HOW TO: Pin a Butterfly

Have you ever seen a piece of art or craft that you think to yourself “I could do that!” but of course you never act on it?  Well, some people do act on that impulse and I’m going to show you how to do just that. 

Every now and then I get a phone call from someone who has a deceased butterfly and they want to spread its wings so they can put it in some sort of shadow box for decoration.  This is always a fun phone call because it’s kinda hard to explain the process of spreading a butterfly.  I usually end up inviting them up to the museum to watch me do it, but other times I just have to do my best at explaining it. 

 Papered Butterflies

Now, I do not spread butterflies at work for artsy reasons, but rather for scientific purposes.  We have a very large collection of “papered butterflies” that have not been spread yet.  (When I say “papered” I mean that they are in glassine envelopes awaiting curation, after which they will be placed in the collection – see the photo at right.)  These butterflies were collected by various individuals who never had the chance to process them -  which makes my job lots of fun because I get to do it! 

I have processed butterflies from places all over the world, Australia, India, and Peru to just name a few.  I remember spreading one that was collected in 1922.  You’re probably thinking “How can you spread the wings of a butterfly that is 86 years old?”  Well, that’s where we are going to start this butterfly-spreading lesson! 

1.  You have or have found a butterfly but it’s wings and body are hard and all dried up.  You can’t even open the wings.  This is typical, so no need to worry.  All you need to do is rehydrate the butterfly in a relaxing chamber.  If your butterfly is already flexible (you can slightly squeeze the thorax and the wings move) there is no need to relax it.

 Relaxing Chamber

2.  The relaxing chamber is very easy.  You can use any type of air tight container – I use Tupperware.  Place 3-4 damp paper towels in the bottom of the container.  This creates humidity, which will seep into the butterfly.  You also need to add a cap full of either Listerine or Pine-sol.  These act as mold inhibitors so your butterfly doesn’t get all yucky.  The last thing you need is something to prevent the butterfly from touching the paper towels.  I use wire mesh that I cut to the size of the container and put it on top of the towels.  I usually leave the butterfly in here for 2 days before I check on it. 

3. When you check on it, pick it up carefully with forceps or tweezers and hold onto the thorax.  Gently squeeze the thorax to see if it is flexible and the wings move a bit (This is very difficult to explain, so I’m sorry if it’s hard to understand – if you have any questions please comment below).  It this occurs, you are ready to start, but if not – just leave the butterfly for another day and check again.  Sometimes it takes 5 days or so, so be patient. 

4.  Now, you need a large piece of Styrofoam covered with wax or tracing paper.  While you have the wax or tracing paper out, make sure to cut strips about 3 x 1 inches to be used later. This paper prevents the scales from rubbing off of the wings. 

5. Next, you will need some type of pin to put through the thorax.  We use pins purchased from bioquip specially made for insects, but you could probably use any type of long thin straight pin.  Put the pin straight through the middle of the thorax leaving about 1/4 of the pin on top.  While pinning the butterfly, you may need to open the wings a bit.  Do this with your forceps and try your hardest not to damage the wings.

Opening the wings with forceps.
Put your pin through the thorax.

6.  This next part is different from the norm, but I think it’s so much easier.  You are going to pin your butterfly upside down, so the pin head will be going into the Styrofoam instead of the sharp end.  Spread open your butterflies wings and gently poke the pin head into the Styrofoam.  Be careful not to poke your finger on the sharp end.  Now your butterfly should be completely flat.

7.  You will need more pins to do this next part.  Place the first two pins on both sides of the abdomen, right where it meets the thorax.  This prevents the butterfly from moving around when you try to move the wings.  Next, take a pin and find a vein in one of the forewings.  Gently use the pin to move the wing so that the bottom of the wing is perpendicular with the body.  When you get the wing to the correct position, take one of the strips of paper and put over the wing and use some pins to hold it in place.  Do not poke the pins through the butterfly wing. 

8. Now you are going to move onto the hind wing.  Use one of the pins to move the wing so that the top of it just covers the forewing and use the paper again to hold it in place.  Now you can move onto the other side.  The trickiest part here is getting both sides of the butterfly to be even.  This takes practice, so don’t get frustrated. 

Halfway there!
Both wings should be even.

