Pins and Needles 5: Wet and Wild ~ A Taxidermy Story
I just discovered a really cool method of getting my specimens soft and limber again so that they can be spread and arranged in the best positions before preservation. Now, for those of you who are new here, although I like collecting butterfly and moth specimens I do not like killing them for the sake of it. Therefore, I either wait for them to live out their natural lifespans (species which I rear/breed/keep) or simply hunt around flourescent lights during the daytime to find those that have died of natural causes. Unfortunately for me, butterflies and moths which have died for a long time often become really stiff and difficult to maneouver. Now, though, it seems my problems have been solved! Introducing, the humidifying chamber!
Roch Dafeyette's humidifying chamber.
The humidifying chamber, is really nothing more than a really fancy name for a temporary storage chamber where moisture can be allowed to enter the butterflies' body thus making it soft and supple again for spreading. It typically consists of some sand, water, a window screen, and the insects that you wish to spread. First, boil the sand to remove microorganisms and impurities. Next, pour boiled water into the sand so that it is damp but not overspilling (water level should not exceed that of the sand). When that is done, simply place the window screen upon the damp sand and put your insects on top of that. This is to allow water to enter the butterflies' bodies from all sides. Leave them there for about a day or so and voila! Soft and supple butterflies! Note, it is important not to leave your insects in there for too long or mould will begin to develop. I tried it recently on an Owl/Tiger Moth that I found.
Humidified Owl Moth (Asota Plaginota) being spread with needles.
I've always found moths a joy to work with. Often their dull forewings can be opened to reveal the most striking colours and patterns, like this Asota Plaginota, which is one of the "tiger moths" I believe so named for their brilliant colouring and striped abdomen. I found this specimen in the Kitchen one day and fed with a diet of nectar and wild-flowers until it expired (some three to four days later). Once spread, I allowed the moth to dry and set for a couple of hours. (most lepidopterists will leave them for the next week or so but usually I only dry them for not more than two days with the aid of gel silica and dehumidifying agents)