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Fall Fund Drive

Frassing and Higher Taxa

This is a pet peeve of mine:

There are numerous cases where we don't have the expertise to identify to species, so everything gets moved to genus, or family, etc.- no problem there. What I'm really concerned about is the practice of frassing new images that would go there because "we already have plenty", or some variation.

We have numerous examples of unidentifiable everything-but-the-kitchen-sink groups transforming into a diverse array of species in the guide upon the arrival of specialists in those groups: springtails, ichneumonids, sawflies, millipedes and booklice- to name a few. Even ones where specialists won't help us (the aphids, for example) can be organized and narrowed down somewhat.

Yes, it's inconvenient to have pages and pages of images under one taxon. Yes, many of the images are no doubt duplicates. The problem is that we simply don't know which of those images are unnecessary duplicates, and which will turn out to be species otherwise unrepresented in the guide.

Please, please, please resist the temptation to "tidy up" genera, families and other higher taxa by frassing clear, but unidentified images before a specialist has had the chance to see them!

One example
This is one example why we (contributors as well as editors) shouldn't be too quick to frass. I am happy for this bee, IDed to species after being rescued from Frass.

Amen to that
There have been images that lay dormant for as long as 4 or 5 years, to be finally identified. Some even turned out to be new species for the guide. It would be nice to have some sort of "storage room" especially for the worst ones, but they do no harm where they are.
Of course this refers to the "clear, but unidentified images" that Chuck refers to. Unrecognizable ones are another story.

BG's old stacks conceal many treasures. My own main specific concern at this point is to preserve the images of the drab Muscoidea, since we now have a new expert onboard who will be sorting these out (hopefully, we'll see some action soon enough).
There should be no limit on the number of decent images sitting at higher-level pages until that section gets expert attention and it becomes clear what is IDable and what isn't -- although even then i prefer to keep clean images on special no-taxon pages, such as or

Storage room
Oh, yes! We do have storage rooms of sorts. We should create a few more, probably.
v: When are you going to find an aphid expert to give us a hand?

Aphids, yes... that hurts a lot!
I honestly tried several people -- to no avail :-/
The problem is, there seems to exist a tacit aphidological convention of sorts not to identify anything from images alone, as i was told; many seem to stick to that tenet, and there's not much we can do about it. It's a shame indeed -- since I believe that Aphidinea is a textbook example of a group where live photos are extremely rich in gestalt-building information vs prepared/mounted specimens. [Also true for mayflies, mirids, springtails, psocids, spiders, cats, larvae in general, and other such rather tender & fragile critters who tend to lose their shape, color, and often appendages in preserved state.] I strongly suspect that the said trade ethos of the aphid community is deeply rooted in the millennial tradition of working with microscopic slides, but that's no relief... (I hated the lab classes where we were supposed to key out all these squashed and skewed aphids.) I think, though, that Charley may have something more encouraging to say about this -- and I'll definatly keep trying.

Do you think the aphid people might be receptive to receiving specimens to identify, along with host plant information? If so, I'd be willing to collect aphids from a wide variety of plants for their examination. If we could get enough identified, then we could start matching up other unidentified pictures in the guide. That along with Charley's host plant references could go a long way.

I really can't make predictions as to how receptive the aphid people may be, BUT: 1°, good naturalists of any persuasion tend to be eager to [a] look at any potentially interesting material and [b] promote scientific knowledge; 2°, i find your idea terrific and most helpful; 3°, it never hurts to ask; and 4°, a concerted effort to put together a sound visual guide to aphids on BG will make a huge difference and i would like to be a part of it.

Sorry, Chuck, for having switched the thrust of the thread! i didn't start it :)))

Frassing and higher taxa
Aphids are a good example of why we shouldn't frass unidentified images (unless they are truly unidentifiable). Beyond that this discussion could be continued in its own thread. I am starting another one in general discussion. Here

Well, I have nothing more encouraging to say regarding experts, but I do think my page organizing the images by host plant will go a long way towards sorting out IDs. It's obvious, when scrolling through the aphid images, that there are dramatic differences in color patterns and other features, which should allow species (or genera, at least) to be distinguished from photos even if it is impossible (which it usually is) to see the tiny characters referred to in the technical keys.

And another thing:-)
I am under the impression that at least some species of aphids undergo dramatic transformation from primary host plant to secondary host plant, to the degree that there may even be differences in the number of beak (or is it antenna?) segments. So, yes, host plant is vital, and what you might think are two different species might actually be one on two different plants....

Aphid discussion
Eric: We moved this part of the discussion to another forum. Here

"distinguished from photos even if it is impossible...
" see the tiny characters referred to in the technical keys." -- nicely put; that i believe deeply. Exactly my point: a huge deal of visual information gets lost in preserved specimens but is available to us from BG live photos.

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