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Specimen preparation

Thrips are small, the body and antennae are easily distorted when collecting or handling individuals, and in many species the variation in body size and colour is naturally considerable. For these reasons thrips species are easy to misidentify, particularly if the specimens are not mounted onto microscope slides in good condition. Thrips should be collected into 60% alcohol (stronger alcohols make the legs and antennae difficult to manipulate), and if possible a small amount of acetic acid and glycerine should be added to this alcohol. This mixture, called AGA, helps to digest the body contents and to keep the specimens flexible. It is mixed in the proportions: 10 parts of 60% alcohol; 1 part of glycerine; 1 part of acetic acid. For identification, a thrips individual should be placed onto a cover slip in a drop of the water soluble mountant, Hoyers Mountant (or Berlese Mountant). With the ventral surface of the insect uppermost the legs, wings and antennae should be spread, and a microscope slide lowered quickly onto the specimen. The slide is then inverted and placed immediately onto a hot plate, or into an oven, at 45 degrees and left to bake and to clear for several hours. If kept in an oven for about 3 weeks, such preparations can be ring-sealed with nail varnish, and will then be useful for several years for comparative study.