9.  Just a few more things and you will be finished. If the antennae are still attached to the butterfly, you can pin them into place so that they are symetrical. Remember the pins that you used a the beginning to keep the butterfly from moving?  You want to remove those and make a small teepee over the abdomen with them to prevent the abdomen from curling up. 

10.  Now you just wait!  I would wait about a week before checking things out.  When the week is over all you need to do is remove all the pins and paper, lift up the butterfly, turn it right side up and stick the pointy part of the pin in the styrofoam and VOILA!  your butterfly is ready!  Now you can put it into a shadow box or just keep it in your collection. 

I have a couple of last minute pointers before you go crazy with spreading butterflies:

- Patience is very important! 

- Butterflies are very fragile, so be extra careful. 

- If you break off an antennae or tear a wing, just glue it back on with elmers glue that has dried just a bit so it is sticky.

- if you have any questions please feel free to leave me a comment and I will do what I can to help!

I hope you enjoyed this little lesson and hopefully you will be a pro the very first time, but don’t count on it!  It does take practice, so don’t give up, keep on trying and remember to have patience!

131 thoughts on “HOW TO: Pin a Butterfly

  1. Do you have any video’s on this topic? or do you know of any video’s that can be watched over the internet. I would like to learn more about this topic, but Im a better watcher than a reader…..ha ha Thanks,

    Kevin

  2. Hi Kevin,

    What a grear idea! We will definitely try to gert a video up on this topic. In the meantime, I’ll see if our entomologists know of any other video tutorials out there.

    Thanks for reading!

  3. Nice article. We bought some mounted buterflies while in Aruba, quite cheeply and now realize that a few of them are moldy onthe thorax. they apparently missed your step 2. We had already intended to remove them to a nicer shadow box. Can we use Listerine now? just place of few drops on the thorax?

  4. Tony,
    I just use the listerine in the relaxing chamber to prevent the mold from growing on the butterfly while they are relaxing, not to prevent mold from growing after they are mounted. What I would do is either drop some alcohol on the abdomen or dip a Q tip in some alcohol and gently swab it on the abdomen. The alcohol should kill the mold and hopefully it will not grow again. Good Luck!

  5. Great instructions! My question is a little different and I have been unable to find any info on the web – perhaps you can offer some suggestions. I cannot bring myself to kill a butterfly, they are too lovely a creature… So, I wait til I find one that is already dead. My plan is to “mount” them on a decorative twig as a natural little piece of art. So my question is this, “How can I protect them so they don’t disintegrate or get eaten by other critters?” Can I give them a coat with a verathane spray or some such protectant? What do you suggest?
    Thanks kindly,
    Marlena

  6. Hey Marlena! Very good question! I think it will look really nice being glued to a stick to look as if it was perched! Butterflies will last forever just the way they are as long as:

    -they are kept out of the sun
    -they are kept dry
    -pests are kept away from them

    I would not recommend spraying aything on them. They are so fragile and the wing scales can come off so easily. Anything sprayed on them can have a negative effect on the way the butterfly looks, if not completely ruin it. I would suggest that if you mount them on twigs, you then put it into a deep frame such as a shodowbox, or cover it with some sort of glass or plexiglass cover or display case. To be extra sure bugs will not get in there, you can place a moth ball in the container with the butterfly. I hope this helps, please let me know if you have anymore questions!

  7. Hi Laurie,

    thanks for such great, clear, information. Followed your steps and photos – and before we knew it we had a beautiful box of pinned moths (Oxycanus dirempta).

    Another tip I got from a person at the South Australian Museum was to keep the insects frozen until you wanted to pin them. That way you can avoid the relaxing step.

  8. Hello,

    I was interested in getting similar information on pinning other kinds of insects: beetles and the like.

    Has anyone come across any good instructions?

    Also, as a novice, I’m curious if people usually kill the bugs or just go out find them, and if so, how often do you manage to find a dead butterfly/insect lying around?

    Thanks

  9. Clayton,

    All very good questions! Pinning beetles and other insects can certainly be a lot less challenging, depending on how you want to display them.

