Semper Fidelis - Semper Discentes

Whipping the Beetles Into Line

In Coleoptera on March 19, 2013 at 11:33 pm

Well, since I’m not fabulously wealthy, like Kent Fothergill, who can afford those nifty museum drawers, nor fantastically handy, like Mickey or Skyler McLean, who can BUILD the things, I’ve had my fledgling beetle collection housed in free USPS mailing boxes. (See “Forty-five Cent Insect Collection Boxes” post on this blog). It’s worked out fairly well, but I wanted to add a certain…er…spiffiosity to the collection, without spending a full bag o’ bucks.

While down at my local building supply store, I noticed those short (12″h x 10″w x 10″d) plastic cabinets, each with five drawers, in which nuts and bolts are distributed for sale. Cardboard inserts are normally placed in each drawer to hold each individual nut and/or bolt size, and they seemed like just the thing.

The owner didn’t have any lying around, although he checked thoroughly, and said he’d GIVE me any surplus ones he found (Be sure to buy ALL your building supplies from Mike Roberts, at Mansfield Building Supply!). He did, however, contact his Official Nuts And Bolts Supply Guy, who promised to deliver as many as I wanted, for twenty-five bucks a pop. I wanted THREE.

The plastic cabinet.

The plastic cabinet.

Cost thus far: $75

I then went down to my neighborhood dollar store (I just LOVE Dollar General. You should shop there regularly.) and bought SEVEN sheets of 20″x30″ foam posterboard, at a dollar each. I really only needed five, but figured I’d surely screw something up during the process. $7.45

Cost thus far: $82.45

The cabinets were not EXACTLY as I’d have liked. Each drawer was divided into two sections, front and back, by a short un-removable plastic divider. The front section was 10-3/4″ x 5″, and the back was 10-3/4″ x 5-1/4″. I cut up the posterboard to make fifteen of each size.

I checked out Arnett’s two-volume American Beetles and saw that he had listed 131 families of American beetles. In his American Insects, he claims that twelve of the families “account for approximately 70% of all beetle species. Thus educated, I decided to give each of those twelve species its own half-drawer, since I figured I’d probably catch more of them than the others. I then divided (using a Sharpie pen) the remaining 18 posterboard cutouts into 119 sections, six to some boards and seven to others. I wish I’d noticed that he didn’t consider Cincindelidae to be a separate family, so I could have added another section.

Posterboard cut to size, with family labels attached.

Posterboard cut to size, with family labels attached.

On my computer, I printed out two lists of the species, alphabetized them, and cut out each individual one, as a label for each section drawn on the posterboard. I cut out the second section of labels in blocks of 13 or 14 species, to serve as labels for the drawers.

Cabinet labels, for each drawer.

Cabinet labels, for each drawer.

Glued all the labels here and there. Didn’t count the cost of the Sharpie, nor the glue, nor the scissors, which were just lying around anyway. Total cost: $82.45, including tax.

Moved all the beetles into the drawers, which look substantially better than the cardboard boxes, albeit with a few drawbacks.

Beetles pinned and labeled.

Beetles pinned and labeled.

The fronts of the drawers are open, which might allow insect/environmental damage to the specimens over time. I’d used mothballs in the previous boxes, but don’t know how effective they’d be in the open air.

The drawers do not pull completely out, which means I must actually remove the posterboard bases from the rear half of the drawer if I want to get at the bugs back there.

Before and after.  USPS boxes (top) and plastic cabinetry (below)

Before and after. USPS boxes (top) and plastic cabinetry (below)

In the meantime, I’m being real nice to Kent, so that he’ll leave me his museum drawers, should he (perish the thought!) be run over by a beer truck.


Arnett, Ross H., Jr., American Insects, Second Edition, CRC Press, 2000.

Arnett, Ross H., Jr. & Michael C. Thomas, American Beetles, Volume 1, CRC Press, 2001.

Arnett, Ross H., Jr., Michael C. Thomas, Paul E. Skelley & J. Howard Frank, American Beetles, Volume 2, CRC Press, 2002.

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