Skip to main content


Where would I find a good source to understand and teach the classification systems of arthropods?

Start with the Study Guide for the Amazing Arthropods event, as posted on the website.  This supplies most of the information you will need about the Arthropod Classes for the event, and a list of helpful links for more details on the last page.

Table 2 on the second page of the rules lists individual arthropod species that will be featured on the test portion of the event. Students should be familiar with them by sight (common name only) and know information about them as stated in the rules.

It might also be helpful to review the Event Coach Training Workshop slides (with live hyperlinks) and video (posted above on this page).

To get a better sense of the event and potential questions, I would encourage your team to participate in a workshop at a local nature center.

I noticed the Insecta Class has orders but the Arachnida and Branchiopoda classes do not. Are there no orders to learn for these additional two classes?

That is correct. The only Class for which the students need to know the Orders (and only the Orders listed in the rules for each year) is Insecta. 

What is the most humane way to create a live collection? I don't want the specimens to suffer!

One of the most humane ways to kill most arthropods is to put them in the freezer. Put the specimen in a container that cannot be crushed or you can do a set of them, one per bag, in a small box to keep them separate from your other freezer items.

This method may take more than one day and may not kill all arthropods, such as wood lice or centipedes, as some are in their adult form through the winter and are often subjected to freezing temperatures. For those organisms, the only way to insure they are dead is to drop them into alcohol. This method has its drawbacks in that it typically leaches some of the color from specimens but you then have your specimen ready to place in a vial (which is the best method of preserving arthropods like wood lice that typically cannot be pinned anyway).

A killing jar can also be used. For more information on various killing methods, there is an excellent website from the Texas A&M Extension:

If our school has two teams, may one team submit a pinned collection and the other team submit a photo collection?

Yes, however the specimens must be distinct. The photo collection may not contain pictures of the pinned collection specimens.

May we reuse a specimen box from a previous year?

Yes.  But the specimens must be new.

May students take pictures of pinned specimens at nature centers, bug houses, etc. and use them in their photo collection?

Students are asked to “collect” their own specimens either through photographs or pinning. Taking a picture of a professionally mounted specimen would not be accepted.

Is it acceptable for specimens to be collected by any member of the team, including those who are not competing directly in the Arthropod event?

No, not any team members.

Only team members who are actively studying the Arthropod event, including Alternate team members may collect specimens. 

Adults are not team members.

Specimens also must be collected or photographed within the year prior to the Regional competition.

Does Macomb Science Olympiad provide answers to the student workbook pages?

Sorry, we do not.

We support the idea of "learning by doing”.  For the more difficult anatomical features the Supervisor has already provided a definition.

Will the students be required to know if the species are native or invasive?

The Arthropod Species workbook indicates that each species should be recognized as either Native or Non-Native. And if the species is in fact Non-Native, is it Invasive.

Will teams get feedback from the Event Supervisor on how the collection scored at the tournament in May?

Teams should expect to receive a scoring summary when they pick up their collection on tournament day.

May we include more than 30 specimens in our collection, in case a few of their original 30 are not correct or not worthy of full point value?


If a student includes more than 30 unique specimens, they will not all be evaluated.  They should present their best effort with the 30 that are included.

May soft body specimens and very small specimens be presented in a vial with alcohol?

Yes, you may use insect vials for displaying soft-bodied specimens, and very small specimens.

Do not use the vials for other specimens.

At what level of classification should our student be able to identify an Arthropod? Are species & genus species questions possible?

The study guide provides a specific list of Classes and Orders with which students should be familiar.

In addition, there is a narrow list of species, for which students should know in regards to naming. 

That is, the Class and Order to which they belong, and their scientific name (which also happens to be the Genus & Species of the insect). 

If the students create a photograph collection, must they be displayed on poster board?

A poster board is not the only option, as described in the study guide:

"The collection should be housed in a photo album or combined onto a poster (not to exceed 24”x36”) or otherwise professionally put together.  For instance, a bunch of printed pictures paper clipped together is NOT acceptable."

Do the labels for the specimen box need to be typed or is hand printed ok?

Handwritten notes (assuming they are legible) will be graded the same as typed.  

Will two different kinds of specimens both count for points even if they are from the same order? For example a Monarch butterfly and an Eastern Comma butterfly?