    Here is a website I found that explains the whole process pretty well, it would take way too long for me to explain it here!

    http://www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/youthdevelopment/DA6892.html

    As far as collecting goes, it’s completely up to you. I personally do not collect insects, instead, I take photographs. This is for a couple of reasons. First, I hate killing them. I love insects and respect them and although there are plenty of them, I prefer to leave them in their natural habitat! Second, not all insects stay preserved well. A lot of them loose their color and it takes some really advanced stuff to combat that. If you want to build a large insect collection, you will need to go out and collect and kill them. If you must, putting them in the freezer is the best way. It is the most humane and they will stay preserved in there until you are ready to pin them. I think kill jars, which are the suggested method, are awful and they slowly suffocate the insect with toxic chemicals.

    You may have luck finding dead insects as well. When I had to make a collection in college, I luckily found about half of the insects dead on my front porch. That made things a lot easier on me! The best way is a combination of finding dead bugs and collecting live ones. Just remember if they’re already dead, you may have to use a relaxing chamber to get them to be flexible again. I hope this helps! If you have any more questions, feel free to ask!

  10. Hi, thank you for the instructions! I am working on an insect collection for my entomology class. I’ve gotten some butterflies, and one I put in the kill jar, which I didn’t like and do not really want to use again, and the others I put in plastic containers until I could get them to a freezer. Do you have any tips to share on how to get them folded up in the paper, so that they don’t break their wings?

  11. Hello Jessica! Ah, I remember the days of making an insect collection for my Entomology class! My best advice is, get it done early! I thought I had been managing my time well, but all of the little details like adding the labels really end up taking a long time!

    Anyway, butterflies should be stored in a glassine envelope which looks like this:
    https://wildco.com/images/pctr/6009E30.jpg

    The “papered butterflies” pictured above are not in a typical glassine envelope, they are folded up into a piece of paper. You can purchase glassine envelopes from http://www.bioquip.com. All you need to do is open the flap of the envelope and slip the butterfly in. No folding required! Once they are in there, you can store them in the freezer until you are ready to spread their wings. I hope this answers your question!

  12. My daughter found a butterfly completely open, unharmed and still very soft. I am trying to find out how I can go about putting this into a shadow box or some sort of frame. Would I just start with step 6?
    Please advise, I’m worried it is going to start getting old and deteriorated. I just have it on the counter in a cool place and has been two weeks. I keep forgetting about it and would like to do something before it gets to late.

  13. Hi Jamie! Yes, if you have found a butterfly that has just passed and is still very flexible, you should start with step 6. Now, if it has been there for two weeks, I would say it is definitely dried up by now and needs to be relaxed. If you try to move the wings up and down, and they move easily, it is fine to pin. If they are rigid and don’t move very much, put it in a relaxing chamber for a day or so. If you ever find a butterfly or other insect that has just died and is soft and flexible, put it in the freezer. This will keep it all of its fluids preserved and keep it from drying out until you are ready to pin it. Good luck!

  14. I love your site! I have been trying to find out how to spread the wings of butterflies and dragon flies for some time. Your explanations were very helpful.I too, hate killing insects. I usually just find them or friends bring them to me. Now I know how to fix them to look natural.If I need to kill them, the freezer seems the most humane. No noxious chemicals involved either!

    Thanks a lot!
    Sharon Smith

  15. Hi
    My husband and I like to collect dead butterflies and dead dragonflies (we don’t like to kill them, we just go looking for the dead ones and put the ones that are dying in a window by a plant until they die). We try very hard not to touch them with our hands when retrieving them. We thought we successfully mounted 3 butterflies and 2 dragon flies in a shadow box 3-4 yrs ago. They have been beautiful until this past month. I went up stairs to discover that their colors had literally fallen off. It was like powder dusting down the fabric they are mounted on. What do I need to do to prevent this next time. We have a few others that are currently being stored inside individual little boxes. I don’t mess with adjusting their wings. If there is time I put a sheet of paper on top and that keeps the wings spread. Other wise I leave them alone… battle wounds and all.

    Thanks so much!
    Jenny

  16. Laurie,
    Brilliant! I have been reading through tons of articles on how to do this. Some where to technical for the lay-person to understand and others were very trite and from people who can’t even spell. I think you handled this beautifully and the photos that go along with it are great anyone could follow it.
    i have book marked this page and will refer to it as needed. thank you for your knowledge it’s most appreciated.
    Best Regards,
    Mark
    Texas Hill Country.

