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NC State Extension

Creating an Insect Collection

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Watch NC State’s Dr. Orr show you exactly how to pin an insect!


  • Gallon zip-lock baggies
  • Insect pins
  • Styrofoam
  • Shoebox or plastic box to store insects

Let’s Do It!

Just a note for tender souls: Creating an insect collection means that you and your adult person will be collecting live insects and killing them. This will let you look closely at your insect and really study it and build understanding and respect. But some kids just don’t like this and that is totally okay! Don’t worry, just skip making an actual collection and make a photo collection instead!

  1. Insects are all around us – on land, in the air, in the ground, and in the water. Collecting insects can be as simple as capturing insects and putting them inside a gallon zip-lock baggie.
  2. Once you have collected some insects, put them in the freezer for at least 4 hours, or usually overnight, to kill them in preparation for pinning.
  3. Gently take your insect out of the freezer and look at Figure 1 down below and find the insect that looks most like the one you have collected. Look at the dot on the insect’s thorax and be sure to place your entomological pin directly through your insect in the same place.
  4. As you pin your insect, leave 10 mm between the top of the pin and the body of your insect.
  5. Gently position the legs and antennae to look like real life.
  6. Insects can be damaged or broken break or be damaged easily. Be gentle as your pin your insect and remember that once they are fully dry, they are very fragile.
  7. Tiny insects (such as mosquitoes) that which are too small for a pin will need to be glued to the point of a small triangle punch-out that has already been stuck through with a pin.
  8. For more ideas on wing spreading, labeling, and organizing your collection – download the PDF.

Do you love making an insect collection? Enter yours in the NC State Fair!

If you willing to submit your insect collection to the North Carolina State Fair, we want to help you get started. Visit this page to find out how you can get your free NC 4-H Insect Collection Kit.