Those who study many aspects of vertebrate and plant biology can observe and manipulate their study organ- isms in the field, identify them and, for larger animals, also capture, mark, and release them with few or no harmful effects. Amongst the insects, these techniques are available perhaps only for butterflies and dragon- flies, and the larger beetles and bugs. Most insects can be identified reliably only after collection and preservation. Naturally, this raises ethical considerations, and it is important to:
- collect responsibly;
- obtain the appropriate permit(s);
- ensure that voucher specimens are deposited in a well-maintained museum collection.
Responsible collecting means collecting only what is needed, avoidance or minimization of habitat destruction, and making the specimens as useful as possible to all researchers by providing labels with detailed collection data. In many countries or in designated reserve areas, permission is needed to collect insects. It is the collector’s responsibility to apply for permits and fulfill the demands of any permit-issuing agency. Furthermore, if specimens are worth collecting in the first place, they should be preserved as a record of what has been studied. Collectors should ensure that all specimens (in the case of taxonomic work) or at least representative voucher specimens (in the case of ecological, genetic, or behavioral research) are deposited in a recognized museum. Voucher specimens from surveys or experimental studies may be vital to later research.
Depending upon the project, collection methods may be active or passive. Active collecting involves searching the environment for insects, and may be preceded by periods of observation before obtaining specimens for identification purposes. Active collecting tends to be quite specific, allowing targeting of the insects to be collected. Passive collecting involves erection or installation of traps, lures, or extraction devices, and entrapment depends upon the activity of the insects themselves. This is a much more general type of collecting, being relatively unselective in what is captured.