Duplicates only pertain to the same species. Two different species of butterfly each count as separate specimens.  In contrast, two monarch butterflies would only be counted for one.

How should the specimen collection be labeled? Will it be returned?

Please list your school name, team number, and student names on your collection.

There will be a time posted in the final tournament schedule for collection pickup, after they have been judged and scores reported.

Is a worker bee or ant considered to be an adult? Can we include them in our collection?

Yes, worker bees and ants are in the adult phase, and would be accepted in a specimen collection.


There is conflicting information regarding the number of walking legs that crayfish have. What should we learn?

Most resources (referenced below) state there are five pairs of walking legs (pereiopods), the first of which are equipped with pincers (chelae) and are also called chelipeds.

USDA Forest Service glossary: (see entries for cheliped and pereiopod)

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Field Station Crayfish page:

North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission Crayfish Glossary:

When contradictory information is provided, what takes precedence?

The order of precedence is:

  1) the event rules (which includes what is posted here in the FAQ)

  2) the study guide

  3) information found elsewhere, including at links we have posted

May larval stages be used in the specimen collection? For instance if we found a Dragonfly naiad by pond dipping, can that meet the criteria for Odonata?

Quite a few larval stages look very similar, making them difficult to identify.

Any immature specimens of species which would undergo either complete or incomplete metamorphosis will not be accepted.  That would include the Dragonfly which is an example of a species which undergoes incomplete metamorphosis.

However, an immature specimen of a species which undergoes gradual metamorphosis will be accepted. 

Will students need to know about sub-orders?

Students are not required to know the suborder level of detail.

What is meant by "basic biology"?

Students should be familiar with habitats, what they eat, the time of year they are active, the type of metamorphosis, and their ecological role (free living, parasite, etc.).

How will duplicates of the same type of specimen be scored?

Duplicate specimens will not be awarded points.

May students photograph Arthropods which are already captive but still alive, like they might see at nature centers, zoos, pet shops, etc.?

As long as the captive critter could be found outdoors naturally in the Great Lakes region.

Will the specimen collection be part of the practice (District) competitions?

No.  The practice competitions will only include  the Part 1 multiple choice test.  Students should not bring their specimen collection to the practice tournament because they will not be evaluated.  We are not able to ensure consistent feedback across all practice tournaments.

Will students be allowed to compete if they do not have a specimen collection to submit?

Yes. However, the students will not receive any of the possible 108 points (~30% of overall) awarded for the collection portion.

Is it okay to use specimens that are found dead?

Yes.  A dead specimen can be used in your collection provided that the specimen is not missing vital body parts that are required in identifying.

Are students allowed to move to the next station if they finish before the time limit is announced?

No.  At all station-based events, students are expected to stay at their current station until they are told to move, regardless of whether they have finished the questions, or whether the station in front of them is open.

Is it appropriate to submit a specimen box that does not have a removable lid?

No.  In the process of judging the specimen collection, the Supervisor will want to be able to open it, and possibly remove a specimen.  Using a box that does not open will limit the Supervisor's ability to award full points.

Should students be able to recognize both juvenile and adult forms of the organisms?

They should know the juvenile forms of the insects listed by name. They should also be able to identify, if shown a juvenile or adult specimen, which form metamorphosis it goes through.

What size specimen is too big to glue to tab rather than pin? If a specimen is not "relaxing", can it be glued to tab instead, even if it is large?

If a pin can go through it without destroying the specimen, use the pin. If it's too small for a pin or not relaxing and you are nervous the specimen would crumble, a paper tab would suffice. Make certain that the materials used are stiff and will not allow the insect to wiggle and bounce around, and be destroyed.

What types of questions might be asked in the subject area of "taxonomy"?

Questions may focus on Carolus Linneaus and the hierarchical naming system that he created.

Will our team be able to get feedback on their collection at the practice tournament?

No. Please do not bring your insect collection to the practice tournament.

The Event Supervisor will not consistently attend the practice events and there may be no one present with Entomology experience.

Did you not find the answer to your question in the FAQs?

Ask your rules clarification question here

Event Supervisor

Michelle Serreyn

Macomb Science Olympiad

P.O. Box 763, Sterling Heights, MI 48311

For questions about the Elementary division, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.