I have a question about relaxing insects. I have tried the relaxing chamber method with moths that have been kept in a dry environment for over a year, and after being 3 days in the relaxing chamber, they simply were not relaxed, stiff as before. So I used a few drops of Barber's fluid on the wings joints which helped a bit. But then I needed to relax some beetles and I submerged them in Barber's fluid for some days, and it worked great. The problem is they do not get stiff again, they have been drying pinned with legs in the right position for several days, and they are still relaxed so I cannot move them to the specimens display box yet. Will they ever get rigid again?
Barber's fluid is a mixture of chemical compounds used to relax insects. Developed at the United States National Museum by Herbert S.Barber and others, and recomended by J.M. Valentine in 1934 in his paper about preparation of coleoptera.
+95 % ethanol (1000 ml)
distilled water (1000 ml)
ethyl acetate (375 ml)
benzene (125 ml)
yes, benzene is a well-known carcinogenic substance, so some precautions should be considered when using it
For large size specimens after two days in relaxing chamber you should inject the thorax near the wing joins with water ( not hot water as it may dissolve fats ), put the specimen back to chamber for one, two hours and then try to work out wings slowly up and down holding the specimen by the pin which you already inserted and moving the wings near thorax holding with flat forceps, preferred one for stamp collectors. When wings are correctly position on the spreading boards with large moths and butterflies often i have to hold the forewing with minuten pins which are very small ( 0.15mm )and pin holes are not visible at all after removing from the board. You must mark which specimen you treated with those as you will forget where you placed the minutens and they are very well blending with the wing background. If you move the specimen with the pins still there you probably may want to discard ruined moth. the pin must be inserted right at the largest wing vain to make sure the wing will not tear.
I almost always try to pin my insects fresh or nearly so for this very reason (always have trouble fully relaxing them). Videos online make it look like a cinch, but I have not found that to be the case. There was a black swallowtail I had in storage that I wanted to relax. An online video suggested a different method: fold a moist paper towel over the specimen, place into a sealed tupperware container, and then place that into the refrigerator overnight. Since I never heard of relaxing this way, I decided to give it a try. Worked, but still took 3 days and the wings were still a bit stiff.
I think next time, I will try Paul's method of injecting near the wings.
Post by Adam Cotton on Aug 14, 2019 6:39:01 GMT -8
If I inject specimens with water I push the needle into the thorax at the join of thorax and abdomen on the underside. That way I can hold the specimen by the thorax and get the water straight into the exact area it is needed with minimal risk of damage to the specimen. I normally only do that with specimens that do not relax fully after a couple of days in the relaxing box, and after injection I put the specimen back in the box for at least several hours. I do not recommend injecting a dry specimen, and after removing the specimen from the relaxing box again I pinch the thorax under the wing bases on each side with my thumb nail. This helps to loosen the thoracic muscles.
Every now and then I get a stubborn specimen that no matter how much I inject into the specimen or how long I leave it in my relaxing container, the wings remain stiff. I will then use a very small exacto knife to cut the wing muscles. I use this method mostly with Sphingids and Skippers (Hesperiidae).
I do not exchange much and any material I receive in exchange goes directly into my freezer. Virtually ever specimen I collect, if not mounted in 24 hours also goes into a freezer. Should I go on a collecting trip, when I return home every specimen that I collect goes into my freezer and remains frozen until I mount it. Freeze dried specimen relax quickly and once relaxed are extremely easy to mount. Sometimes when I relax specimens from a trip several years ago, I will cut wing muscles should I begin to feel a stiff specimen.
However, I have left an important part of the process out. Bio-Seal containers. I have 50+ Lock & Lock Bio-Seal containers. However, I can no longer find Lock & Lock Containers. I am currently using "Clear Storage" Containers. These have a Bio-Seal but only come in limited sizes and shapes.
I recently learned that the Lock & Lock Product Line was Purchased by "The Home Store". I cannot locate The Home Store, I think it may only operate in the UK. That is where Lock & Lock originated.