  17. Hi Jenny!

    Well, that is a head scratcher! Honestly butterflies will not lose their wing scales without some type of disturbance, especially if they are in a shadow box. Something must have gotten to them for this to happen, perhaps a pest of some kind. There is really nothing you can apply to a butterlies wings to protect them, and no way to apply anything without damaging the wing scales. All you can do is keep them dry, out of the sun, and protected from pests. Make sure your shaodwbox is in good repair and seals well. Also, make sure that the butterfly is tightly secured to the background and won’t move or fall off. As long as the butterfly is well protected, it should stay beautiful!

  18. About the protecting the wings….I’ve been using clear coat normally used for protecting acrylic paint ect. It’s always worked well for me,and I still have one me and my grandmother preserved this way. I’d say it’s about 18 years old at this point..Still looks just as beautiful and alive as the day I caught it.

  19. Hi Suzanne

    What clear coat do you use to preserve wings? Is it a spray? Really would
    like to use the method.

    Thanks, Ron

  20. Hi!

    I recently went on a trip to Costa Rica and purchased a souvenir of a glass encased wall hanging of three butterflies. When we got back to Houston, I noticed that the glass had shattered and a few parts of a butterfly’s wings were severed. How do I piece it back together?

    Thank you, Geetha

  21. Well, this is a little tricky since unfortunately there is no manual of repairing butterfly wings! You can try to repair it using very small strips of paper.

    You would need to glue the pieces of the wings to strips of paper and glue the strips of paper to the back of the wing so that the pieces fit where they are supposed to. Elmer’s glue is probably the best type to use. If the paper sticks out anywhere from behind the wing, just use small scissors to trim it. I’ve tried this before with some success, although you need to work very very carefully. I hope you understand, it’s so hard to explain this way! Hope this helps!

  22. Hello, I very much appreciate your instructions and I’m so happy to discover this page. Truth be told, I have been worrying my brains out on what to do with the three butterflies my boyfriend gave me as a gift this morning. They’re so cute and I really, really want to keep them.

    They’re still alive as of this afternoon, although one is very weak already and I think is about to die. I’ve been keeping them in container with holes punctured on the cover and I really have no idea what to do to keep them alive a little longer and then after in preserving them. I’ve never tried doing this, so can you give me tips to make it a bit easier?

    I’m very hesitant coz I really don’t wanna damage the butterflies.

    thanks alot, Jayme

  23. Hi Jayme,

    Thanks for writing us. What kind of butterflies did your boyfriend give you? Giving someone live butterflies is certainly an unusual present, especially at this time of year! I hope my response is not too late.

    Most butterflies don’t do very well in containers, except very large ones (like the Butterfly Center!). They try into the sides of the container and so damage their wings. Also, butterflies typically don’t eat very well/naturally in small containers. But, you can try giving them slices of orange or a bit of watermelon; they will sip the juice (you might have to gently put them on the fruit – if their feet touch the juicy part, they should unroll their tongue and start eating if they are hungry (butterflies have taste receptors in their feet!). However, I don’t think you should expect your captives to live very long, even if you feed them – although my cousin kept alive a monarch that was unable to fly for nearly three months by feeding it this way!

    If you put your finger under their “chin” they may walk up on your finger and you can move them that way, without holding the wings. If the butterfly won’t move/walk on you and you need to move it, you will have to handle it. To do this you should either gently hold it between your thumb and forefinger on its thorax (the middle part of the body, where the legs and wings are attached). Be careful not to bend or break the legs! Or, if the wings are closed you can also grasp it just above the body by the leading edge of the front pair of wings – try to touch as little of the wing area as possible and make sure both wings are together and you are holding both. You can see there are two very strong veins along that edge so holding them there is safe. If you grab some other part of the wing, along the outer edge or the hind wing, the wing can easily break if the butterfly tries to struggle (and also you will remove more scales that way). It’s best not to hold them at all if you can help it.

    Of course, once the butterflies are dead it’s a little different (you still should avoid as much as possible touching the wings if you want your specimens to look their best). Laurie’s original instructions on how to mount a butterfly are excellent (21 Nov 2008). If you have specific questions after reading that, then feel free to get back to us! Good luck with your butterflies!

