
Degreasing, as it applies to adult tiger beetles, is the process of removing internal lipids (body fats) by placing specimens in a series of cleansing "baths" using a solvent, for example, Ether or Hexane.
If not removed, over time, these internal body fats may leach out to the exterior surfaces of the pinned beetle resulting in a badly discolored specimen sometimes to the point of obscuring the beetle's vibrant colors and distinctive maculations (markings). The hair-like setae will become matted as well.
I have found that it may take up to three, rarely more, sometimes fewer, degreasing baths of 7 to 10 days each to clean specimens thoroughly. After that interval, the ether will gradually discolor from the removed lipids. At this point, the liquid needs to be replaced with fresh ether. Continue this process until the liquid remains clear after the 7 to 10 days. When the series of degreasing baths are completed, the specimens can remain in the vial awaiting pinning and labeling. If longer storage is anticipated, return the specimens to alcohol.
A colleague, using Hexane, informs me that his specimens are fully degreased in about 3 days. In a pinch, "white gas" (Coleman lantern fluid) can also be used. I experimented with it years ago but didn't care for the final results.
NOTE. When using any of these highly volatile solutions use common sense and safety precautions:
- Store containers in a cool dark place.
- Always use in a well ventilated area.
- Keep out of reach of children - and some adults.
Next time, how to properly pin, set, and label your degreased specimens.
© Delbert La Rue 2012. All Rights Reserved.