Semper Fidelis - Semper Discentes

Forty-five Cent Insect Collection Boxes

In Entomology-General on April 2, 2013 at 2:49 pm

I really feel a little guilty about passing this tip along.  Seems a little …er…sneaky, I guess.

I started my insect collections over the past couple of years.  The odonates (dragonflies and damselflies) are pretty easy to store.  You just slip them into a glassine envelope, wings folded, and slide an index card behind them, with all the collection data.  I use a series of little plastic index card boxes to keep everything neat.

Beetles and butterflies, however, are a different story.  They have to be pinned, and I have to make tiny little labels for each specimen, with the bug a certain distance from the top of the pin, and the two labels spaced just so.  Then, I pin them neatly into cardboard boxes that have a foam bottom.

When I started, I bought a couple of the boxes from a scientific supply house.  As I remember, these simple cardboard boxes, about 8×11 inches, with lids, cost me WELL over ten bucks each.

Well, the boxes are finally starting to get full.  Not having any extra money to toss away on cardboard, I came up with a terrific way to get a DOZEN great boxes, and have only shelled out a grand total of FIVE DOLLARS AND THIRTY-THREE CENTS (including tax)!!

First, let me say…

I LOVE the United States Postal Service.  They bring me all sorts of neat stuff every day, even way out in the Ozark wilderness where I live.  I keep in touch with great folks, all over the country, and only have to pay forty-four cents to send them a letter.  My local postal employees are friendly, courteous and efficient, and it is a joy to deal with them.

That being said…

Go down to your local post office and get two or three “Priority Mail Medium Flat Rate Boxes”.  Don’t get greedy.  Just get a few.  The post office will GIVE them to you.  You are supposed to take them home, cram them full of stuff, then go BACK to the post office and give them ten or eleven bucks, and they’ll send them anywhere in the country.  You don’t pay ANYTHING until you bring them back to mail them.

The boxes require simple assembly.  Basically, you should separate the box at the little flap where the long sides are joined.  Then, fold the box together as per USPS instructions.  You now have a super-nifty box, with folding lid, that is about 11×14.5 inches.  So far, you have paid NOTHING.

Then, go down to the Wal-Mart “arts and crafts section” and buy a package containing twelve sheets of thin foam.  My Wal-Mart sold this in a pack with an assortment of colors, each sheet quite thin and measuring 11.8″ x 17.7″.  Total cost: $5.33, including tax.

I then went home and cut about 4-1/4 inches off the long side of each sheet, and glued one sheet into the bottom of each box with some good old Elmer’s School Glue.  Fits perfectly.

VOILA!!  A DOZEN insect pinning boxes, costing me just a shade under 45 cents each.  I suppose, if you are extra cheap…er…thrifty, you could skip the foam altogether and just pin the bugs directly to the cardboard, and the whole thing would be completely free.

Of course, if you’re bothered about having your insect collection housed in red-white-and-blue United States Postal Service Priority Mail boxes, I suppose you could paint the outside, to disguise your crime.  I’m gonna leave mine just as they are, at least until the Postal Police come knocking on my door.
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