    Nancy

  24. Thank you for your response. I really have no idea what kind of butterflies these are. We’re from a tropical area so butterflies are present all-throughout the year. He gave them to me as a present coz he knows i like butterflies.:)

    Anyway, yes, they didn’t live really long. Two of them are already dead while one is still alive. I don’t know how to idea what kind of butterfly these are. Two are big while other one is smaller.

    Thank you for the instructions. I’ve already tried pinning the 2 dead ones. I don’t have to relax them, right? Coz they’re new.. but I accidentally pulled off the head of one of them. What should I do?

    Thanks again, Jayme

  25. Hi Jayme,

    Maybe you could send us a photo/s of the butterflies and we could identify them for you? Send them to blogadmin@hmns.org.

    You can use a bit of Elmer’s glue (let it get a bit tacky first) or even clear nail polish to reattach the head (or any other parts that fall off). Yes, if the butterflies are still flexible (i.e., you can move their wings, antennae, legs, etc. without them snapping off) then you don’t need to relax them.

    Good luck! Where is the tropical area you are writing from – south Florida, or someplace more exotic?

    Nancy

  26. Hello again. Thanks so much. I sent an email to the address you gave me. That’s the picture of the 2 large ones. I tried researching what kind of butterfly it was and i think it’s called “the paper kite”. it’s found in the Philippines and Malaysia i think. As for the small one I still can’t take a picture because I’ve already pinned it so i think i have to wait til i can remove it. How long does it take again before i can remove it?

    By the way I’m from the Philippines. So is it more exotic? I dunno. Hahaha.

    Thanks Jayme.

  27. Thank you very much for this informative site. I like the personal touch you add too. I’ve collected about 100 butterflies from Florida and the Catskills NY and I’m just starting to mount them. They have been in glycine envelopes and frozen for a couple of years now and I quickly found out that the relaxation stage needs to be taken very seriously. After breaking a few wings off on my first try with some of the less perfect specimens, I realized that they had dried out too much and needed to be relaxed. I saw that someone on the internet uses bourbon in the chamber to speed things up and to avoid mold. What are your thoughts on this?

    Once I become proficient, I’d like to purchase some speciems in the pupal stages and mount them in as “perfect” a state as possible. Do you have any suggestions? I’d actually like to collect some of these this spring from local plants as well as possibly purchasing some from other regions of the US.

    With warm regard,

    Mark

  28. Hi Mark,

    Thanks for your message. I have heard that bourbon is relaxing but since I don’t care for whiskey I can’t vouch for that personally… Seriously, I have never heard of using bourbon per se, but people do use a bit of alcohol, or even listerine in their relaxing chambers – something that will keep mold at bay. We’ve even used a few drops of cleaning fluid such as Mr. Clean! Yes, having the specimens nice and relaxed is important – but it is also possible for specimens to become TOO relaxed, if you leave them in the humidifying chamber too long – and to fall apart, even when mold is not present. You will just have to experiment. Usually small butterflies only take about a day to relax, while larger butterflies may take 2 or 3 or more days. You can always “test” them before actually spreading them (to make sure the wings are not going to snap off). It is good if there is still a wee bit of resistance but no stiffness.

    As far as finding perfect specimens to mount, it is not easy to find sources of pupae, except perhaps from other enthusiasts like yourself – that these days, should be pretty easy to hook up with online. And, what about raising some specimens yourself? If you learn the hostplants, you can find (in the wild) or bring in (to your own butterfly garden) caterpillars that you can then rear until they pupate.

    There may also be some companies out there that provided papered specimens (i.e., dead, in glassine envelopes). Here is a list I found on the web of potential suppliers: http://insects.ummz.lsa.umich.edu/ENTOSTUFF.html. I don’t know if Combined Scientific Supply (it’s on the list) still exists, but they used to have a pretty extensive list of butterflies, moths, beetles, and other insects, both local and exotic.

    Good luck! Feel free to contact us again if we can help further!

    Nancy

  29. Nancy,

    Thanks for the info. Hey, the bourbon worked real well. I’m a vet so I brought home some 28 guage insulin syringes and injected it into the thorax on both sides. Within 10 minutes I could spread even my larger swallow tails. So if you ever find yourself in a hurry this is a great option and I suspect one that avoids mold as well.

