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Much of what we know about prehistoric insects is derived from evidence trapped in amber, or ancient tree resin. Because tree resin is a sticky substance – think of a time when you've touched pine bark and come away with sap on your hands – insects, mites, or other tiny invertebrates would quickly become trapped upon landing on the weeping resin. As the resin continued to ooze, it would soon encase the insect, preserving its body.

Amber inclusions date as far back as the Carboniferous period. Scientists can also find preserved insects in resin dated just a few hundred years old; these resins are called copal, not amber. Because amber inclusions form only where trees or other resinous plants grew, the insect evidence recorded in amber documents the relationship between ancient insects and forests.