Preserve specimens / insects – Entomology

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Methods of preserving specimens vary depending on the type of insect and the intended use. Here are the most common ways to properly store your specimens.

The papillotes

Papillotes are triangular or rectangular, semi-transparent or transparent envelopes of paper. They are used for large winged insects and allow many unmounted specimens to be stored in one box.

Preservation in alcohol

This method is suitable for insects whose body deforms as it dries (spiders, mayflies, aphids, caterpillars and other larvae). Use 70% or 75% isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) to completely fill the small glass vials that contain the specimens.

Preparing specimens for pinning and display

Insects intended for pinning should be flexible enough to prevent breakage. Insects kept in the freezer should be brought to room temperature by removing them in advance. Dried specimens require rewetting. This process requires a stay of 12 to 24 hours in a softener.


Pinning specimens requires entomological pins, which are rust resistant and are available in specialty stores.

The pin is pricked in the thorax of the specimen (never in the abdomen), in a place which varies according to the order to which the insect belongs.


This step consists of arranging certain parts of the insect’s body so that they can be examined easily. It is also used to give a natural position to the specimen. The display is practiced with a specimen mounted on an entomological pin, when the insect is still flexible, using a mounting board called a stall. Allow specimens to air dry on the racks for one to three weeks, depending on their size.


The labels pinned under the specimens give scientific value to a collection of insects. All specimens must have at least one tag, but usually carry more. The information to be recorded is, for example, the place and date of harvest, the insect’s habitat and other details of its capture, and the identification of the insect.

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