While they require professional assistance for most forms of taxidermy, many people are actually more than capable of preserving butterflies themselves. The grace and beauty of butterflies makes them a favorite for hobbyists who are interested in capturing and preserving them as specimens.
So what do you need to know about butterfly taxidermy to do it well and make sure you have a great-looking specimen that you can add to your collection? Here are some tips to keep in mind.
Relax the butterfly
Bugs can very quickly become brittle after they die, so it is important that you relax the specimen to prevent this drying-out process from occurring. You can create your own relaxing chamber in a jar or plastic box, and use a folded paper towel you’ve moistened with water at the very bottom of the container. Add a touch of antiseptic to prevent mold from growing inside this chamber, and then set the butterfly on top of the paper towel base. Keep it closed inside the container for anywhere from two to seven days—larger butterflies will take more time to relax than smaller ones.
Pinning the butterfly
Once the butterfly has completed the relaxation process, you can begin the pinning process. Hold the butterfly by its thorax (the central part of its body) and push the insect pin through the middle of the thorax, right between the wings. If needed, you can push the wings backward to allow you to get the pin as far through the body as you need it to go. Force the wings back down with a spade-tip forceps after you pin. After you’ve done this, you can pin the butterfly to a mounting board, preferably one made out of foam. Keep the part of the specimen where the wings are attached to the body just above the board’s surface.
Mounting the rest of the butterfly’s body parts
After you’ve finished pinning the body to the foam, you can then begin mounting the wings, body and antennae. Fold the wings under small strips of pins and paper, but do not touch the wing surfaces—this could result in their scales falling off. Instead, use insect pins to pull the front wings forward one at a time, then insert the pins into the wings immediately behind the larger wing veins. This will avoid ripping the wings.
After this, push the rear wings under the front wings to match up the color patterns, and pin the antennae and abdomen in the proper positions. Once you are satisfied with your mounting positions, you can remove the pins from the paper strips to outside the wing margins and tighten the strips as needed.
It’ll take about a week for your specimen to dry, depending on its size and the humidity of the storage space. You should remove the pins and paper strips once the specimen is dry, and then you can store the butterfly in a tightly sealed box out of direct sunlight. Add mothballs if it’s going to be stored in the dark for long periods of time.
For more information about butterfly taxidermy, contact the experts at Nature’s Design Taxidermy today.