Collecting insects and preserving them is not new for an entomologist, who specializes in insect studies. As a rule of thumb, the soft-bodied insects are prone to decay and are best kept in a liquid solution. In contrary to this, hard-bodied ones are preserved dry by following various preparatory steps. Besides the dry and wet storage methods, there is more to learn about how to preserve insects for display. Scroll down to understand regarding insect collection and preservation tips.
Insect Collection Tips
The best way to capture insects is use insect nets of various sizes. While heading out for collecting insects, ensure that you carry some killing jars, spare containers and forceps. As the term goes, killing jars (having cotton balls soaked in ethyl acetate, and a piece of tissue paper) are used for killing the collected insects, which are then kept in the spare containers. In case, you are interested in studying flying insects, swing the aerial net in a convenient direction, seal the tip properly and then, gently transfer insects of the same type into a killing jar.
Preserving Insects for Display?
Inside the killing jar, the ethyl acetate fumes will kill the insect, and the tissue paper is useful to collect excess moisture. Another way of killing collected insects is keeping in the freezer for one day. For soft-bodied insects, cold treatment for 1-2 hours in the refrigerator is sufficient to kill them. If required, thaw insects properly prior to preserving them for display. As for the labeling data, include location, date, environment and name of the collector. Regarding further steps of insect preservation for display, there are various techniques, of which some are explained below.
Preserving Insects in Alcohol
The most common way of preserving soft-bodied insects is keeping them in ethyl alcohol (or grain alcohol) having 70 percent strength. Alcohol of this concentration is useful to retain natural shape and color of insects, without causing dehydration effects. Nevertheless, use 100% ethanol for preserving insect DNA in natural form. So, how to preserve insects in a jar with alcohol? Fill alcohol to the jar containing insect, seal with a rubber stopper and label it. Examples of insects suited for this method are grubs, caterpillar, aphids, fish-flies, etc.
Preserving Insects in Resin
This method of preserving insects is based on insect fossils, which get trapped in tree resin and amber. Although it is a not so popular technique for studying purpose, insects entrapment in resin is done for making personalized jewelry items. For this, select a mold (larger than the insect), and keep aside. Mix craft resin and epoxy resin in specific amounts. Pour this mixture to half of the selected mold, add insect (with ventral side facing down), press down slightly and then fill the remaining half of mold with resin. Allow resin to cure properly before removing preserved insect from the mold.
Preserving Insects in Acrylic
Embedding large bugs in acrylic is another approach. Prepare a working area by laying spare newspapers. Gather the bug to be preserved, mold (sprayed with mold release) and other supplies. Follow the acrylic mixing directions as suggested, and pour it in the mold to about half level. Add insect with its face down, push down slightly to secure the bug and wait for hardening. After it hardens, mix acrylic again and fill the remaining space of the mold. For getting best results, remove preserved bug after 2 days by gentle tapping.
Dry Preserving Hard-bodied Insects
The insect types that fit in hard-bodied category are beetles, termites and butterflies. Needless to mention, these insects are preserved dry, and not in solutions. In order to proceed with preserving hard-bodied insects for display, you will require display boxes and display pins that are long and thin. After killing, you can pin them directly below the head, near the thorax region. Find the middle line first, move slightly to the right and insert a display pin. You can spread the wings of flies, but never pin down the wings directly. Following this, put label and seal the display boxes to prevent pest attacks.
So, this was all about how to preserve insects for display. Collecting and preserving insects is indeed an interesting project for science students and entomologists. But, one word of caution is to take proper care while handling stinging or biting insects. And while purchasing the required materials, it is best to contact biological supply companies or universities. They provide superior quality entomology kits for collection, identification, preservation and display of insects.