17. Methods in entomology: collecting, preservation, curation, and identification
For many entomologists, questions of how and what to collect and preserve are determined by the research project (see also section 13.4). Choice of methods may depend upon the target taxa, life-history stage, geographical scope, kind of host plant or animal, disease vector status, and most importantly, sampling design and cost-effectiveness. One factor common to all such studies is the need to communicate the information unambiguously to others, not least concerning the identity of the study organism(s). Undoubtedly, this will involve identification of specimens to provide names (section 1.4), which are necessary not only to tell others about the work, but also to provide access to previously published studies on the same, or related, insects. Identification requires material to be appropriately preserved so as to allow recognition of morphological features which vary among taxa and life-history stages. After identifications have been made, the specimens remain important, and even have added value, and it is important to preserve some material (vouchers) for future reference. As information grows, it may be necessary to revisit the specimens to confirm identity, or to compare with later-collected material.
In this chapter we review a range of collecting methods, mounting and preservation techniques, and specimen curation, and discuss methods and principles of identification.