The Stream Doctor

October 4th, 2004

Email YOUR Questions directly to the Stream Doctor. This is your opportunity to get an experts professional opinion on anything stream related.

Q. Please recommend a system for the collection and preservation of aquatic insects. I am especially interested in what chemical to use in a 'kill jar.' I tried my wife's finger nail polish remover and by the time I got home all the insects had turned a dark brown. Do you recommend any entomology supply houses or books/pamphlets that cover insect collection and preservation? Thank you, I enjoy your articles.

A. You mentioned use of a "kill jar" so I am assuming that you are collecting adults rather than immatures. However, I would guess that you must have some interest in the immatures, so I'll throw in some information on them, too.

A good source for these materials is the company BioQuip, located at 17803 LaSalle Ave., Gardena, CA 90248-3602. There phone number is (310)324-7931; they will be glad to send you their catalog if you request it. This is the source book for the equipment; below I'll give you some references to methods.

According to BioQuip, the two killing chemicals of choice for adults are ethyl acetate and ammonium carbonate. Immatures are best preserved in 70% alcohol or one of the different solutions such as KAAD, Pampel's Solution, or Peterson's Solution. All of these are mentioned in the BioQuip catalog. I've been satisfied with 70% alcohol, but taxonomists and other folks who must maintain long-term, permanent collections usually use one or more of the special solutions.

Two books which contain information about collecting and preserving aquatic insects are:

Merritt, R.W. and K.W. Cummins.1996. An Introduction to the Aquatic Insects of North America, 3rd Ed., Kendall/Hunt Publ. Co., Dubuque, IA. ISBN 0-7872-1761-1

Edmunds, G.F., Jr., S.L. Jensen, and L. Berner. 1976. The Mayflies of North and Central America. Univ. of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis. ISBN 0-8166-0759-1

The book by Edmunds is perhaps more applicable to your interests, whereas the chapter in Merritt and Cummins also involves a lot of material about designing sampling programs and other information pertaining to scientific studies. Similar information is available in most of the books addressing various insect groups If you have trouble locating something that suits your needs, get in touch with me (phone-970-577-1584, email- and maybe I can suggest something else or even xerox some pages out of my books to send you.

If you have a question, please feel free to contact me.
~ C. E. (Bert) Cushing, aka Streamdoctor
105 W. Cherokee Dr.
Estes Park, CO 80517
Phone: 970-577-1584

The 'Stream Doctor' is a retired professional stream ecologist and author, now living in the West and spending way too much time fly-fishing. You are invited to submit questions relating to anything stream related directly to him for use in this Q & A Feature at

If you would like to comment on this or any other article please feel free to post your views on the FAOL Bulletin Board!

Previous Stream Doctor Columns

[ HOME ]

[ Search ] [ Contact FAOL ] [ Media Kit ] © Notice