How do I transport an insect collection in a car?
November 7, 2013 2:58 PM   Subscribe

I have an insect cabinet that I need to transport from North Carolina to Georgia, and then from Georgia to Nevada. How do I do this without destroying all the beautiful fragile things within?

The cabinet looks a lot like this, but filled with precious bugs representing thirty years of an entomologist's life's work. From NC to GA, I will have a school bus to transport it with; pros: I can keep the cabinet upright, cons: the shocks, they are not so good. From GA to NV, I can transport it via SUV or random U-haul trailer, or, I guess, school bus if that is actually a good idea. I would have to put it in sideways in the SUV.

Would pillows help? Is there something I should do to the bugs beforehand? Should I take out the shelves first? halp

And if you're like, "I have no idea, but I do know where to ask, or what search terms to use," please do holla at me, as well.
posted by Pwoink to Travel & Transportation (6 answers total)
How about getting in touch with an entomology department or collection and asking them? Call Daniel Young or Steve Krauth here in Wisconsin for ideas.
posted by Madamina at 3:24 PM on November 7, 2013

You could also consult with professional art shippers like these folks.

I would take each shelf out and package it separately. Go to a hobby store and get some kind of light fluffy stuff similar to insulation that can be laid over the bugs so they don't get dislodged or bounce around, then put eacgh drawer into a separate box completely surrounded by lots of bubble wrap. If possible, skip the school bus and use something with good suspension all the way, and ride smooth roads.
posted by beagle at 5:16 PM on November 7, 2013

Best answer: IANAE, but in my experience with insect collections, they're not nearly as fragile as you would think.

First of all, I assume all the insects are pinned? I think they'll travel ok on their side, but I'd take two precautions first: I would go into all the drawers and make sure the pins are all pushed down into the foam real good. Then, notice that each insect is on a single pin--this means pinwheeling can occur with the larger guys. You'll want to put a pin on each side of their abdomens, to keep them safely away from their neighbors.

I'm rather more concerned about bumps on the bus. This is like, a plain old school bus? Those things are not smooth. If you could put the cabinet on *something* to cushion the bumps, I think that would be wise. But you obviously need to keep it secure as well. I mean, they'll probably be fine, but maybe somebody else will have ideas.

Also, are the drawers individually sealed? Because my first thought was to take all the drawers out for the bus ride and sandwich them between foam or blankets or something. But if the drawers are not completely sealed shut, you run the risk of letting in carpet beetles, which will decimate a collection. So if the drawers are open, then forget this idea and keep them safe in the cabinet at all times.

On preview: Oh god no, don't cover them in fluffy stuff--they'll just get stuck to it and you'll rip them all apart when you try to remove it!
posted by gueneverey at 5:25 PM on November 7, 2013 [3 favorites]

My dad has driven all across the country for years with bugs in cases like that and I have never heard him complain about damage. I think they're pretty robust.
posted by oulipian at 6:07 PM on November 7, 2013

One of my favourite, departed, lepidopterist friends drove around with a good chunk of his collection in his van most of the time. His success might have come after learning some hard lessons, but he always seemed remarkably cavalier about the whole deal.

I would try to eliminate any rattling with shims between the boxes and the shelves. Maybe a blanket draped in the space between the door and the boxes if there is room for them to slide.

If the collection is not terribly old and dessicated, you will be surprised at how well they travel.

Try to put it in the least bouncy seat of the school bus if it exists. Take note of guenevery's points (ha!) about pins. I promise that the owner of this collection has a zillion extra pins you could use.
posted by Acari at 8:01 PM on November 7, 2013

Bug Fair The Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History has an Insect Zoo and a Bug Fair every year and I am sure they can put you in touch with someone who can give you some advice.
posted by effluvia at 7:04 AM on November 8, 2013

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