    By the way, bourbon tastes awful.

    With warm regard,

    Mark

  30. Ummm…what do I do if I had a butterfly, but it died so I put it in the freezer and it’s been there since, oh I don’t know, May of 2009?

  31. Hi Leila,

    What do you want to do with your frozen butterfly? If you want to mount it, it should be fine. Just thaw it out and follow the instructions above. If yours is a frost-free refrigerator, depending on what the butterfly was in (i.e., airtight or not), it may have dried out – if so you will need to relax it before mounting (again, see above). But typically things are relaxed once they thaw – but you should mount it soon after defrosting.

    I’ve stored butterflies and other insects in the freezer for years, usually with good results.

    Good luck! Let me know how it works out.

    Nancy

  32. I put it in a jar sealed with aluminum foil and a rubber band…

    Would it be dried out by now?

    -Leila

  33. Hi Leila,

    It’s hard to say. Let it thaw and with a toothpick or something, gently try to move the wings. If they move relatively easily, you can proceed with mounting it. If they are so still that you think they will snap if you put any pressure on them, then you need to relax it.

    Good luck,
    Nancy

  34. Nancy,

    Ok, so now I have about 50 specimens mounted. Of these I’d say 40% are close to perfect (I didn’t break off antennas or tears up the wings). I’ve collected some picture frames from garage sales and proceeded to make three inch deep shadow boxes out of red oak. I’m planning on mounting some construction styrofoam that is in sheets onto some thin wood sheeting for the back of the box to mount the butterflies on and then covering the styrofoam with an attractive base (cloth or attractive paper). Are there any secrets to this part? Should I seal the glass with silicone caulk and try to make this enclosure as “bug proof” as possible? Anything else? I’d really like to pass these down to my kids one day so I’d like to make this as “final” as possible

    With warm regard,

    Mark

  35. HI Mark,

    Wow, 50 specimens mounted – that’s great! Your idea of the shadow boxes sounds very attractive. We used something similar when we had lots of butterfly specimens on display in the old entomology hall (fabric covering a foam mounting surface). It’s certainly not a bad idea to seal the boxes well. We were not able to do that so we would occasionally replenish the fumigant strips we used inside the cases to repel “bugs” (but that did not deter the dust that eventually got into some of the displays!). Presumably, if you could seal the box tightly enough you wouldn’t have to worry about either dust or bugs. You should know that some butterflies will fade over time, especially if they are exposed to sunlight or indeed to any bright light for prolonged periods. So if you hang the boxes on a wall, just be sure they are not too brightly lit and that sunlight doesn’t hit them. Most museum collections are kept inside cabinets away from light, except when they are in use. But of course you will want yours out where they can be seen!

    Your kids are lucky that you are making such a nice gift for them.

    Best wishes,
    Nancy

  36. Great steps you have! Have you put together a video showing how you do this? I just got a couple butterflies in envelopes so I can mount them. I got them in the fridge now in a container.

  37. I just puschased a mounted Morpho butterfly that is in a shadow box. I noticed that the wings are extremely shiny. I don’t recall them being this way alive which makes me wonder if they sprayed or coated it with something. From what I gather, you don’t need to but it seems that some people do. Why and what do they use if so? I purchased it from the Butterfly Place which is in Massachusetts. I have some speciments which I would love to mount. I have a couple Luner moths one of which is almost in perfect condition. From my research I’ve gathered that the process if mostly the same right? I pinned the one that was in the poorest condition first obviously since this is my first time. The only thing I noticed was that it lost some of it’s vibrant color as if it faded. I don’t want this to happen to my good one and the only light that it saw was some fluorescent bulbs. I’m guessing that this was the culprit?? Either way I want to keep that beautiful color from fading again. Thanks for all your tips thus far!!:)

  38. Hi Michael! Well, there are about 80 species of morphos and the colors/irridescence of their wings varies greatly. You are probably used to seeing Morpho peleides. That’s the main species we have flying around here If the one you’ve gotten is extremely shiny, then odds are it’s another species such as Morpho menelaus or something similar: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morpho_menelaus

    The wings have probably not been sprayed with anything at all, more than likely it was just preserved very well! I know that some people do use certain chemicals to spray onto the wings, but I don’t think it’s necessary and I would be more afraid of distorting the colors or harming the specimen by doing so. I’m actually not sure what people usually use! The best way to preserve their color is to keep them out of sunlight and/or away from bright lights of any kind, so flourescent lights shining directly on them would certainly cause them to fade.

