How to Pin a Butterfly – Anshul Fernando (2010)

Pinning insects is a craft perfected by early natural historians. Here you can find five instructional videos recorded by individuals and institutions from different parts of the world. Every recording shows slightly different tools employed but the overall procedure remains the same.

Anshul Fernando is a nature artist who has butterfly farms in many countries such as Sri Lanka and India. He cultivates rare butterflies and sells them after pinning. He uses a standard traditional insect pinning set up that research facilities have been using all over the world. In this demonstration video he pins a male birdwing butterfly species (Ornithoptera croesus) from Indonesia. This butterfly was one of the favorite species of the influential biologist Alfred Russell Wallace the co-discoverer of the theory of evolution with Charles Robert Darwin.

You can also see another example of insect pinning from Oregon State University:

All videos start with rehydration of the specimens either in a box full of liquid or a “relaxation jar” with a wet cotton attached on its lid. Diffusion of humidity into the insect tissues may take several days but is essential for reducing brittleness and damage especially useful if the insect is in bad condition.

There are two kinds of (adjustable and fixed) spreading boards made mostly from soft Balsa wood or linden. If you don’t have access to such high quality pinning material you may as well use styrofoam (see the video of the entomologist Noel Starick who uses that kind of material at the very bottom of this post). Some use contact paper, plastic sheets and even glass to press wings by pinning. The following two part video shows the entire process used by the Zoological Museum of Jagiellonian University in Poland without narration:

If you are interested to learn more about how you can pin insects other than butterflies you may also want to check out another short instructional recording by the entomologist Noel Starick from the Queensland Museum of Australia. Happy collecting!



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