Embedding preserved insects is older than human history. Nature preserves insects trapped in amber for millions of years. Amber is tree sap that fossilises over a period of three to four million years. According to USA Today, The Smithsonian Institution has amber samples that date back 90 million years. Most people do not have 90 million years to wait for a specimen. Lucite preserves the insect specimen in a few hours. The hard, clear acrylic allows a clear view of fragile or dangerous insects.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Rubber gloves
- Acrylic casting resin
- Acrylic catalyst
Prepare your specimen. Small insects can dry in a protected area. Lay butterflies with their wings open and protected with tissue to dry. Larger soft insects, such as tarantulas may need cleaning. The acrylic heats as it cures. According to "The Hunting Blind," the heat forces spider organs to "boil" out of the creature, ruining the specimen. To protect your spider, make a small slit in the abdomen and remove the spider's organs. Fill the abdomen with cotton and glue the edge of the abdomen closed.
Test the mould. Place the specimen in the mould. If any part of the insect touches the side of the mould, it is too small for your specimen. The mould must be at least 1 inch deeper than the insect to allow enough resin on either side of the insect.
Put on rubber gloves to protect your hands from the warm resin. Mix the acrylic resin with the catalyst. The exact proportion depends on the type and hardness of the acrylic resin you choose. Read the directions supplied with your resin to mix the proper amounts.
Pour at least one-half inch of resin into the mould. Place the insect with the back, or most attractive side, down in the resin. Use the T-pins to arrange the legs or other appendages in the resin. Allow the resin to cure for 30 minutes.
Mix another small amount of resin with the catalyst and pour a one-quarter to one-half inch layer into the mould, and set aside to cure for 30 minutes. Repeat until the resin covers the insect. Mix enough resin to finish filling the mould. Let the entire piece cure for several hours.
Pop the piece out of the mould.
Tips and warnings
- Choose a mould shape that gives your finished specimen a useful life such as a paperweight. Small insects make interesting charms or earrings.
- Use the acrylic resin in a well-ventilated area.
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- Bread on the Waters: Plastic Embedding as a Hobby
- The Hunting Blind: Clear Liquid Plastic Casting Resin, Rhys A. Brigida
- United States Department of Agriculture: Collecting and Preserving Insects and Mites: Tools and Techniques Page 7, Specimen Preservation
- USA Today: Forever in Amber: Fossils Go on Display, Tim Friend, Oct 1997