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Forked pins

Adrian Chalkley wrote an article in Het News 11 (a 1.6MB PDF file) which describes and illustrates the tools he uses for manipulating small specimens including a cunning forked pin tool mounted in the end of a piece of dowel. This looks ideal for holding down beetles but I’ve realised that you need a Dremel hobby drill to make the hole in the dowel.

So, if you have a Dremel, please give it a try and if you could make a few spares while you’re at it and pass them around, I for one would be very happy!


  1. You can also use either balsa dowel or even softer peacock quill. A hole can then be made by simply pushing a pin into it rather than the need for a drill. Your custom pins/wire are then simply pushed into these holes with a bit of glue on them. Not as durable as Adrian’s tools but quick to make.

  2. Clive Washington says:

    My favourite “holding down tool”, which has made dissection much easier for me, is a minaturised version of my finger. To make this I obtain one of the soft polymer pencil erasers and use a sharp scalpel to cut a thin strip of about 4mm square section, and 2 cm long. The working end of this is trimmed at 45 degrees to aid access. In use the beetle is placed on its back, and the tool (in the left hand) is used to hold it down so that only the very last few sternites are visible. Pin or fine forceps is then wielded with the right hand to emasculate the securely held insect. The position of even very convex beetles like chrysomelids can be easily controlled like this, and the softness of the tool prevents the beetle being crushed.

  3. markgtelfer says:

    Good tip Clive. That might also work for holding down live beetles for identification under the microscope.

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