2019 sort session #1

As planned, the first Wednesday sort session yielded dozens of new specimens for the collection. I chose to sort through an old (2016) yellow pan trap sample from an ENT 432 field trip to Powdermill Nature Reserve. Here’s the locality, on the day the pan traps were out:

dorm made of wood and stone, nestled in the woods

Ravens Roost dorm in September 2016. Photo (CC BY 2.0) by Hillary Peterson. Click for original

The pans were in the woods, behind the photographer. I pulled out a variety of cool insects and spiders. Here’s one of the gems, a species we’ve collected consistently at Powdermill. Can you see it?

insects, mainly flies, in alcohol in a plastic dish

Insects collected in southwest Pennsylvania. Can you find the stalk-eyed fly (Diopsidae)? Sphyracephala sp. Photo by Andy Deans. Click for original

For this session I had three main goals:

  1. Feed my passion for arthropods and collections
  2. Grow our spider collection and learn spider taxonomy
  3. Set up a series of point-mounts to test a polyvinyl alcohol-based adhesive and its appropriateness for this purpose

The first goal was definitely met! That was an easy one though. More on goal #2 later, but I have a growing interest in spiders. I spent way too much time keying out three specimens: two linyphiids, keyed as the male and female of an Agyneta sp., and a pisaurid, Dolomedes. I don’t have a lot confidence yet in my abilities here.

Goal #3 will need more thought in the near future, but I am trying to follow-up on my recent review of the adhesives we use in entomology. The short version is that the adhesives entomologists typically employ in prep making—Elmer’s, shellac, and clear nail polish—have flaws that museum conservation experts consider fatal. Polyvinyl alcohol adhesives have recently found their way into the entomologist’s toolbox, but I can’t find very much about them in the museum literature. I think it’s time for a test.

I made a series of point mounts of different taxa, with different cuticular textures and hairiness, using Tombow 52180 MONO Aqua Liquid Glue. My first impression is WOW! This adhesive easily has the best working properties of any glue I’ve used to make point or card mounts. The tackiness and drying time are perfect. The finished mounts seem robust to physical disturbance as well, unlike the mounts I recently made with Paraloid B-72.

I’m a long way off from any rigorous test of point mount adhesives, but these sort sessions may just give me the inspiration and thinking time to design a robust experiment. Let me know if you want to work on this together!

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