After watching my sister and her kids have fun (and make money) collecting insects to sell to a feller in Texas, we decided to give it a shot. Paul, the owner of insects4sale.com, provides insects to museums, collectors, scientists, and students for study. Every insect we send him has to be catalogued and filed for future sale. If you would like to begin collecting insects for Paul, just contact him to get started. The information below will give you more details on how it is done.
Traveling around the country, we will have plenty of opportunities to capture insects from a wide variety of locations and climates. This will add to our adventure in multiple ways too:
- We will all learn from the experience, Identification of insects down to their genus and species is harder than it looks
- Insect collection is just plain fun and entertaining
- Every insect we collect, we try to learn a little about the habits of each species
- Keeping track of the money paid for each insect will help build math skills
- Learning how to save money from their newly found “Occupation”
- It is fun to try and pronounce the scientific names of insects
- Digger Bees are not just cute fuzzy bumble bees, they will sting you too…
The process for collecting the insects depends on what you are trying to accomplish. You can turn over logs, pick them off of trees, catch them in the grass, get dead ones out of light covers, use a shop vac to suck up bees as they go into their nest. Not all of them can be caught by hand, sometimes you need a net (or something to kill them with first).
Once you capture them, the easiest thing to do with hard bodied insects (beetles, cicadas) and the more durable softer insects (bees, wasps) is to place them in the freezer. This kills them and preserves them for future processing. Some insects are a little more involved when it comes to processing. Soft bodied insects (termites, mayflies) need to be placed in Ethyl Alcohol, where they will remain in vials for end use. Odonata (dragon flies, damsel flies) need to be processed using a special method involving acetone to preserve the natural colors.
Once you have a group of insects in the freezer, they need to be further processed before shipping them to Paul. They need to be removed from the freezer placing the larger, more fluid filled (June Beetles), insects on a drying rack for a couple of days to prevent sweating and foul odors. Smaller insects (bees, wasps) can be left in the freezer until the larger ones are dried. Once the larger ones are dried, you can place them (along with the smaller ones out of the freezer) into a relaxing chamber. The relaxing chamber is a box with a damp sponge and moth balls (to prevent mold) that will make them flexible again so they don’t break when you package and ship them.
Once you have relaxed insects, we separate them into groups for easier identification. The main method we use for identification is a web resource, bugguide.net. I had no idea how many different types of insects there really were until I started trying to identify some of these. Each insect is packaged in its own envelope with the following information printed on the outside:
- Date Collected
- Collected By (Scholl Family)
- Where it was collected (Watauga County, NC night light)
- Family Name (Vespidae)
- Genus (Dolichovespula)
- species (maculate) note the species is never capitalized
- Common Name (Bald Faced Hornet)
The family name is not usually very hard to find, the genus and species get a little more tricky. If you can only identify to the family name, that is okay, he wants as much info as possible on the envelope. If you happen to ID them incorrectly, do not fret, he will send you a spreadsheet when he finishes processing the insects including any corrections. If the insect is small enough, we place it in a gel capsule (like medication is often given in) for further protection. Larger insects are just packaged in the triangular envelope (you print these from an Excel spreadsheet he provides and fold them yourself).
Once they are individually packaged, you place them in a box and ship them to Paul. I also send an email to him detailing what is included in the shipment which helps him process our payment much faster. Here is an example of the email I sent with our last shipment:
Digger Bees – Apidae, Apinae – 43, Grapevine Beetle – Scarabaeidae; Pelidnota – 1
Brown Click Beetle – Elateridae – 4, Cicada – Cicadidae – 1 (with shell)
Green June Beetle – Scarabaeidae; Cotinis – 25, Longhorn Beetle – Cerambycidae – 8
Brown Beetle – Scarabaeidae – 6, Stonefly – Perlidae – 2
Dragon Fly – Odonata – 1, Walking Stick – Diapheromeridae – 1
Rhino Beetle – Scarabaeidae ; Dynastinae – 1, Hornet – Vespidae; Vespinae – 1
Wasp – Crabronidae – 2, Black Beetle – Scarabaeidae – 4
Brown Hooded Cockroach – Cryptocercidae – 2, Katydid – Tettigoniidae – 1
Stink Bug – Pentatomidae – 1
A lot of time spent processing the insects to the level of detail he likes. If I process them by myself with no help from Chas and the girls (folding envelopes, etc) 100 insects takes me around 4 hours. This time is reduced if you find insects that you have already identified so you don’t have to look them up. It also goes much faster if you have large numbers of the same insect. If you don’t want to go to that much trouble, he will accept a container full of bugs, but you don’t get full price for each one. The majority of your pay comes from the effort you put in (although some rare insects are quite expensive) during the processing. The average pay per insect is $1 each, so if you send 100 insects that are fully processed, you can expect close to $100 (deductions are made for damaged insects). I managed to get one hornet that paid $2, my sister has sent him several beetles that were over $30 (I haven’t hit that jackpot yet). He also reimburses you for shipping cost, and the cost of supplies such as gel capsules or vials. He will only accept adult insects, no nymphs or any immature crawlers allowed. You also need to keep in mind that he doesn’t accept Spiders, Moths, or Butterflies as he has suppliers set up for those.
As a general rule, he will only accept 20 insects of the same species in one shipment. You should check with him, however, because he may approve as many as you can catch (which was the case for digger bees since he didn’t have very many). I developed my own method for capturing the digger bees which worked very well. I sat my camp chair next to the nest, fired up our bucket vac (shop vac on a bucket) and sucked them up as they entered or exited their hole in the ground. It took some trial and error (and one sting) but I managed to catch 75 using this method. I also caught an entire nest of small hornets this way too.
Paul is always there to answer any questions you may have, he processes your shipment and payments very quickly. We are working on our 3rd shipment now, I usually tend to wait until I have around 100 insects before we process them fully. We are still learning the best techniques for collecting and processing, but will be happy to answer any questions we feel qualified to answer.
Paul’s Website – insects4sale.com