Elizabeth Meyer of Happy Hustlers 4-H club got her start collecting insects about four years ago. She was hooked when she added a cecropia moth to her collection.
The giant moth is still the largest insect in her collection. Its brown and orange wings stretch almost as wide as a person’s hand.
“I love collecting,” Elizabeth, 11, said. “Butterflies are the best to collect.”
Her hobby isn’t all fun, though. Many prized specimens are fast and hard to catch.
“The worst part is I have to touch them while I pin them,” she said.
After catching an insect, Elizabeth prepares and pins it in her display box. Her display also contains her specimens’ common name and where and when she caught them. She caught several insects around her rural Tampa home.
Other families in the area have taken up entomology — the study of insects — since Elizabeth began her collection.
Entomology is an interest she shares with her father, Mark Meyer. Her mother, Marsha Meyer, would rather not find insects in her freezer, where Elizabeth puts them in jars to kill them.
Preparing insects for display is the most difficult part. Pinning a specimen down without crushing it takes patience and often several attempts, requiring more than one sample.
Elizabeth wants to replace some insects because the specimens have been damaged over time, including her monarch butterfly, with its orange and black wings.
Besides replacing the damaged insects, she has her sights set on an insect that she has never caught — another big moth with vivid wings.
“My goal in entomology is to get a luna moth,” Elizabeth said. “They’re so pretty.”