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I have never pinned/framed an insect before in my life and I would like to start. I've looked on some tutorials but nothing is really in depth. First off, what kind of pins should be used? I know styrofoam could be used as well. What part of the body should I pin the specimen and how much force should I apply to prevent damage? In my room is various framed insects that were purchased years ago and I believe they are stuck on using glue. Any tips on methods from glueing or on what type of glue should be used? I also seen some specimens with their wings spread. How would I go about doing this? For storage, I recently has a beetle of mine die and took action to save the specimen. I used an empty pill bottle stuffed with paper towels. The specimen is perfectly intact with no mold growth. Any other tips on storage to prevent mold and keep your dead insects intact?


Examples from some of my collection.





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This is the tutorial that got me started:




I'm trying to upload some pictures for you, but I can't seem to upload an attachment at the moment. I don't know if it's with the editor here, or if I've just forgotten how to add an attachment...


Anyway, read that tutorial. It has the type of pins you need and shows how to make foam boards for spreading wings on cicadas and moths.


For insects, be prepared to use a multitude of pins to get the legs, antennae, and mouth parts all positioned correctly before letting them dry.


And, here's a quick and dirty way to make a relaxing jar:




I've got my own method which I think is better, but, like I said, I'm having difficulty in uploading my images, today.




P.S. - When it comes to gluing, I prefer the clear elmer's glue.




Okay, I've finally got the attachments to work. Here we go:


This is my setup for pinning wings:




I've cut rectangles out in the centers and dropped them slightly below the foam to create a recessed area for the body of the moth, cicada, dragonfly, or whatever I want to mount spread winged.


The skewers you see on the left side go all the way through to the dropped rectangles to keep them from sliding up and down in the recessed cutouts.


The geometric markings you see are angles I use to align the wings. I started marking angles after a few specimens had their wings unevenly spread and I didn't notice it until I removed the specimens and was going to put them in shadow boxes. Now, I don't have any problems with uneven wings.


The white strips you see are strips of foam core poster board. I use the strips to hold the wings in place and push two pins through them, careful not to stick a pin through a wing.


Alright, now onto the next photo:




This is a softer piece of flexible foam which I use for delicate work. But, that's not important. What is important is the mounting of the male Lucanus beetle. Here, let me zoom in for you:




Ignoring all the dust (hey, it's been sitting around since Spring and I'm still working on a shadow box for it. A soft paintbrush will clean it up nicely), take note of all of the pins I used to position everything just the way I wanted it. You'll need LOTS of pins for positioning. I use cheap ones bought at Walmart for positioning.


The expensive pins you get from scientific supply houses are the ones you push completely through the specimen. Note that my main pin is pushed through the elytra and not the mesonotum or thorax. Some say this is a no-no, but I don't like the look of a pin through the mesonotum--especially when the mesonotum contains detail I want to keep intact.


Okay, it looks like I need to start another comment to add more attachments.

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Continuing on with my pinnings:


Here is a photo of a Cottonwood Borer and a velvet ant:




I'm throwing that one in to show you that you can use just about any type of foam scrap to mount something in a jiffy. Now, bear in mind, the Cottonwood Borer had a gazillion pins (which I have since removed) surrounding it to keep the antenna and legs in check while it was drying. Whereas, the velvet ant just had a single pin stuck through it and was left to its own devices.


By the way, you ask about how hard it is to push pins through beetles. Well, it's kind of an acquired skill. On extremely hard, thick beetles, I use a drilling motion to get the pin through the beetle. As for the hardest insect to push a pin through, you see that dainty looking little velvet ant? Pushing the needle through the thorax was akin to pushing a paper straw through a rock!!! No lie!


Also, you don't need to push pins through the beetles if you don't want to. I don't ever stick pins through my D. tityus and D. granti beetles. No need to. I just use a bunch of pins to position the limbs and a couple alongside the body to hold them in place until they dry:




Okay, that's the gist of mounting. Now, as for relaxing an already dried beetle, I'll dig out my relaxing container and take some pictures of it and be back in a while to describe it for you.



