Buprestidae exchange

With my queue of specimen identifications now clear, I can turn my attention to another major backlog that I haven’t been able to give proper attention recently—exchanges. For those of you not into insect collecting, exchanging is something that most collectors eventually end up doing, especially if the goal is to build a taxonomic reference collection within one’s chosen group that has broad representation of species and higher taxa from multiple geographical regions. Truthfully, I don’t do nearly as much exchanging as some collectors I know. It’s not that I don’t want to, but simply a matter of time—receiving and incorporating shipments while preparing and sending out returns is not as quick and easy as it might seem, not to mention the time involved in mining and corresponding with prospective exchange partners. I wish I could do more, but since I can’t I deal with it by limiting myself almost exclusively to exchanging Buprestidae (although I’ve been known to do a tiger beetle exchange or two). I focus on Buprestidae because that is my primary group of taxonomic interest.

Buprestidae received in exchange from Stanislav Prepsl, Czech Republic

These photos show some of the Buprestidae I received this past year, this particular box coming from Stanislav Prepsl in the Czech Republic. This is the first time that I’ve exchanged with Stan, and I must say I am impressed with the quality and taxonomic diversity of his buprestid holdings. In this exchange, I received 73 species, most of which are represented by a male/female pair and four represented by paratype specimens. These are all Old World species, and while a few are from the well-known fauna of Europe most were collected in countries seldom visited by (or even off limits to) American collectors such as the former USSR, Iran, Pakistan, Kurdistan, Turkey, etc. There are a nice few species also from Namibia, Kenya and Ethiopia. In return, I sent to Stan more than 100 species of Buprestidae from mostly the southwestern U.S. and Mexico where I have done a large part of my collecting. Stan was less demanding about receiving both one male and one female for each species, thus the larger number of species I was able to send him for approximately equal numbers of specimens.

Close-up view of lower left corner of box

Some collectors avoid Buprestidae because of their taxonomic difficulty and the overwhelming numbers of small, difficult-to-identify species. I think this is exactly why I like the group, and though many of the species are small they are certainly no less beautiful than their larger, flashier, more ostentatious brethren. I include this close-up view (you might recognize the specimen in the lower right corner as the previously featured Agelia lordi) to show the meticulous preparation of the specimens included in the shipment—an example of a well-curated collection by someone who knows what they are doing. Incidentally, the cards on which the specimens are mounted are standard fare among European collectors, and although as an American I prefer direct pinning of larger specimens and mounting smaller specimens on points versus cards, I’ve come to appreciate the exacting care with which some Europeans practice this card-mounting technique.

It’ll take me a few hours of dedicated attention to move all of these specimens into the main collection—not only must their proper placement be determined, but there is usually a lot of reshuffling of specimens within and amongst unit trays whenever such a large number of specimens is incorporated into it. With 15,000 described species and counting, this sending of Buprestidae represents only a modest increase (0.5%) in my representation of species; however, it adds representation from geographical areas that previously had virtually no representation in my collection at all. I hope Stan is as pleased with the material that I sent to him as I am with this material, and I look forward to the opportunity to exchange again with him in the near future.

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2012

13 thoughts on “Buprestidae exchange

  1. I’ve definitely mounted insects so that they are supported by cards (Usually specimens with abdomens that would sag – earwigs, owlflies, things like that), but the insect is directly pinned with the card pinned beneath it. With the “European” card mounting technique, it appears from your photo that it will be impossible to see any ventral characters without ungluing the beetle from the card. Are ventral features not important for buprestids?

    • Hi Mark – ventral characters can be very important, and that is my main criticism of the use of glue cards. Some collectors use transparent cards, but in my experience this doesn’t help that much. Proponents argue that glue cards better protect specimens from accidental breakage (not to mention the ‘damage’ caused the the pin itself) when handling specimens. However, if the ventral surface needs to be examined then the specimen must be removed from the card – that presents an even greater risk of damage. Good and bad both ways.

    • Aesthetically I think card-mounted specimens are great (though not ‘better’ than pin-mounted). Your request for images from my collection, however, hits on a idea I’ve been toying with to feature an occasional post showing one stage of the whole collecting process – from the field containers the specimens go into, to the various curatorial stages though mounting and labeling, to the finished product ID’d and ready to incorporate into the collection.

      • I would also enjoy that — I am about to undertake some large-scale (for me) identifying and curating, and I’m not sure how to organize my work flow in the most intelligent way. I’m sure that seeing your process step-by-step would give me a clearer idea of how to proceed. Also I love looking at other people’s collections!

        • I strongly vote YES. I’m eager (and patient) to see posts about the stages of collecting, mounting, labeling, identifying and sorting. Even imagining that makes me excited.

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