Starting a collection - Odonata


Preparing your Dragonflies

1/.    Place one of your  dried dragonflies in a container with an inch (2.5cm) of WHITE VINEGAR (do not use brown vinegar) and lay a glass slide over it to hold it under the liquid.

2/.    Allow 1 to 2 hours soaking in the vinegar. This will depend on the size of the specimen, some very large specimens may require longer. But be careful, DO NOT LEAVE IN THE VINEGAR ANY LONGER THAN IT NEEDS TO SOFTEN OR IT MAY DISINTEGRATE. Obviously you will soon learn how long for different sized dragonflies.

3/.    Remove the specimen and squeeze the thorax, the wings should open easily when it is fully relaxed. If the wings do not open easily, place it back in the container for a while longer. Until you are used to it, this process will require constant attention.

4/.    Once the wings open with a good squeeze to the thorax, place your fingers over the base of them from the top, and move them down so that they close over the tops of the legs. This will stretch and loosen the internal muscles ready for setting.

5/.    Now you are ready to spread your specimen on a setting board. Unlike Lepidoptera you are going to set your dragonfly upside down on your setting board (A flay piece of balsa wood is good or foam is OK). Insert the entomological pin in between the legs from the underside, and pin the specimen to the board upside down. Spread  the wings into the desired position, and hold them in place with paper strips and pins. When you have done, you will probably notice that the insects legs are all over the place. You can now move them into a nice neat position, and hold them in place by cross pinning them.

6/.    Place the pinning board with the attached specimen into your freezer for 4-48 hours depending on size. This will effectively freeze dry your specimen ready for the next step. Or you can dry the specimen as you would normally do for other insects, in the drying cabinet. 

7/.    Remove your specimen from the freezer (or drier), and remove all the paper and pins. You will notice that the colours of your insect are quite dull, we can fix this easily. Get yourself a glass container with a tight fitting lid, that the insect will easily fit in horizontally. Now fill the container with enough ACETONE to completely cover the insect. Acetone is very volatile, so you do need an airtight container. If the container doesn't seal properly the acetone will evaporate off very quickly. Now place your specimen in the container, making sure it is completely submerged, if it wants to float, gently place a glass slide over it to keep it submerged. Now seal the container tightly and leave for 12 hours or so.

8/.    Gently remove your dragonfly from the container (after taking off the glass slides) and place it on several layers of tissue and allow to dry. As the acetone evaporates you will start to see the living colours of the insect start to come back. With some large, or very greasy and dull specimens, you may have to repeat this process several times. But it is well worth the effort.

9/.     Your specimen is now ready to add to your collection. 


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