    When spreading the luna moths, you will definitely use the same technique as with spreading a butterfly. Just be sure they’re kept out of light and away from pests and they should be beautiful forever! Good luck, and we are planning on posting an instructional video as soon as we can get it filmed, so stay tuned for that!

  39. I work in a place that is an insect wondreland. I have seen more insects than I ever have. The strange thing is that where I work has a long hallway that is opened to the outside. I have found moths, butterflys,and other insects that have died. There wings are spread and look like thay are in a pinable position. How can or what further step do I need to do. I found four perfect (3 Butterfly and 1 moth) yesterday alone. I put them in a container and I want to show the but I don’t know the next step if any. I have also found dragon flys and praying mantis. The diffrent types of moths are numderous, and I saw my first Luna Moth. Any help would be great.

  40. Hi Clay! Wow, it sounds like the hallway at your office is a bit of an insect trap! What step to take next depends on how long the butterflies and/ or moths have been dead. If they have been dead for quite a while, their bodies will be all dried up and you won’t be able to spread their wings without relaxing them first. If this is the case, refer to the first and second step in the blog that talk about relaxing chambers. If the butterfly or moth has died recently, then they will still be moist and flexible and ready to spread! If this is the case, you can start with step 4 in the blog. If you’re afraid you will not be able to get to them, right away and spread them while they’re still fresh, you can put them in a tupperware container and place it in the freezer. This will keep the butterfly fresh until you can get to it. Good luck!

  41. I have collected 3 green colored luna moths and 1 brown luna moth. I have already pinned them on foam boards to let dry out. They have been dead for about a week. I am wanting to but them in a shadow box to keep. Do I need to spray them with a clear coat before putting them in the box? This will be my first box and not sure on how many to put together since there is an odd number. Any suggestions?
    Thanks greatly,
    Naomi

  42. Hi Naomi!

    I would not suggest spraying anything at all onto the wings of the moths! Some people do, but if you are not experienced with that, you could seriously ruin the moth’s wings. Also, this is really not necessary. As long as you put them into a well sealed shadow box and keep it out of direct light, they will stay pretty for years and years. As far as how to orient the butterflies in the box, well, use your own creativity! If the box is large enough for all 3, you can put them all in and tilt them different ways to make it look like they are flying. That’s what I would do anyway. Good luck!

  43. I found a Butterfly on the sidewalk today it was already dead, it is still fresh and hasn’t started to dry out. I have ordered a box for insect preserving online, and I’m waiting for it to show up. I wanted to know if I should put it in a Tupperware container in the freezer until the box shows up?

  44. Hi Morghan!

    Yes, you should put it in the freezer. This is the bext way to preserve it until you are ready to pin it. When you’re ready, just pull it out, let it thaw, and it should be ready to go!

  45. Thanks so much for this helpful website, and I’ve learned much from the above discussions. We live in Hong Kong where it’s very humid, and mold is a serious problem. Do you have any tip on creating a shadowbox that can be kept dry and mold-free?

    p.s., I sent you a separate email with a picture of a large butterfly we found in our building and would love to find out what kind it is.

  46. Hello!
    I have recently pinned two butterflies, and my results are amazing. I unfortunately have to kill them myself by pinning a needle through it’s head for a quick death instead of starving and torturing it. Only a tiny bit of the scales come off, which I think is fine. I also tried using hairspray to keep the scales on, and that is working too. I was just wondering where to get a shadowbox. Also, I really can’t find any dead butterflies. Where should I look, so I don’t have to kill them?

  47. I found a beautiful large butterfly dead on the lanai in Florida. I put it in a tupperware and it was shipped back to CT along with all of my belongings. When it arrived it was still in perfect condition. The underside is more colorful than the top so I want to show that side in a shadowbox. I didn’t have to use pins because it was all spread out. My question is should I spray hairspray on it to preserve it in the shadowbox and I was going to use nail glue to adhere it to the cardboard. Is that OK?

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