Starting a collection
How to - Relaxing your specimen
So let us begin. We have chosen a pair of Ornithoptera priamus for today, as they are nice and big and relatively easy to set. We are going to work with the male as it is nice and colourful and a good size to photograph while we work. Now I must stress that  we are about to show you two basic ways to relax your specimen/s (one slow and one fast) there are different methods which you may wish to adopt at a later date, but we find our second method by far the best.


Papered Specimens

Line the inside of your relaxing container with several layers of toilet tissue and dampen with water from the mist sprayer. DO NOT SOAK, only dampen the tissue. You only want to provide a damp atmosphere inside, not a soaking wet one. You may just wish to place your specimens in the relaxer still in their triangles. If you do then spray the outside of the triangle with a very light mist of water from your sprayer. You only want to slightly dampen the paper, not soak it. OR:
Relaxing Box with Tight Fitting Lid

Unwrap your specimens from their paper triangle. Taking care not to break them., and place them in your relaxer. If you do this, DO NOT SPRAY DIRECTLY ON TO THE SPECIMENS. Don't forget to keep a record of any collecting data on the triangle, as this is important later. You will want to know where and when your specimens were collected. Sometimes the written data on the triangle will "run" or fade or just plain disappear, when it gets damp, and you may not be able to read it later.

Specimens Relaxing

You may also need to place some anti-mould crystals in the relaxer, to stop mould forming on your specimens. Paradichlorobenzene or Thymol,  is good for this. Just a few crystals is enough. Small specimens, like Lycaenidae or small Nymphalids may take around 24 hours to relax. But some large specimens may take several days. You must check your specimens periodically to see when they are ready. I personally don't like this method. I seldom have the time or the patience to wait for the specimens to be relaxed, and the longer you leave material in the relaxer, the more chance you will get water stains on them.

NOTE. However, this method of relaxing is very good for Beetles.




Injecting Boiling Water
Firstly, unwrap your specimens. Then fill your mug with boiling water, and fill your hypodermic syringe. Hold the specimen by the thorax between thumb and forefinger, and insert the needle at the rear of the thorax. You may have to wiggle the needle a little bit to work it inside, as the specimen is very dry at this stage. Depress the syringe, gently injecting water inside. Let go of the specimen when you do this as you may burn your fingers with the hot water.
Closeup of Injecting Method
As you inject the water you will feel the inside of the specimen start to soften already, as the dry insides start to take up moisture and relax. Keep on gently injecting the water until it starts to dribble or squirt out of the thorax. On large specimens you may to have to use several syringes full of water. Do not inject under too much pressure or you will send the insect flying off the needle, and you don't want that to happen do you. Make sure you give the insect a quick shake to flick off any excess water droplets. Then. 
Relaxing Box

As above, line the inside of your relaxing container with several layers of toilet tissue and dampen with water from the mist sprayer. DO NOT SOAK, only dampen the tissue. You only want to provide a damp atmosphere inside. Not a soaking wet one. Place a layer of fine paper on top of the tissue. This will just keeps the specimen out of direct contact with the damp tissue.

Specimens Relaxing

Now put the lid on and leave for 5 - 10 minutes. Then check and make sure that there is no evidence of too much water on the specimen. If you notice any just dab it up with some tissue. Put the lid back on. In most cases your specimen will be ready to set on your board within an hour or so and after you have gained some experience and relaxed material from a  few different families you will get a "feel" for when they will be ready. A basic rule of thumb for relaxing times are:
1/2 hour for small specimens like Lycaenidae, and small Nymphalidae etc.
1 hour for medium Nymphalidae and Papilionidae, etc.
1-2 hours for large species like Ornithoptera.

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