Microscope focus rack-camera adapter

08 December 2017

Most of the beetle plate images I upload on this page are focus-stacked images of, in average, from 20 to 50 images. Museums and Institutions now commonly use this photographing technique to illustrate the clear and focused image of insect specimens, with electronically and remotely moving focus rails and lenses. Since those equipment are very expensive, I just tightly hold down my camera on desk with one hand then turning the focus ring with my other hand to move the focus point. I then merge the files into one single file using Adobe Photoshop. It usually works well, as long as legs or any other part of specimen do not cross over each other. If they cross over each other, I will be needing more and more images to accurately process it. This, however, is very inconvenient way of shooting as I do not have the fancy equipment. I decided to make an adapter for the camera to be attached on a focus rack of my microscope. I quickly measured rough sizes of camera, lens, focus rack, etc. to draw up on CAD for 3D printing.

3D print design

Finished product from the 3D printing service

L: Adapter fits on focus rack perfectly!
R: Camera fits on the adapter very well!

This is how the adapter sits on the rack to hold the camera tightly. Now, I’m able to change the focus more slightly in detail, and more conveniently work on shooting images. As I don’t have to change the focus by turning the focus ring of the lens, I can take more and more shots of images. Below is an example image from this method of Mecynorrhina polyphemus female. Fifty two files are merged.


If I held the camera on hand and try to change the focus point by turning the lens, I might have ended up taking only about 20 images or more. Excuse me for such a dusty specimen. In case of specimens with depth, like major species in genus Golofa, I might be able to easily take more than 100 images. Next project for this method would be the LIGHTINGS, the flash diffuser, most likely.


The Unit Tray System

20 August 2017

The Unit Tray System is one method of organizing and sorting your collections in collection drawers. Using small trays, you can categorize and group specimens. Many research institutes use this unit tray system. To help your understanding, let’s say, you took numerous images of insects including beetles, butterflies, flies, bees, and ants. You will have to make folders per their taxons and save each files into appropriate folders, right? This is somewhat a ‘sorting,’ and this is what you can apply to insect collections as well.

In the United States and Canada, the Unit Tray System is what basically used, and applied in many institutions and private collections. I started using after I entered college, majoring entomology just because I didn’t have many different taxon until then. Although I only collect and keep scarab beetles, I now have many different species, so I’m still using this system. Here I’m explaining the general purpose of using the system, and discusses the pros and cons.

Sorting per species, per groups…
Generally, you sort the specimens per species/subspecies in the single unit tray to separate and organize the specimens per ‘what they are.’ Sometimes, when there aren’t many numbers of species or having difficulty of determining the species level, you can group them in a single tray as Genus spp. or Family spp.

You can easily and safely (to specimens) move around the specimens to different spot or drawers, and you can always add more specimens of same species already deposited in the middle of the drawer.
If you keep and organize as above in the picture, and when you want to add more specimens of what you already have, you will have to move each specimen away to make a space. For example, if you want to add couple of more Lamprima sp. (green), you will have to move those three Aegus laevicollis (black) and Dynastes tityus (yellow) away to make enough space. However, if you are using the unit tray system as image below…
You can easily add more specimens in the drawer without a fuss of moving specimens around. In other words, it is convenient to add more specimens of what you already have and to sort specimens. You always keep the close taxon together for scientific collections, so you can easily add new species into the drawer. For example, Dorcus titanus sspp.(Coleoptera: Lucanidae) has a lot of subspecies and when you want to add more you can easily move around the unit trays to make enough space for the new trays. No worry to damage the specimen while handle them and it is very convenient.

Trays use up spaces.
If you don’t use the unit tray system, and just pin down the specimen into the drawer, you can have 30 Dynastes tityus males like in the image above. However, if you use unit tray system as image below…
because of the walls created by those unit trays, you are lacking enough space to place the specimens.

Recommend unit tray system if…
you are collecting many different species and groups, and always having more and more specimens as time passes. If you are collecting on your own, yes.

Do no recommend unit tray system if…
you don’t collect many different species or specimens are not added up, the unit tray system won’t be useful. If you only keep one species in a drawer, then unit tray system is useless, unless you sort them in different purpose, like per size, per gender, etc.

*I will promptly update the post for additional information.

Getting Buggy at Kent Plantation House



The 10th annual Getting Buggy at *Kent Plantation House is held this morning, in Alexandria, Louisiana. I heard about this public insect exhibition last year, when the event is completed, so I was waiting to visit this time, the 10th. The even is supported by The USDA US Forestry Service at Southern Research Center.


*Kent Plantation House: the oldest standing structure in Central Louisiana, listed,  since 1971, in the National Register Historic Places, is located in Alexandria in Rapides Parish.

I found out Steven Barney, a host for Bugstock in Louisiana is also there as a host, so I made a contact ahead of time to meet him there. The event was larger than I expected. People at the booth, mostly, knew what they were explaining to visitors in their view point, especially for the kids.

Lots of stuffs were there, from a booth explaining different bees to entomophagy, honey bees, different type of many things.

Steven Barney (in white t-shirt) at the The Beetle Experience, showing beetles.


There were lots of different animals as well, and not just insects or arthropods. I saw many reptiles, especially the geckos and snakes. Baby alligator in the picture above.

Couple of collection drawers displayed as well. I usually see a lot of large neotropical scarabs or Atlas Moth of Asia in such public exhibition, however, this event focused on insects that can be found in Louisiana, which was very nice thing to show that they are around us.

It was interesting event for the local people as many insects displayed in this event and explained were mostly found from Louisiana.