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MLA Full: "How to Pin an Insect." YouTube, uploaded by thebrainscoop, 18 June 2014,
MLA Inline: (thebrainscoop, 2014)
APA Full: thebrainscoop. (2014, June 18). How to Pin an Insect [Video]. YouTube.
APA Inline: (thebrainscoop, 2014)
Chicago Full: thebrainscoop, "How to Pin an Insect.", June 18, 2014, YouTube, 07:10,
Your dead insects and their details are valuable to science. Start your own collection today!

Producer, Writer, Creator, Host:
Emily Graslie

Producer, Editor, Camera:
Tom McNamara

Theme music:
Michael Aranda

Created By:
Hank Green

Production Assistant:
Katie Kirby

Major thanks to Gracen Brilmyer for all of her help in creating this episode, and Alexandra Westrich for pinning some insects for us!

Additional resources/instructions from Oregon State University:

Filmed on Location and Supported by:
The Field Museum in Chicago, IL

Thanks to Caitrin McCullough for letting us -bug- her to create captions for this episode! And Tony Chu, Barbara Velázquez, Seth Bergenholtz, and Katerina Idrik really -pinned- down those translations!

Emily Graslie: That's not a mantid.
Gracen Brilmyer: Yeah it is.
E: No, that one? 
G: Yeah. 
E: Really?!
G: No.
E: Oh, it- oh come on!
G: (laughing) 
E: Hey! We're here with Gracen today, who's a research assistant for Corrie Moreau, who you will remember from the "Romantic Ants" episode, and today we're going to show you how to pin an insect. 
G: Yeah. 

E: Do you have any, like, fun stories from collecting out in the field?
G: One of the most magical experiences I had was in Sweden where I was collecting a bunch of dung beetles. So you can find insects anywhere from digging in rotting logs to just, like, mantids that will just be hanging out on branches or, you know, grass, but I went out with a friend collecting in horse dung and we found a bunch of horses in a field, and we're digging through their poop...
E: (laughing)
G: But the horses were really interested in us, and they wouldn't leave us alone and especially me. One kept like just like sniffing through my hair and like wouldn't leave me alone the whole time. But it was kind of awesome.
E: It's like "Horse, bug off!" Yeah... That was a really dumb joke.
G: It was okay.
E: Oh. (laughing)

E: We have all these different kinds of insects today: cicada and the mantid, and a tiger beetle, but, where did they all come from?
G: The cicadas came from an orchard in Ohio. Tiger beetles are mostly- these ones are from Hong Kong, although you can find them all over the place. The mantids, I think, are from Equatorial Guinea, so-
E: Oh wow.
G: Yeah. 

E: So we're going to be pinning insects that are coming from jars of alcohol, so they're already, like, well-hydrated, but what if somebody is walking around their neighborhood or in their backyard and they find a dead insect that they'd like to pin or preserve, but it's all, like, dried up? How would they go about doing that?
G: Pinning a dried insect is pretty hard 'cause they're pretty brittle, but you can do a thing called "re-hydrating" or "relaxing" where- I mean, this can happen in any sort of container, I usually just find a Tupperware, I find something like a piece of foam to keep the specimen elevated, and I'll just pour really hot water in there and then shut the lid, and basically it's like a wonderful sauna for the insect, which actually relaxes the tissues and re-hydrates them so you can move legs, wings, things around again.
E: So just like, maybe, like a grasshopper sits in there for a day or two, and then it would be ready to go.
G: Yeah, yeah. And you can keep, like, replenishing the hot water so it stays really warm and steamy in there. 

E: Okay, so we've talked a little bit about how we get the insects and what state they are when we're ready to pin 'em, but before we can do that we need to know what supplies we're going to use to do so.
G: Well, first off, and most importantly, you need something to pin the insect to while it drys, so here we just have a good old-fashioned piece of foam, which I prefer. We have insect pins, which are specifically made for insects and they basically work as a handle, so that when you need to move insects around you don't have to actually touch the specimen. Two pair of forceps, you can probably get away with one. A little bit of vellum here that we use for pinning out wings if you don't wanna stick a hole through the wings. Some scissors. Labels, to know where and when the specimen was collected. You always keep that information with the specimen itself. 
E: So somebody hypothetically who is, like, doing this, kind of as an amateur in their backyard, if they wrote down the date, and where they're located, and maybe include some geographic information, and maybe the conditions in which a specimen was collected, that could eventually someday be used for research? 
G: Yeah, absolutely.
E: That's great.

E: Aw. Look at him! Kind of smells like pancakes. 
G: Really? 
E: Yeah, I just got like a syrupy pancake smell. No, that's wrong. That's- they don't smell like pancakes. 
G: The first thing that I do is just use a pair of forceps to straighten out the legs. Most types of insects, not all, the front set of legs goes forward. 
E: It's, like, bench-pressing.
G: And then the second and third set sort of aim a little bit behind. The next thing that I do after I sort of get the legs a little settled is I get the pin through it. All insects are roughly made up of the same sections. They have the head, the thorax, which is where all the legs come off of, and then the abdomen, and for almost all insects you want the pin to go through the sort of upper right-hand part of the thorax. Cool. 
E: Like that?
G: Yeah. I use a decent amount of pins when I'm trying to pin an insect. If you really- I mean, certain people are way more particular about the legs being symmetrical.
E: What would the benefit of spreading those legs out be- or, the wings?
G: The wings? 
E: Yeah. 
G: So that you can see all of the wing venation and see all of the morphology of the wings.

G: So the next step would be spreading the wings. So, it's really sturdy, the wing's not gonna rip, but if you don't wanna put a hole through it you can just use your forceps to pull that wing out. 
E: Like that?
G: Yep. 
E: Well, there it is. Wow.
G: Cool.

G: You can do it without putting a pin through the wing, which uses this vellum. We use vellum basically because it's- you can see through it so you can see what the wings look like underneath, and then you don't have to stick a hole through the wing. Careful when you grab the legs. This portion of the leg is the tarsi-
E: Okay. 
G: And it's pretty fragile. So that's the part that actually breaks... good! 
E: Yay. Well, we did it, this one. 

E: I love their chubby little bodies. 
G: The cicadas?
E: Yeah. 
G: Yeah, they're super-sturdy little insects. 
E: I really like cicadas 'cause they were, like, the first insect I ever thought about that had a lifespan that was longer than a matter of months. Then there are certain species of cicadas that are either on a thirteen- or seventeen-year cycle, so that they spend the first thirteen or seventeen years of their lives under the ground, you know, kind of, like, living off of roots of random various trees, and then they all erupt just for a matter of weeks, like, six to eight weeks where they breed and it creates this cacophonous sound. And that's a way to get a lady's attention, right? 
G: Yeah. Oh yeah.
E: Right? Pretty cool. 

E: Well, thank you so much, Gracen, for showing me how to pin an insect. It's my first time, and I had a good time. 
G: You did a good job.
E: Thanks! I feel good that I contributed to science today. 
G: (laughing)

E: It still has brains on it.

Transcript by Coignmaster