Trentomology Illustrations

Entomologists often illustrate their work, and the entomologists who have gone to Trent University are no exception. We offer for your enjoyment, some artwork from the entomology lab.

The stable fly by David Beresford is Stomoxys calcitrans, is a male with 4 phoretic mites clinging to its abdomen, Macrocheles muscaedomesticae.

Beresford stable fly Stomoxys calcitrans


The two beetles by David LeGros are Necrodes surinamensis, and Nicrophorus pustulatus.



The grouping by Trevor Burt has several Silphidae.

Trevor Burt beetles Silphidae


We hope you like these.

Trent Northern Studies Colloquium

Trent University has a long history of conducting research in Northern Canada. Even today, approximately 25 percent of Trent University researchers (Professors, Graduate and Undergraduate students) conduct their research in the North. With this long history and hopefully even longer future of Northern research, Trent runs a yearly colloquium that focusses on this research. The Trent Northern Studies Colloquium is an interdisciplinary conference highlighting undergraduate and graduate student research in the North.

A wide range of work was presented at the conference. We learned a lot about the work Trent students and faculty have been involved with in the North. One student who volunteered in the Trentomology lab in the past presented his work on shorebirds and the effect of camera presence. Other students presented arctic adaptations in Muskoxen, on tourism Yellowknife, the health priorities of Nunavik youth, the chemistry of contaminates in Northen waters, and teaching workshops at the Nunavut Arctic College about contaminates. Sarah, Kaitlyn, Sherri and Kathryn presented a poster based on the collections they are currently working with from Northern Ontario and Nunavut. We were excited to add our work to the breadth of knowledge presented at the conference.

Dave was invited to sit on the Creating Northern Interdisciplinary Research Faculty and Graduate Student Panel, which he happily accepted. Dave shared his experiences working in Nunavut and  was able to make a story about blackflies captivating and inspiring.


In the evening, we also presented our poster at the Canadian Canoe Museum to the public, students and even the key note speaker!!! Kaitlyn did a fantastic job sharing our work and its importance with James Raffan, almost making him late for his own talk! James Raffan is described as one of Canada’s most experienced backcountry travellers and spoke to the audience abut his book called Circling the midnight sun: culture and change in the invisible Arctic. We were thrilled about his interest in our work, and were inspired by his talk that evening.

Our very own Trentomology lab mate Sherri DeGasparro was also on the planning committee for the conference! We are so proud of all of her hard work to make the conference happen. Sherri was in charge of catering, sending out invitations to special guests and panel members and creating the pamphlet. All while working on our poster and continuing her own research. This goes to show how lucky we are to have such a dedicated student like Sherri in our lab.

Sarah’s adventure to Peawanuck!

Last week I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Peawanuck!

All packed up with my warmest clothes (okay…Kaitlyn’s warmest clothes) and a beautiful collection box and photos of select insects and arachnids collected around Peawanuck, I was ready for the trip! Creating the collection was a made possible with the dedication of many in the Trentomology lab. Thanks John Ringrose, Kaitlyn Fleming, Sherri DeGasparro, Kathryn Vezsenyi, Shelby Gibson and Jen Rowsell!!!

Peawanuck is a small Cree community in Northern Ontario… really Northern Ontario. Their community is situated near the Winisk river. Historically, their community was much closer to Hudson Bay in Winisk, however their community moved to Peawanuck in the late 80’s.


An 8 hour drive North from Trentomology’s home of Peterborough to the lovely town of Timmins was just part one of the trip! From there, myself and 4 others boarded a (super fancy) plane and flew to Peawanuck. For most of the flight, cloud cover made it hard to see the landscape. Luckily, the clouds cleared for a bit around where the roads stop in Ontario and as we flew over some of the beautiful rivers that connect to Hudson Bay.


We had some time before our scheduled meeting at the community center, so we went around the town. We were able to meet some people and advertise the meeting. Everyone we met was really nice!


