Microscope focus rack-camera adapter

08 December 2017

Most of the plate images of beetle collections I upload on this page are focus-stacked images of, in average, from 20 to 50 image files with different focus points. Museums or Institutions use this techniques with electronically and remotely moving focus rails, but I just hold a camera down on a desk so it won’t move, and just slightly turn the focus ring of the camera lens to change the focus points. Then I merge the files into one using Adobe Photoshop. This is very inconvenient way for me and I decided to make a set up for the better quality of shooting. Two designs I thought up are that one mostly made of PVC pipes, and the other one is just a part as an adapter for microscope focus rack to camera body. First idea took too much money and brains, so I quitted in the middle of the project, and the second idea is slightly better and cheaper. The second method is to create the adapter that holds the camera to the microscope focus rack tightly. I quickly measured sizes of camera, lens, focus rack, etc. to roughly draw up on CAD for 3D printing.

3D Prints


Finished product from the 3D printing service

L: Adapter fits on focus rack perfectly! with some space.
R. Camera fits on the adapter very well.

This is how the adapter is being used to tightly holds the camera to the focus rack. With this method, I’m able to carefully and very slightly change the focus point. I may not be able to “accurately” move from one point to another, but with slight movement with the focus dial, I’m able to take more detailed shots than past. 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. Excuse me for such a dusty specimen. In case of specimens with height, like Golofa species, I might be able to take more than 100s of images, especially for the males of large species. Next project for this method would be the LIGHTINGS. 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.

Visiting Louisiana State Arthropod Museum


To obtain samples of beetles and collection data including locality and date of collection occurred, I made a visit to Louisiana State Arthropod Museum, as a visiting scientist. I made an appointment to visit the museum with museum director Dr. Christopher Carlton and curator Dr. Victoria Bayless ahead of time.

(A route from home to the museum. 126 miles, about 2 hours of driving)

Drove about 2 hours, and finally, arrived in LSU-Baton Rouge campus. The weather condition wasn’t great, but fortunately, there were not much of rainfall on the way.

Part of scarab collections I examined while I was staying in the museum.

A portrait of myself, examining specimens. (photo taken by graduate student working in there).

It took about six hours to finish my work and get over with. It was sad to be unable to enjoy the time and relax in the collection room. I was too busy with the work. Maybe on my next visit…

Visiting Chungnam National University


I visited Junggon Kim at Chungnam National University (CNU) located in Daejeon Metropolitan City of South Korea. He is a PhD candidate, studying systematics of Miridae (Hemiptera). We’ve been knowing each other for about or over 10 years now. Couple of years back, he requested me to collect some nearctic Miridae samples, and I gladly accepted to collect and provide him. As I’m visiting South Korea this time, I decided to personally bring the collections to him and meet with at his lab. As the place I’m staying is quite far away from CNU, I had to take an intercity bus (similar to Greyhound of the U.S., that goes across the cities and states), taking about 3 hours of total trip to get there. Although it is not that distanced as 3 hours in the U.S., it takes quite a time to get to the end from the other end in South Korea.

10,000 KRW is about 10.00 USD. It took me about one hour to reach Seongnam Intercity Bus Station (Seongnam, Gyeonggi) from my place, and from that bus station, it took another two hours to get to the Daejeon Metropolitan City.

Finally, after three hours, on 6PM, I arrived at the CNU at Daejeon Metropolitan City of South Korea. This was my first visit to Daejeon, as I’ve never been far out from Seoul, the capitol city of South Korea in my childhood. I took a wrong bus and dropped off at the main entrance of CNU, took me a long walk to get to the place we decided to meet. I walked about a mile, and then Junggon decided to come pick me up with his car as it takes too much time to get there by just walking. I realized where I was picked up is only about a half of the route to reach the building, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

We went straight to dinner with a surprise guest, Hangyeol Ji, a MS Student studying Tingidae. I’ve been knowing him as he is the administrator of one of the top web beetle forums, 곤충사육필살기(gon-choong-saa-yook-feel-sal-gii, meaning a super technique of insect rearing) housing over five thousand members, at the time.

AND two undergraduate students, Jaedong Kim (micro-Lepidoptera) and Jihoon Kim (Scarabaeidae) joined our dinner table. Two are very knowledgeable students working toward getting entomology degrees. As they happened to be students of CNU, I decided to ask them to come over. Despite the great time I’m having with them, the very last bust departing back to Seongnam is on 9PM. So we had to hurry back to the CNU lab and observe the collection room and everything.

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Their collection room was quite messy as they were keep updating things. Junggon showed me around and explained that the lab is now preserving collections in fluid for, mostly, DNA sequencing. Also the current dried collections are from old adviser/head professor. Therefore, no one is having enough time to sort the specimens. Still, there were A LOT of dried collections.

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It was interesting as there were lots of public display collections as well as bunch of mixed up butterflies, beetles, and other things. Some are labeled properly while some aren’t. Junggon said some portion of dried collections are donated from a students who previously took entomology courses, so some of them may not be properly preserved.

From the left to right: Jihoon Kim (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae), Jaedong Kim (micro-Lepidoptera), Junsuk Kim (author), Hangyeol Ji (Hemiptera: Tingidae), Junggon Kim (Hemiptera: Miridae).

As the time closed by to 9PM, I REALLY had to hurry and leave the CNU. Thankfully, Junggon Kim gave me a quick ride to the intercity bus station so I wasn’t late, and I returned to home at around 12AM. Although it was very short trip to CNU, I enjoyed my time with good people there.