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The cicada (a Tibicen lyricen) and the Tiger beetle were both relaxed. All the rest were pinned shortly after a natural death. Well...except for the Manduca sexta and Hyles lineata moths--they were put into a killing jar to keep their wings from getting damaged before mounting.


Okay, here's my relaxing jar setup (minus the heating pad) :




From left to right clockwise, we have a plastic container (which I bought at the local Dollar Store) filled about an inch with wet sand. Then we have a sink strainer that I also bought at the Dollar Store and cut off some ears from it and added a wire handle made from some stainless steel wire I had laying around. Next, we have the lid for the plastic container. Then, we have a wax toilet bowl ring which is used for its wax so I can make an extremely airtight seal on the lid. Finally, in the middle, we have five ceramic wire nuts that I use as spacers to keep the strainer from making contact with the wet sand.


So. How to use? Well, first wet the sand down with some water. Add about a tablespoon of 90 percent alcohol in it. Note: If you are relaxing cicadas, skip the alcohol. It discolors the cicadas. The alcohol is mainly for keeping the mold and microbes to a minimum.


Then, place the ceramic wire nuts on the sand like so:




Then, place your specimens to be relaxed onto the strainer and place that inside the container thusly:




Whoops. Running out of attachment space. To be continued in next comment.



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Then, for the fun, hands on, messy part; scoop out some wax from the wax toilet bowl ring and start smearing it all the way around your lid like so:






Then, place the lid on the container and push down on the center of the lid it to evacuate some of the air. The wax should then provide a good enough seal to keep the lid concave looking. If not, add more wax.




Finally, put a reptile heating pad under the container and let it "percolate" for a couple of days. After two days, open up the container and check your specimens. You should be able to gently move their legs, wings, and antennae without much resistance. If your specimen is still too stiff to articulate, leave it in for about one more day. If you leave it in too long, it'll start falling apart.


Well, that's about all you need to do to relax a specimen. There may be some better ways of doing it, but this method has always worked for me.


I hope all of this information will help you and others discover the joys of pinning and displaying your beetles for posterity.




P.S. - The reptile heating pad isn't shown in any of the pictures because it's currently being used for keeping some Avicularia versicolor slings happy and I didn't want to disturb them just for this photoshoot. :D

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The best way (I find) to get beetles out of their papered state is to use an exacto knife. (this is usually how they are packed)


Although there are many ways to relax and spread beetles I find the best way of relaxation is to soak the beetle in Isopropyl rubbing alcohol for 24 hours. This destroys any fungus or mites that may still be on the beetle. Once you take the beetle out and spread it evaporates, and thus, dries extremely quickly.


I will attach one of my collections, papered specimens, and how I arrange their legs and bodies.




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On the left is a Macrodontia cervicornis male. One of the largest in the world! Mine is small compared to others (at 150mm).


I bought it on ebay, and it came with all the claws attached, the trick is removing it from the packaging as its claws get stuck on the cotton and can break off. I gently try to cut the package open with my exacto and then unhook all of the claws with a pinning needle before pulling it up.


If it arrives with unstated claws broke, I'm sure you can ask for a refund.

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Yes unfortunately they do that on occasion. The best way is to keep the beetle as healthy as possible, and give it lots of room so it isn't constantly scraping on the side of a container.


Some people find that killing the beetle with all its limbs intact is the best way, however I can not bring myself to harm the beetles when they are alive, and I would much rather see the beetle live its full life span (and breeding) than kill it for a trophy.

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  • 3 weeks later...

The trick to spreading wings is to cut out some styrofoam and strips of paper, place the styrofoam beneath the wings, spread them out on the styrofoam, and then place the strips of paper on top of the wings so you can pin the piece of paper to the styrofoam to hold the wing in the unfolded position without poking holes in the wing.

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I was planning on it but I got so excited that I didn't think. At first, I was getting the wings up but they would just fold over the pin. At last resort, I just pinned it near the vein. I might continue to try spreading wings but honestly I feel like it just takes up frame space. I kind of just want to spread the rest of my specimens like Satanas did in that nice case. :rolleyes:

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There are several ways to pin insects and some of them are meant to fully show off the features of an insect, some of them are meant to show just the important features for identification, and some methods are for maintaining large collections and saving space.

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