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Most users ever online was 305 on Mon Nov 18, 2019 11:39 am

Specimen rescue?

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Simon J

Joined: 28 Nov 2007
Posts: 2

PostPosted: Tue Dec 11, 2007 10:31 pm    Post subject: Specimen rescue? Reply with quote


I collected some Syrphidae specimens last summer and, for convenience, put them in a plastic tube I had in my pocket on site for safekeeping until I could pin them and try to identify them. However, I misplaced the tube and have only just re-discovered it, some six months later. Needless to say, the specimens now have a coating of mould to varying degrees. Is there a way I can save these specimens, or are they irretrievable?

I would be most grateful if anyone can assist with some rescue advice.

Thanks in hope, Simon J Crying or Very sad

P.S. New member. Novice Dipterist. Love the website.
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John O'Sullivan

Joined: 05 Oct 2005
Posts: 128
Location: Sandy, Bedfordshire, UK

PostPosted: Sat Dec 15, 2007 9:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Simon,

A similar thing happened to me when I began collecting hoverflies; probably many other readers will know what it feels like. I managed to save a couple of specimens by removing the mould with fine-pointed tweezers, and then by drying them thoroughly in the open air; but most had to be discarded. This was not too serious, as they were all common species, but nevertheless it was a waste, and I have tried to avoid the problem ever since.

What follows should be accompanied by a HEALTH WARNING, and I would attach a Skull and Crossbones Emoticon if there was one.

Oldroyd (1958) states on page 99 "When the specimen is covered with mould or strands of fungus, these can be removed with a paint brush dipped in phenol (carbolic acid)...Phenol is corrosive if dropped on the skin." On page 132 he states "Mould can be removed by cleaning the specimen in a solution of glacial phenol in benzene in the ratio of 1:10 or in dilute formaldehyde".

I reckon that this kind of thing will very likely be regarded as unacceptable nowadays, except possibly in museums and like establishments. Perhaps other readers would care to comment on this aspect. I personally would not consider using these chemicals, and I don't recommend their use to you. Oldroyd is worth reading, though, for many other useful hints, and for a nice historical feel.

Oldroyd, H (1958), "Collecting, preserving and studying insects", Hutchinson and Co. Ltd., London. Second Revised Edition 1970.

Good luck and I hope you enjoy the Forum.

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Simon J

Joined: 28 Nov 2007
Posts: 2

PostPosted: Sun Dec 16, 2007 7:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote


Many thanks for your advice. I'll first try the physical removal of the mould as you suggest - some aren't as badly infected as others.

The chemical treatment does sound rather hazardous though, and I don't think the specimens I have are worth the hassle of trying to source the requisite chemicals, or risk their usage.

It is interesting to read about how it was done not that long ago, and makes me wonder whether some of the chemicals we use now that are deemed acceptable might, in 50 years' time, be frowned upon due to being carcinogenic...

Thanks again, Simon.
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