Relaxing dried insect specimens is important. Prior to pinning the specimens, they must be relaxed. Fresh specimens are usually relaxed already if you spread them right away. If you store them for spreading later, or if you have purchased dried specimens, they will need to be relaxed. One method is using a relaxing chamber. A relaxing chamber is a container which has a very high humidity. The relaxing chamber would consist of the following:
- A plastic (shoe box sized) box, with a top which fits tightly onto the lower portion.
- A sponge which is wet, and located on the bottom of the plastic box.
- A wire mesh covering the sponge so that the butterflies do not actually get wet. Butterflies which get wet can get discolored.
- A paper towel covering the wire mesh.
- A “moth ball” (one is enough), which is kept inside the Relaxing Chamber to keep fungi and molds from growing inside.
- A wet paper towel on the underside of the top of the box.
Specimens which are placed inside this relaxing chamber become pliable, and can be pinned without damaging the parts of the butterfly.
Another method of relaxing dried insect specimens is to use a relaxing syringe to relax specimens. Fill a 1 ml or ½ ml syringe with warm water. Then inject the warm water into the thorax of the butterfly or moth. For large beetles inject between the abdominal segments close to the thorax since the thick exoskeleton can damage my needle.
Appendage Relaxing Fluid is a good way to loose up dehydrated specimens prior to pinning. Just place a few drops on the joints and antennae, wait 5 to 10 minutes, and you are ready to go.