At the meeting, community members shared information about areas where they saw different animals. Many were most excited to discuss the fish in the area. I displayed the collection and a booklet of photos for the community and had many people interested in seeing them and discussing which were most familiar, and where to find others. I also brought some common supplies used in our lab.


Some of the people I met told me a bit about themselves. Matthias was recently in Timmins attending Northern College and was excited to hear a bit about the programs offered at Trent University. He told me he couldn’t wait for the warmer weather of spring. I told him I completely agreed, but I’m from much further South than him so that doesn’t mean as much coming from me. I’ve heard Peawanuck is, on average, the coldest area in Ontario! His brothers were really interested in the Dytiscid in the collection box and we got to talk a bit about where to find these insects. Ivan and Edmond described the fish they had seen in different areas, and were able to point them out on the map. Ivan’s two daughters were happy to play with the plastic insects I had brought and took them and lots of insect stickers home! One of his daughters helped me to carefully clean fingerprints off of the collection box glass. I also met their grandmother who was kindly waiting by the food to make sure everyone got what they wanted. One woman was selling beautiful hand made items and proudly displayed them at the meeting. She sold out pretty quickly! I also met a man named Gilbert who showed me the path that him and his dad traveled from Peawanuck to one of the lakes. He told me “they said it couldn’t be done, and we did it” to which I replied “show me on the map again so I can tell everyone I know how amazing your trip was!”

Ivan also told me that the elders in the community appreciate insects and their role in the ecosystem. This was a refreshing thing to hear as it it not what I am used to hearing from other places. It was really wonderful to interact with people who were interested to learn about the insects and arachnids in their area.

I left the collection and booklet with Ivan, who would then give it to the school. This is the ideal place for the collection, and we’re thrilled they were excited to have it there too!

I’m thrilled to say I have visited Peawanuck! I had a wonderful time talking to some really nice people about bugs!

Cold-Hardy Canadian Mosquito

I caught a mosquito in my house on January 26, 2016. Outside it was winter, cold, and mosquitoes were not expected. It was a female Anopheles quadrimaculatus, a North American malarial vector. It is not the only one, every year several mosquitoes appear throughout the winter. As far as I can make out, it must have been in the cellar (a dirt floor). There is a well beside my house, one winter day I climbed down the well about 10 feet, and mosquitoes were there in the warm air (about 6˚C). I would like to find out if they are breeding in the cellar, in a sump pit, or perhaps just coming in on the firewood and thawing out, I have no idea. Curious!

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Anopheles quadrimaculatus – 26 January 2016 – Warsaw, ONT – D. Beresford



Praying Mantis Pet Care 

Recently, the Beresford lab happily accepted two African Giant Mantids (Sphodromantis lineola) from an invertebrate biology class that had been used in a behavioural ecology lab session. Naturally, the pair were named Jim and Dave (after two of the most influential entomologists in our lives- Jim Sutcliffe and David Beresford). So this week, we will be providing information on what it’s like to keep insects as pets with specific information for praying mantis care.


Insects, in my opinion, are of some of the easiest (and most fascinating) pets to care for. They have modest requirements: care is minimal, food is inexpensive, and housing space can be quite small. On top of these practical advantages, they are fun to watch as they feed, molt, grow, and lay eggs.

The African Giant Mantis is particularly a great species to care for due to its size, aggressiveness, and relatively easy care. These characteristics make the species an interesting one to watch hunt and devour prey. Sphodromantis lineola vary in colour from green to brown, and we were lucky enough to get one of each. We expect our mantids to go through quite a few more molts before reaching adulthood.

Here is some general care information:
Housing/Environmental Conditions – All mantids require a terrarium or cage with a height approximately three times their length, with a width of two times their length. This is important as the mantis requires room to move around in and molt (shed). A suitable terrarium temperatures is between 22 and 30 ° C and can be sprayed twice likely to ensure proper humidity. There are many options for substrates for the bottom of the tank: sand, shredded wood/bark, soil, tissue paper, etc… anything that won’t mould! Branches or other objects can also be placed in the terrarium so the mantis can hang.

