We are happy to take donations of insects. School children have contributed new state records and public drop-offs at the museum front desk are sometimes very exciting! If you're conducting a study on Alaskan arthropods, or just happen to find something unusual in your backyard - we're happy to consider it!

Note - Depending on what condition the specimens are in, it can cost us $2-5 per specimen to curate them into the museum collection. If you are planning on creating a large collection (thousands of specimens) you hope to donate PLEASE contact the curator (dssikes[at] to establish a contract to cover the costs of curating your collection into the museum. If you are preparing a grant proposal please be ready to cover these costs.

The best way to donate most freshly collected specimens is as follows:

1. One or more specimens inside a leak-proof vial, bottle, or similar container filled with 70% alcohol (rubbing, aka isopropyl, is OK but ethanol is better). We prefer 1-dram screw cap glass vials with the polyseal caps unless you need a larger vial (2 or 4-dram).

2. Inside the vial with the specimens there should be a label with data ideally including the following sorts of information. Use pencil to write the label, or an alcohol-proof pen like a Pigma pen. To fit the label inside the vial it shouldn't be longer than 26mm. Laser-printed labels should be toasted or baked for 10 seconds at 300°F to bond the ink tightly into the paper (toasting is not needed if your laser printer can be set to a high heat print mode, 1200 dpi).

Example data label:

USA: ALASKA: Amatignak Isl.
el.6m, 51.26014°N, 179.07802°W +/-13m
back beach, Leymus sp., Malaise trap,
10JUN-1SEP 2008 Derek S. Sikes


line 1: country, state, location
line 2: elevation, latitude& longitude in decimal degrees
with +/- GPS accuracy if a GPS unit was used
line 3: habitat description, dominant plant(s), collection method
(eg hand coll., sweep net, pitfall trap, Malaise trap, etc.)
line 4: date (start & stop dates for traps) with month abbreviated in letters,
not numerals, & collector(s)

Some specimens are best preserved dry such as butterflies and moths. If you wish to donate specimens that have already been mounted on pins (size #2, stainless) please try to associate the above sorts of data with the specimens. If you want to print your own labels use the format above for the data but also follow these rules: print on acid-free archival 100% cotton rag paper and ensure the labels are no larger than 17mm long by 6mm wide (Arial font size 3 or 3.5 works best). TRIM all white space on the outer edge of the labels as close to the text as possible to get the labels as small as possible. Toast the labels if laser printed, as described above.

3. Example identification label (separate from the data label above):

Urocerus flavicornis
det. D. S. Sikes 2010

Note - det. is short for 'determined by' followed by the name of whomever actually studied the specimen(s) and determined its/their identity, plus the year that the determination was made.

Note regarding mailing specimens with alcohol: It's best to minimize the amount of alcohol mailed so after the specimens have been thoroughly soaked with alcohol and are ready to mail, insert a crumpled piece of soft tissue paper or cotton ball into the vial(s) to prevent the specimen(s) from banging about during mailing and pour off most of the alcohol so there is only the damp paper inside with the specimen(s).

Mail to:

Derek Sikes, Curator of Insects
1962 Yukon Drive
University of Alaska Museum
Fairbanks, AK 99775-6960

Please email the curator prior to donation (dssikes 'at'

Mailing pinned specimens: A simple explanation on how to safely mail pinned specimens was prepared by Gregory Dahlem and can be found at this link or with more details at this link.

Sunset Clause: If desired, a restriction can be placed on the use of donated specimens for a duration of 5 years, or longer if the donor shows continued research activity with the material. This restriction would enable the donor the right to refuse access to the data and/or specimens from interested parties.

An excellent document on best practices of label making can be found at this link. This includes, for example, a requirement that COUNTRY be included on data labels.