In search for more efficient and effective ways of mounting very small specimens such as the scale insects, MNH curator Ireneo L. Lit, Jr. and his student Normandy M. Barbecho has been able to develop a modified dish, which they also reported as also useful for those inexperience in handling scale insects.

In the past, the two researchers themselves prepare numerous slide mounts of armored scale insect specimens for examination under a microscope, a long and tedious process. Aside from being laborious, specimen preparation uses toxic chemicals which pose harm to the researchers.

In an interview, Dr. Lit, who is also Professor at the Institute of Biological Sciences, UPLB said that the methods that are currently being followed entail a series of chemical treatments to ensure the quality of the specimens and the longevity of their storage.

"However, it is inevitable to be exposed to harmful fumes of the chemicals," Lit explained.

During his graduate apprenticeship to Dr. Lit, Barbecho made use of recyclable materials in the laboratory to facilitate the transfer of specimens, especially the very small ones, from one chemical treatment to another. Barbecho is currently a researcher at the Entomology Section of the Philippine National Museum.

According to Barbecho, transfering these tiny specimens using pins is very delicate and prone to destroying or sometimes, even losing the specimens.

"Transfering scale insects in the early nymphal stages is even more difficult. This is why we developed a new material for faster processing of specimens and at the same time reducing our exposure to chemicals,” Barbecho added.

The modified dish uses a glass cloning cylinder and a centrifuge cap with perforated end covered with a ribbon made of synthetic satin fabric which filters out the fluid. It allows series of chemical treatments with fewer transfers of individual specimens and researchers therefore can efficiently process several specimens simultaneously.

“Far more importantly, we reduced our exposure to the fumes of harmful chemicals”, the researchers said.

“At the same time, we can more easily process crawlers, the common term we use for first instar nymphs of scale insects, and explore this stage for possible taxonomically important characters that will differentiate species that are difficult to separate morphologically in the adult stage, such as in the case of cocolisap, Aspidiotus rigidus, and the transparent coconut scale insect, Aspidiotus destructor,” Lit further added.

The details on this modified dish is published in the latest issue of Philippine Journal of Systematic Biology (2015; Vol 9: 81-86).

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