*Group housing: for many species this is not recommended as mantids are often cannibalistic, this is especially true in older rather than younger nymphs.

Feeding – Mantids are strictly predators, and many species have very diverse diets. Nymphs generally won’t eat an insect bigger than their own head- so it is best to stick with smaller insects until they are at sub-adult (one molt before adult). Prey items can include flies, crickets, moths and caterpillars. How often the mantis needs to be fed is dependent on a number of factors- type of food, size, life-stage, and sex, and species. Feeding requirements can vary from every one to four days. Some mantids can be hand-fed and will take an insect from a pair of tweezers.

Author’s note: The information here is general care information, and I am far from an expert! It is always important to learn species- specific information when caring for any animal.  

Specimen Prep: Pinning and Pointing Beetles

The specimen prep for non-aquatic beetles is quite standard in entomology. Depending on the size you can either pin or point the specimen.

The steps to properly pinning a beetle are quite easy:

  1. Hold the beetle firmly between two fingers against a pinning platform (often a piece of styrofoam) so the ventral side is against the platform
  2. Make sure the beetle is parallel with the styrofoam
  3. With your other hand, hold a pin between your finger and thumb
  4. Locate the midline of the right elytra, near the base (the end closest to the pronotum)
  5. Line the pin up and hold it perpendicular to the specimen (don’t hold it perpendicular to the pinning platform because if the specimen is not exactly parallel with the platform the pin will enter on an angle)
  6. Slowly but firmly press the pin through the elytra and body of the beetle, leaving approximately 10 mm of space between the top of the elytra and pin head (you don’t want it any higher because you may damage the specimen when you grab the pin head to pick up the specimen)
2016-01-15-11.55.46 ZS retouched
Pinned Carabus maeander – 2016

The steps to properly pointing a beetle are:

  1. Place the beetle on its left side so the right side of the specimen is facing upwards
    1. If the beetle is still wet from being in ethanol, give it 5-10 minutes to dry completely
  2. While you are waiting for the specimen to dry, create a point (a small triangle made of stiff paper)
  3. Put a size 3 pin through the base of the point
  4. Slide the point up the pin so there is approximately 10 mm between the head of the pin and the point
  5. This step is optional, but depending on the shape of the beetle it you can either leave the point as is (so that it is flat) or you can bend the end of the point so it is on a slight angle
  6. Place a small amount of your preferred ‘glue’ on the end/apex of the point.
    1. There are many different substances you can use such as:
      1. Clear nail polish – I prefer using nail polish for my specimens because it has excellent holding power and can be dissolved with acetone if needed
      2. White glue (LePage/Elmer’s)
      3. Shellac glue
  7. Press the glued end of the point against the right ventral side of the specimen (making sure the specimen and pin are perpendicular)
  8. Hold the glued point against the side of the specimen to allow for the glue to dry before moving the specimen
Carabidae Notiophilus semistriatus
Pointed Notiophilus semistriatus – 2016

After pinning or pointing the specimen, add the labels and place in a dermestid-proof box (these are the storage boxes we use in the Trentomology lab)

I am often asked how I know what size a beetle has to be to warrant being pinned or pointed. In general, if the specimen is above 7 mm in length, you can pin it. If the specimen is below 7 mm, then pointing is the recommended method. However, I have pointed specimen that are above 7 mm (up to 10 mm) when I wanted to preserve their entire body and not damage one side with a pin. I would not recommend pointing beetles larger than that as the point will like bend under the weight.


Specimen Prep: Aquatic Arthropods

We are continuing with last week’s topic of specimen prep. This week we are focussing on the specimen prep methods that Sherri is using for her aquatic specimen.

When it comes to collecting and preserving aquatic insects, extra care has to be taken. With insects in their nymph/larval stages (e.g. mayflies, stoneflies, dragonflies, chironomids, etc.) specimen need to be preserved in ethanol – preferably 70% alcohol so that they do not become brittle. These softer insects also need to be placed carefully in non-crowded vials to avoid breakage. From experience, this is especially true for larger-bodied dragonfly nymphs.

