I need resources on buying and preserving mounted insects?
January 22, 2004 6:26 AM   Subscribe

I have been given several mounted insects as gifts recently (moths, moving leaf insects). I would like some resources (books, web sites) on how to go about buying and mounting/framing/preserving specimens myself. Many of the books on Amazon are out of print, or have no descriptions.
posted by sharksandwich to Shopping (2 answers total)
Library? Most libraries hang on to things until they fall apart.
posted by agregoli at 7:24 AM on January 22, 2004

I've done this as a kid, and before I tell you how, I'd like to interject a minor environmental gripe, so let me step up on a soapbox for a minute.

If you're going to do this yourself and you intend to catch native species for this purpose, please consider raising them yourself instead, especially giant silk moths. Basically, raise four or five, preserve two or three, and release the rest. This way you can restock the environment instead of depleting it and you will get the best specimens because they will be newborn. To do this, you can do what I did, which was to memorize the list of food plants of butterflies I was interested in and go find them and look for eggs or larvae, or trap one of each gender of a species and keep them in a terrarium type container with the food plant until you get eggs. You might be able to buy livestock, but I don't know offhand. As an adult, I would love to raise some of the local silk moths for my daughter because they are fabulously beautiful, and the metamorphosis for any lepidoptera is stunning.

That said, at a minimum you will want a Spreading Board and insect pins and some fine forceps. Of the spreading boards, I would recommend the adjustable kind because you can't eaily spread a common azure with the same set up as for a tomato hornworm. The insec body goes in the groove, you pin the body down, spread the wings as you like them using the forceps and hold them down with strips of paper that get pinned down. You wait a week, remove the paper and remove the insect using the pin in the body (usually through the thorax for butterflies). Then you put in in a case with some moth balls.

When I was a kid, my dad made me a display case which was a box with a framed glass lid. We put thick cork on the bottom and I could pin the butterflies I collected into the cork. Later, I found it easier to worj the deep picture frames with cotton.

Other tools you may want: a relaxing jar. If you have a not recently dead bug, its wings won't go where you want. Take a big pickle jar, put a some damp sand in the bottom with a drop of bleach to keep mold from growing, and put some window screen over the sand. Put in your specimen and wait a few days and it will be free of rigor.

Some people use killing jars which are like relaxing jars but with a nasty solvent instead of water. I found it far less cumbersome to keep a dropper bottle of turpentine or acetone and put a single drop on the head of the insect.

Nasco will sell you a complete kit with guides and so on, but it's pricey ($45ish).
posted by plinth at 10:06 AM on January 22, 2004

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