Making a killing jar


If you want to get extremely close to insects, you may have to convince them to stop moving somehow.

Sadly I have yet to come across tranquilliser darts for bumblebees (if you know of any, post a comment!), so killing them is the only way to persuade them to sit still.

Is it OK to kill insects to photograph them?

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It sounds terribly barbaric, but it isn’t, really: If you make one of these jars correctly, you can kill insects quickly and painlessly. If you feel bad about it afterwards, you can always bury it in a tiny grave and sing it a song – make sure you get photos first, though! 

Entomologists (that’s really just a posh word for people who collect insects) have perfected the art of killing insects as humanely as possible, by using a ‘killing jar’. To make a rudimentary killing jar, use a reasonably large jar with a tightly closing lid.

Cut out a circle of an old t-shirt or other thick cotton material, and make sure it fits snugly on the bottom of the jar. You’ll want a few layers of cotton. To this jar, add enough ethyl acetate (you can buy this from lab suppliers and hobby stores – be careful not to breathe it in yourself though, it’s nasty stuff!) to saturate the cotton, but no more. Put your insects in the jar, and leave them for a few minutes to kill them.


Wanna learn more? Check out killing jars on Wikipedia, or this article on the University of Illinois website!

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