Dragonfly Nymph – 2016

However, harder-bodied aquatic insects (Dytiscidae, Hydrophilidae beetles and Belostomatidae) can be pinned, as well as most in their adult stages (e.g. dobsonflies, craneflies). Adult dragonflies and damselflies often fade or lose their colour. To maintain the colour of odonates soon after they are caught, they can be placed (wings folded back) into a plastic envelope and submerged in acetone. Following 16-24 hours, they are then ready to be pinned.

Pinned Dytiscid Beetle – 2015

Specimen Prep: Critical Point Drying

We always get asked what it is that an entomologist does and we here at Trentomology tend to stick to listing the more fun and glamorous aspects of it (insect catching, IDing, etc.). This post will highlight an INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT aspect of entomology that we don’t talk to the general public about as much, specimen prep.

Specimen prep varies between arthropod families and occasionally within families as well. This week we are focusing on a method that Kathryn is using for her syrphids: Critical Point Drying.

To prep my syrphids, I am using the critical point drying method. It is a lot more expensive than other methods, but will protect any DNA in the specimen, and prevent the specimens from shriveling. To prep for this, we must remove water completely. This is accomplished by putting them through a series of ethanol baths over the course of a few days, starting from the starting point of 70% ethanol all the way up to 100% ethanol. It is vital that there is no water left within them, otherwise they will likely explode when you attempt to critical point dry them. Once they are ready, they can be put into the CPD machine. High pressure allows for liquid CO2 to enter the specimens, then be removed as a gas, allowing for an end result of perfectly preserved syrphids! Once finished, they can be glued to points, labelled, identified and placed specimen boxes.

Critical Point Dryer


Trentomology Traps – Part II – Emergence Chamber

Last month we wrote a blog post about simple traps that we have used in the Trentomology Lab. Here is the next post in that series!

Emergence tubs can be a little tricky at first but with two water bottles, one Ziploc bag, tape, screen, and wire you can easily (and cheaply) build your own.

Cut the bottom off the first water bottle and tape the Ziploc bag to the cut end of the bottle. Cut a hole about the size of mouth of the first water bottle in the side of the second water bottle and attach the two together (it helps to have wire). Then, to allow for air flow, take the lid of the second water bottle and place a piece of screen over the opening and secure with an elastic/string. Now, place some dirt in the Ziploc bag and wait for the little beauties to emerge!

emergence tubs
Water bottle emergence chambers – 2009

This emergence chamber construction was used in a project that examined the postfeeding larval dispersal of Blow Flies in Southern Ontario.  If you are interested in using emergence chambers like the ones described in this post, check out this journal article:

Turpin, C., Kyle, C., Beresford, D.V. 2014. Postfeeding Larval Dispersal Behaviour of Late Season Blow Flies (Calliphoridae) in Southern Ontario, Canada. Journal of Forensic Science. 59(5): 1295-1302.



Confounding factors of fly artefacts in bloodstain pattern analysis

In this week’s Trentomology blog post, we highlight a recently published review article co-authored by Retired OPP Staff Sargent Mike Illes from Trent University’s Forensic Science Department and Trentomology’s own Sarah Langer in the Canadian Society of Forensic Science Journal.

The article is a review of insect activity, specifically stains left by blow flies, at crime scenes and how the activity can be misinterpreted as true blood stains during blood stain pattern analysis. Sarah suggests three methods of analysis that can be used to interpret the insect activity (visual, contextual and chemical analyses). If you are interested in reading the article, please find the reference for the article below.

thinking fly
“Who, me? Couldn’t be! I wouldn’t mess up a crime scene!”

The corresponding author is Sarah Langer and can be contacted by email at sarahlanger (at)

Langer, S.V. and Illes, M. 2015. Confounding factors of fly artefacts in bloodstain pattern analysis. Canadian Society of Forensic Science Journal. 48(4): 215-224.