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What are the best DNA-friendly killing agents for Lepidoptera?  Freezing and cyanide are the available options I have read about, but what about ammonium carbonate?

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Yes freezing is better potion. But I think its better to kill these beauties by pressing their abdomen or pressing between head and thorax once you catch them. Hoever later one is better otion. I don't recommend chemical killing method as it might interfere in downstream applications.
I agree with Swapnil. Gentle squeeze on the thorax works well and does not cause any intermediate or downstream DNA damage. We have used killing jars (with chloroform soaked cotton) also for collecting and killing Moths and the DNA quality or yield was not compromised in anyway but I would still recommend the former technique as chloroform is known to be used extensively for DNA extraction procedures.
Thank you for those recommendations.  I'll be dealing more with small moths than larger Lepidoptera.  Freezing will not be available to me in the field, although I suppose I could bring dry ice.  What can be used in traps, e.g. UV light traps, as a killing agent that will not degrade DNA?

Dear Matthew,

According to my personal experience, no much damage to DNA is done if you keep specimen for one day in your collection kit. Yes of course after returning to the lab one should keep them at zero degrees or minus twenty. Immediate killing is important so that fluttering of wings won't damage the wings which in worse case might affect the identification. 

So I suggest you to go for any physical method to kill the specimen instead of taking dry ice along with you in the field causing inconvenience.

Dear Swapnil,

 

Thank you for that advice.

 

Sincerely,

 

Matt

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