How to Pin an Insect

Featured

How to Pin an Insect by Amber

At the risk of loosing part of my readership, I have a few confessions to make…..the first is that this is not my first blog.

My first blog, swallowed somewhere in the darkness of internet cloud storage, was a digital archive called, “Tiny Architects.” I didn’t work on it for very long. I’m sure you’re envisioning a sweet little blog about kids building and playing, making their own stuff, designing…….actually “Tiny Architects,” was a reference to another breed of little builders…..insects. Which is where my second confession comes in: I love, and am deeply fascinated by insects…….

Ichneumon Wasps on the Appalachain Trail by Amber

 

As a kid, I was an avid collector. I reared monster silk worm caterpillars, and staged sleep overs in our camper trailer with a white sheet and black light to attract night flyers at the back of our family’s sheep farm.

A good portion of every summer was spent in pursuit of the elusive and luminescent Green Tiger beetle; not to mention the lightening fast, Green Darner dragonfly. Once I was thrown into a tree (butterfly net in hand) by our ill-tempered pony during an attempt to ride him bare-back to one of my favorite collecting spots.

In the back of my mind, I always thought that I would someday become an entomologist, and truth be told, maybe someday I still will. Until then, I feel it’s time to begin to share my bug collecting passion with my young daughters, and hopefully you too, as insect collecting relates to cardboard… and hey! you will be surprised…..

Bug in the hand by Amber

 

First of all a few notes on the evolution of entomology. While insects are some of the most populous creatures on earth, I no longer believe that it’s a good idea to continue the old catch and kill practices that I learned as a kid. Save that job for real entomologists.

For one, we now have the ability to capture beautiful images of insects with smart phones and digital cameras. Photos last longer and I would argue are even more informative because they can capture the insect in it’s natural habitat, practicing it’s natural behavior.

If your child is an insect lover, I highly recommend the gift of a child-friendly digital camera with a good macro feature. It could also become a springboard for them to document their collection online in a blog, or through some other kind of digital format.

That being said, I do think it’s still valuable for children to handle and examine both living and deceased insects and I think it’s still entirely possible to do both of those things with a conservationist mindset. When it comes to live insects, we practice catch and release, and the girls use small nets I made them from re-purposed Badminton rackets. If we find something really interesting we observe it for no more than a day, and then release it again.

Badminton Butterfly Net by Amber

 

In terms of collecting, we have amassed a great little collection of insects that were found dead during various walks and bike rides. Those finds have been more than adequate for building a specimen collection.

Our prized creatures have been sitting in a small jar at the back of our freezer for quite a while now though, so if you’re ready to learn how to pin an insect, right here, right now, we’re primed to get started……..of course, we’ll need to build a little something out of cardboard first.

Pinning Insects by AmberHow to Pin an Insect at The Cardboard Collective

 

A spreading board is used to get the body of the insect into the correct position. The wings should rest at their natural level so that they can be arranged and left to harden. First put a pin through the body of the insect. (Pinning position diagrams here) Next, use insect pins and strips of paper to gently leverage the wings into the desired arrangement. Never puncture a wing with a needle as it will damage your specimen. Extra information about pinning different types of insects HERE

To make the spreading board:

  • Cut a base piece 14cm x 20cm.
  • Glue 2 more piece of cardboard (6.5 cm x 20 cm) on top so that you create a gap that is 1-1.5 cm wide and about 1 cm deep.

If your insect’s body has hardened, it’s a good idea to sandwich it between 2 pieces of a dampened cloth and wait (usually overnight) for the body to soften and become easier to work with.

Pinning Insects by Amber

 

This is a collection for my daughters who are 2 and 4, so we’ve tried to keep it simple. I haven’t added labels, (but you can) And we did not arrange our insects by scientific order. The girls chose the groupings of “Black Beetles,”  “Shiny Green Beetles,” and ” Bees.”

To mount the collection, we found an old container that held craft supplies, and glued cardboard to the base so we could stick our pins in it. To preserve the insects and protect them from an infestation, make sure you have a tight fitting lid for your case. Add cedar oil either on a cotton ball nestled in a plastic cap or by wiping the insides of your wooden display case with it.

Pinning Insects by AmberBeetle in the hand by Amber

 

This is just our little starter collection, but it’s fun to remember when we found these  insects and have funny conversations about what ants eat, and where caterpillars sleep at night.

I hope I can nurture in the girls the same love for nature that my parents gave me, even if they don’t go as far as someday staging a bug collecting sleep-over. I’ve already got the perfect one planned.

A Cardboard Glue Comb & Sneak Peak

Featured

DIY cardboard glue comb

DIY cardboard glue comb

DIY cardboard glue comb

DIY cardboard glue comb

I’m in the final stages of pattern testing my first cardboard furniture pattern! While my husband sweetly refers to this step as the first pancake, I feel like I have flipped so many many pancakes already!

Last week I was on a mad search to find a glue comb (oddly a tool that is uncommon in the U.S.) to put in (yay!) my new Amazon Affiliates shop. A putty knife was the closest stand-in I could recommend. Then my brilliant pattern-testing mother told me about the piece of cardboard she cut from the handle of a box to make into a glue spreader.

Wonderful, I thought, one less product; one less thing to buy. But I was surprised at how well this solution really worked when I modified it slightly by removing a strip of paper to expose the corrugations. Identical glue stripe-ing!

If you make a second glue comb you can use the two combs to clean each other before the glue dries, otherwise  just trim off the end and then cut another strip to make more corrugations.

OK, I’m in the home stretch now, hopefully I’ll have the pattern up any day now (whew!), and here’s a little sneak peak for all of you who follow the blog:

The Cardboard Collective

A Cardboard Toolbox for Kids

Cardboard Toolbox for Kids

Note to readers: Washi tape has since been removed from the toolbox (only to be rein-listed with parental supervision (full focus parental supervision)).

As a family of makers, a kids’ cardboard toolbox was next up on our cardboard making list. I found a smaller box with smaller handholds for the toolbox with real tools, real nuts and bolts and other real stuff, for real cardboard projects…

Cardboard Toolbox for Kids

Child sized tools: embellishment hammer, round tipped serrated cutting blade, spackling blade, screwdriver and safety scissors

The Cardboard Collective

Assorted screws, bolts, nuts and washers

Cardboard Toolbox for Kids

Here’s a peek at our first project. I originally saw this idea in what I believe was a February 2012 issue of Family Fun Magazine. They used dry wall screws and a rock for pounding, which would work too.

Cardboard Toolbox for Kids

We enjoyed the opportunity to do some parallel “making”. It was great to all be focused on different cardboard projects while we pounded, sawed and glued to our heart’s content.

Cardboard Toolbox for Kids

The accordion cardboard drop cloth is a great addition to this ensemble. I blogged about it last fall here.

The Cardboard Collective

Cardboard Toolbox for Kids

Do you have a cardboard tool kit or set of tools for your kids? I’d love to hear how others are making cardboard construction play accessible for kids of all ages…