Preservative fluid and storage conditions alter body mass estimation in a terrestrial insect




Body mass is a frequently used trait in ecological and evolutionary research. In the present study, I demonstrate that sampling and storage conditions affect wet and dry weights in an insect predator, Anchomenus dorsalis (Pontoppidan) (Coleoptera: Carabidae). Live beetles were placed in one of five preservative fluids for 1 month to simulate sampling by pitfall traps. Sodium chloride solution, ethylene glycol, ethylene glycol + detergent, and propylene glycol caused significant increases in both wet and dry weights compared with control (short-term frozen) specimens, whereas formaldehyde did not. In a separate experiment, four methods of long-term (6 months) sample storage (freezing, ethanol, propylene glycol, and ethyl acetate vapour) all caused significant changes in wet weight compared with the control treatment. The dry weight of the specimens preserved in ethanol decreased significantly in contrast to the long-term frozen specimens and those in propylene glycol and ethyl acetate vapour, whose dry weight did not differ significantly from the control specimens. The combination of formaldehyde as the preservative fluid and freezing as the storage method thus appears to be an optimal combination for studies in which the body mass of dead insects is considered.