Are you interested in collecting and preserving butterflies as a hobby? Great! This is a hobby anyone can get into, from outdoor enthusiasts to young children who are developing an interest in bugs and the outdoors.
Here are some tips and considerations to keep in mind as you begin the hobby of butterfly taxidermy.
You can collect butterflies in their early phases
You don’t have to limit yourself to adult butterflies. Eggs, for example, can be preserved in alcohols. Caterpillars can be killed in a preservative or boiled, then stored in 70 percent rubbing alcohol. Pupae can be preserved in alcohol as well, then frozen and mounted. You can even allow the butterfly to emerge, then preserve both the butterfly and pupal skin together.
Collection and storage of specimens
After you catch a butterfly in your net, the best way to kill it while preserving it is by pinching its thorax between the thumb and forefinger. It can take practice to do this with the proper amount of pressure, but it is the best method that will help you avoid damaging the specimen. You can slip it into an envelope, or store it in a tight box with mothballs.
“Relaxation” of the specimen
When insects are killed, they quickly become quite brittle. However, you can return dead specimens to any position you desire by “relaxing” them. You can make homemade relaxing chambers in plastic boxes or glass jars. Put a folded paper towel on the bottom of the container and moisten it slightly. Add a bit of antiseptic to prevent mold growth. Place the specimen in the container and then seal it. The high humidity will “relax” it over several days so you can move it around as you desire.
Pinning the relaxed butterfly
After you have finished the relaxation process, take the butterfly out of its envelope and hold it by the thorax while you force an insect pin through the middle of the thorax, directly between the wings. Once you have stuck the pin through, it might be helpful to use a forceps to push the wings down, making the specimen easier to move around and manipulate as you wish. Pin the specimen on to your mount board.
Then, you can mount the wings, body and antennae as you desire. You can fold the wings down using strips of paper and small pins. Avoid touching the wings with your fingers if at all possible, as you could rub off scales. Insect pins can also help you pull the wings into your desired position. Follow the same process for pinning the abdomen and antennae. Once you’ve got the specimen in your desired position, you can let it dry out again before removing the pins and paper strips.
Final storage of the specimen
Once the specimen has been mounted in a shadowbox to your desired position, keep that box tightly closed. If they will be stored in the dark for long periods of time, you should use moth balls or registered insecticides to prevent beetles or lice from feeding on the parts. If kept in lighted conditions, you typically will not need to use insecticides. Minimize moisture conditions in the storage area as much as possible.
Contact Nature’s Design Taxidermy today for more butterfly taxidermy tips!