3 Ways to Preserve Insects

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3 Ways to Preserve Insects
3 Ways to Preserve Insects

Insects are interesting and complex animals. Many people like to preserve the bodies of dead insects. Preservation of insect bodies is usually done for identification and scientific research, or as a hobby. Whether you find the remains of an insect outside or inside your home, or you kill the insect yourself, there are various ways to preserve the body. Soft-bodied insects such as caterpillars and larvae are usually preserved using rubbing alcohol. Hard-bodied insects, especially butterflies, moths, and beetles are preserved by clamping.


Method 1 of 3: Preserving Insects in Rubbing Alcohol

Preserve Insects Step 1
Preserve Insects Step 1

Step 1. Fill a small glass jar with rubbing alcohol

The rubbing alcohol will preserve the insect's body and prevent it from rotting, drying, or breaking down. Ideally the size of the jar is larger than the insect, but it is not mandatory. You'll be wasting alcohol if you put small bugs in a jar that's too big.

  • Most rubbing alcohol is a 70% solution; this level is quite ideal for preserving insects. You can also use a stronger alcohol, such as 80 or 85%, as some insects are better preserved with strong alcohol.
  • Examples of insects that should be preserved with strong alcohol include: spiders, scorpions, earthworms, and small insects such as fleas and silverfish.
  • Make sure the glass jars have tight lids and don't crack.
Preserve Insects Step 3
Preserve Insects Step 3

Step 2. Find the insect body

Remember that soft-bodied insects are usually cured with alcohol. Insects can come from anywhere: a house window, a living environment, or even a nearby cobweb. You need to preserve the insect that is still in its complete form. If the insect has been dead for days, or has decomposed and decomposed, the preservation will be less effective.

You can also catch insects in a variety of ways, such as using a net to catch butterflies or moths. While some people are against killing insects just to preserve them, setting traps is an effective way to get insect bodies

Preserve Insects Step 4
Preserve Insects Step 4

Step 3. Identify and label insects

When preserving insects, it is important to know the type of insect being handled. This step is even important in insect preservation procedures for scientific purposes. This label must include the genus and species of the insect, the date and location where the body was found, and the name of the collector. Glue the full label on the outside of the alcohol jar.

There are many good sites to help identify insect remains. Try starting from BugGuide.net or InsectIdentification.org. If these sites are not very helpful, contact an entomologist in your city

Preserve Insects Step 8
Preserve Insects Step 8

Step 4. Put the insects into the jar carefully

Do it gently and carefully. Insect bodies are very fragile and break easily. It's best to hold the insect body with forceps or tongs because fingers can break or damage the insect's body.

If the insect has a stinger (bee, wasp) or is poisonous, wear latex gloves when handling the body

Preserve Insects Step 9
Preserve Insects Step 9

Step 5. Fill the jar with rubbing alcohol to the brim

Do this only when the insect's body is at the bottom of the jar. Slowly pour in the remaining alcohol. If it's too fast, the liquid can damage the insect's body.

  • Cover and seal the jars, then store them in a safe place. If you're planning to start a large collection of insects, it's a good idea to prepare a special shelf that will be filled with jars of insects
  • Store insect jars away from food, children and animals.

Method 2 of 3: Preserving Insects in Hand Sanitizer

Step 1. Fill the jar with hand sanitizer until 2/3 full

Like rubbing alcohol, hand sanitizer will preserve insect bodies and keep them from decomposition and decay. However, unlike alcohol, the thick consistency of hand sanitizer will hold insect bodies so that they are more pleasing and easy to see.

Use a jar that's big enough to hold bugs, but not so big that you waste hand sanitizer just to fill it to the brim

Step 2. Put the insect body in the hand sanitizer

Avoid touching insects directly; use a pair of forceps or tongs to retrieve the body. Gently press the insect body into the hand sanitizer, until it sinks into the gel.

  • If you are preserving fragile insects, such as bees or wasps, try not to break the insect's wings or body when pressed into the gel.
  • Hard-bodied insects, such as butterflies, are difficult to preserve in hand sanitizer because the gel can break parts of their bodies. However, hand sanitizer gel can be used to preserve other hard-bodied insects, especially those without fragile wings or antennae.

Step 3. Boil the jars to get rid of air bubbles

To remove annoying water bubbles in the hand sanitizer, fill a pot with 2.5-5 cm of water. Boil the water, and put in a jar containing 2/3 full by hand sanitizer, then wait for 15 minutes. Don't forget to open the lid of the jar so it doesn't explode.

  • Try not to get water into the jar because it can weaken and dissolve the hand sanitizer.
  • Many people don't like the sight of air bubbles in their collection jars and are considered a nuisance in observing insect bodies. If you're not bothered by the presence of bubbles, you can skip this step.

Step 4. Fill the jar with hand sanitizer until it's full

Once the jars are removed from the boiling water, cool them to room temperature. Then, pour or pump the hand sanitizer until the jar is full. Once done, fix the insect's position in the gel using tongs or forceps until it displays the desired pose. Put a label on the outer wall of the jar, screw the lid on, and your job is done.

These jars are child-friendly (with adult supervision) and are great for museums or outreach events

Method 3 of 3: Pinching Insects

Step 1. Purchase insect pins and cork sticks

Insect pins are special pins made of tempered steel and are about 3.5 cm long. These pins are thin enough not to damage the insect's body. You can also use any type of cork to stick the bugs in as long as it's tight enough (so you can stick the pins in and the bugs don't fall).

  • Insect pins and sticky tape (or foam) can be purchased at hobby shops or online. Patch pins and corks can also be purchased through online retailers, including Amazon.
  • You can also use foam instead of cork.

Step 2. Pierce the insect body with a pin

The pin technique is most effective for hard-bodied insects, such as beetles and cockroaches. Insert the pin through the thorax (centre) of the insect body about 2/3 of its body. The goal is that you can grab and hold the pin without touching the bug.

If you pinch the beetle, thread the pin through the center of the right wing sheath

Step 3. Create a label for the insect

Determine the genus and species of the insect, and print it clearly on a piece of paper. In addition, include the location and date of discovery of the insect, and the name of the person who took it. Some collectors also note the environment in which insect remains were obtained, for example on leaves, behind tree trunks, etc.

Step 4. Glue the insect and label on the cork

Simply press the pin on the cork to a depth of 1 cm. Be careful not to disturb or destroy the insect's body during the process. Then, use tape or a small push pin to stick the label just under the insect.

  • If you plan to grow a large collection of preserved insects, try starting with large pieces of cork or foam so that your collection has room to grow.
  • Protect preserved insects by keeping them in a cupboard or drawer, or even in a wooden cigarette case.


  • Do not expose insects to direct sunlight to prevent discoloration.
  • Never inhale rubbing alcohol vapor directly.
  • Always wash your hands after handling insects.

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