Lucite is a common name for polymethyl methacrylate, which is a transparent thermoplastic. It has an appearance similar to glass but is chemically much different. Preserving insects in a plastic resin or thermoplastic not only keeps the insect from becoming damaged, it is also an easy way to view an insect . Buying insects already preserved in plastic resin can be done, but it is also possible to do it yourself if you know the process.
Put the insects you want to preserve in a safe place where they will not deteriorate or be bumped. The method of temporarily preserving your specimens will vary depending on the type. Many hard-bodied insects can be put in the fridge or freezer, or simply a glass jar. Smaller soft-bodied insects may need to be preserved in liquid. Be aware that insects stored in a jar can collect mould after awhile. For exact ways to temporarily preserve insects, see the resource section.
Purchase your starting supplies. The first item is a liquid plastic casting resin which you will later turn into your thermoplastic. Other items you will need are latex mould builders and a liquid hardener which acts as a catalyst to harden the plastic. After these starter items you will need the moulds to mould your plastic. You can purchase these items individually or in a kit online or at your local hobby store.
Prepare your specimens for the resin casting. This may take some trial and error. A larger insect, such as a spider, may need to be prepared by having its innards removed or they might cook and spill out of the animal. With smaller, winged insects you have a risk of cooking the animal when preparing the plastic resin. See the resource section for help preparing individual types of insects.
Prepare the liquid plastic for the mould. Apply the catalyst hardener to the liquid plastic resin. Make sure you use exact measurements specified by your products, otherwise you risk damaging your specimen. According to Rhys A. Brigida, author of "Clear Liquid Casting Resin," it may be necessary to prepare the plastic resin in layers of 1/4- to 1/2-inch thick in order to avoid producing too much heat and damaging the insect.
Apply your insect to the casting resin after you've applied the first layer of into the mould. Push the insect to the bottom of the mould and wait for it to float back up. Your insect will now be only half embedded. According to Kraig J. Rice, author of "Plastic Embedding as a Hobby;" you should only embed half the insect at one time because any moisture still left in the insect can escape through the upper portion of the insect. After the first layer has dried you can add your second and final layer.
If you have the items to spare, practice moulding inferior specimens before moulding your prized ones.
Tips and warnings
- If you have the items to spare, practice moulding inferior specimens before moulding your prized ones.