I’m not gonna lie; labeling is maybe my least favorite step when preparing specimens. I do like typing them up (we usually do this in Word, as a table) and reminiscing about the collecting events I was a part of. Cutting the labels out as precise rectangles with minimal whitespace is also hugely satisfying, especially with our new paper slicer. Doing it right takes time, though, and the process usually means I don’t get to spend time admiring the insects themselves. This is also the step where we formally catalog and accession specimens, which requires that they get digitized. Data entry is not (usually) glamorous. That’s one reason we have several drawers of mounted insects that need labels.
During yesterday’s sort session I labeled and accessioned a backlog of 125 specimens, from four collecting events. The routine gave me time to meditate on label placement … among other things. We have an established labeling process already, but I find myself agonizing about it all the time. Here’s how we do it:
o | | |\ __ \) , (__).o.@c /|\ | [catalog #] | [collecting event] | [extra label] | [determination] | | |
Our catalog number labels have a data matrix code, which could allow for rapid scanning of specimens without manipulating them. That’s the primary reason for putting them on first. It’s also the label we do not want disassociated from the specimen; putting it in the highest position makes it least likely to get removed. The problem is that its placement obscures the collecting event label, inhibiting a rapid scan by eye. 🙁 There’s always a tradeoff. The extra label can be anything, from collecting event spillover, host plant information, data about specimen preparation, etc. The determination goes on last because it’s usually the last step.
I also added a new species to our collection: Sphyracephala brevicornis (Say, 1817) (Diptera: Diopsidae). We have specimens from Centre, Westmoreland, and Huntington counties. Here’s a photo of a specimen our own Michael Skvarla collected in 2006 in Indiana: