Butterflies represent something truly beautiful in the natural world. Their brightly-colored wings and gentle flight has captivated humans for centuries. What most people don’t know, however, is that preserved butterflies can have a variety of uses in everyday life, such as enhancing your home décor and adding a touch of nature to your wardrobe.
If you’re interested in preserving butterflies, you can use three main methods: pinning, mounting, and resin art. Before we look at three popular preservation methods, we need to understand what spreading a butterfly is and why it is so vital in the butterfly preservation process.
What Does Spreading A Butterfly Mean?
Spreading a butterfly is the act of taking a folded, dried butterfly and opening it up through rehydration, repositioning, and dehydration. This process allows the butterfly’s wings to lay flat, which makes for a more aesthetically pleasing display and prevents the butterfly’s wings from further damage.
The act of spreading a butterfly is an ancient and beautiful tradition passed down for generations.
Opening up your folded, dried butterfly allows the wings to lay flat, making for more aesthetically pleasing displays but also prevents further damage due to avoiding moisture retention from the wings remaining closed.
What is the Importance of Spreading Butterflies?
One of the essential aspects of spreading butterflies is that it allows you to see both sides of the wings. This is important because the patterns and colors on a butterfly’s wings can vary depending on which side you’re looking at. If you’re planning on using the butterfly for display purposes, choosing a specimen with symmetrical and colorful wings is essential.
Another reason why spreading butterflies is so essential is that it allows you to position the butterfly for mounting or pinning properly. You risk damaging the wings if you try to mount or pin a butterfly without first spreading it.
How Does One Spread a Butterfly?
Now that you understand the importance of spreading butterflies let’s look at how you can do it yourself.
Locate a Butterfly Specimen
You can purchase one from a butterfly farm or conservatory or look for humane breeders on online marketplaces like Esty.
The benefit of buying from conservatories is that they collect butterflies humanely and have butterfly preservationists on hand. They will pre-spread a butterfly for you for a small fee if so desired.
Collecting specimens humanely is crucial as it ensures that the butterfly does not go through any unnecessary stress or pain during the process.
Once you have your specimen, the next step is to prepare your workstation.
Prepare Your Work Station
You’ll need a few supplies, including:
- A pair of tweezers
- A small gauge syringe or hydration chamber
- A spreading board
- Tracing paper or glass slides
- Small pins
- A clean, dry surface
Rehydrate or Relax the Butterfly
Use the tweezers to carefully remove the butterfly from its container and the butterfly into a hydration chamber like this one here, or gently insert a syringe with clean water into the butterflies thorax and press on the plunger until water is dripping out.
Store the butterfly in a safe space in the refrigerator and wait until the wings are pliable (anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of days, depending on the butterfly’s size), then carefully remove the butterfly from the hydration chamber or container using tweezers.
Position the Butterfly on the Spreading Board
Use the small pins to secure the butterfly’s thorax in place gently. Once the butterfly is secure, use your fingers or a blunt object to open the wings carefully. Try not to apply too much pressure, as you don’t want to damage the delicate wings.
Secure The Wings
If you’re using a glass slide, you can place it over the butterfly’s wings to keep them from moving once positioned. Otherwise, you can use tracing paper and pins and set the butterfly’s forewing (or front wing) at a ninety-degree angle from the thorax or the most flattering position.
You can then create an acute triangle with the butterfly’s hindwing. This is the most common position for butterflies in most collections.
Let The Butterfly Dry
You can leave the butterfly to dry naturally or use a hair dryer on a low setting to hasten the process. Air drying naturally can take up to two weeks. Once the butterfly is dry, you can remove it from the board and preserve it using a method of preservation listed below.
Now that we’ve gone over what spreading a butterfly is, why it’s so essential, and the steps to spread a butterfly, let’s take a look at three of the most popular methods for preserving butterflies.
How to Pin Butterflies
Pinning butterflies is probably the most popular preservation method, and it’s also the most straightforward. All you need to do is spread the butterfly and then use a sharp needle to pierce the butterfly through the thorax or midsection.
Once the butterfly is pierced, you can use a piece of wire or thread to secure the butterfly to a piece of cork or foam.
Suppose you pin a butterfly immediately after rehydrating. In that case, you can reposition the wings using a piece of tracing paper and pinning needles to gently move the wings into the desired position. This allows you to spread and pin the butterfly simultaneously.
Pinning butterflies is a popular method because it’s relatively simple and requires no special materials. It’s also one of the more affordable methods, making it an excellent option for those on a budget.
One downside to pinning butterflies is that it can be challenging to find a display case that’s large enough to accommodate all of your pinned specimens.
How to Mount Butterflies
Mounting butterflies is another popular method of preservation, and it’s similar to pinning in that it’s relatively simple and doesn’t require any unique materials. The main difference is that, instead of piercing the butterfly with a needle, you secure it to the board using an adhesive.
Choose a Butterfly In Good Condition with Wings that Are Spread
The first step is to choose a butterfly that’s in good condition and has spread open wings. You don’t want to mount a butterfly that’s too small, as it will be difficult to see or one that’s too large, as it will be challenging to find a frame or box big enough to accommodate it.
Cut a Piece of Mounting Board
Next, you’ll need to cut a piece of mounting board or cardboard to size. The size will depend on the size of the butterfly, but it should be large enough to accommodate the wings without touching the sides of the frame or box.
Lay the Mat on Top of the Cardboard
Once you have your piece of cardboard or mounting board cut to size, you’ll need to lay a picture frame mat on top. If you want a mat’s decorative edge, now is the time to add it! If you add it after you adhere the butterfly, you risk damaging its wings.
Center the Butterfly
Now it’s time to center the butterfly on the board or cardboard. Once it’s in the desired position, use a pen or pencil to lightly mark near the center of the thorax. This will give you a guideline to follow when you’re ready to add the adhesive.
Apply a Thin Layer of Adhesive
Now you’re ready to apply a thin layer of adhesive to the board. You can use any glue or adhesive, but we recommend using clear drying glue so that you can see what you’re doing. You can also hot glue an inch of a hot glue stick to the thorax and hot glue the other side to the mounting board to give the butterfly some elevation.
The downside to mounting butterflies is that, over time, the adhesive can cause the wings to be yellow and become brittle.
Set the Board in the Frame
Once the adhesive is dry, you can add the board to a frame or box. Ensure the frame or box is large enough to accommodate the butterfly without squishing it!
Seal the Frame
Once the butterfly is mounted, you’ll need to seal the frame or box to prevent moisture from getting in! Using tape to seal the frame’s back side will help keep moisture from ruining your butterfly.
Display Your Butterfly
Now that your butterfly is mounted, you can display it in your home or office! Keep it away from direct sunlight, which can fade the wings over time.
One advantage of mounting butterflies is that it’s easier to find a large frame to accommodate all your mounted specimens.
Another advantage is that you can position the butterfly in any way you want, which gives you more control over the final look of your display.
What Exactly is Resin and How Can it Preserve Butterflies?
Butterflies preserved in resin last longer than pinned or mounted butterflies because as the resin hardens, it creates a protective barrier around the butterfly that lasts forever.
Resin is a clear or translucent material that hardens when exposed to air or UV light, depending on the type. Resin can be purchased at most craft stores. Resin comes in two forms, UV and epoxy resin.
Preserving butterflies in resin is a popular method because it’s a more permanent way to keep them, and the final product can be quite beautiful.
There are a few things you’ll need to do before you get started:
Decide What Kind of Resin Works the Best For You
There are two different types of resin that you can use to preserve your butterfly- UV or epoxy.
For butterfly preservation, we recommend epoxy resin because UV resin tends to shrink as it cures. Epoxy resin is also less likely to yellow over time.
You’ll need to decide if you want to use clear or opaque resin. If you want the butterfly to be the main focus of your piece, then clear is the way to go. If you want to add color or decorations such as flowers around the butterfly, then opaque would be a better choice.
Prepare Your Butterfly
You’ll need to prepare your butterfly before you start working with the resin. If you plan on using the butterfly spread, you won’t have much preparation to do! If you only plan on using the butterfly wings, you will need to remove the abdomen and set the wings in the desired position.
To remove the abdomen, use a pair of sharp scissors to cut it off as close to the thorax as possible. Be very careful not to damage the wings in the process!
Once the abdomen is removed, you can set the wings in the desired position.
Prepare Your Mold
You’ll need to prepare your mold before working with the resin. If you’re using a silicone mold, there’s no need to do anything! If you’re using a different type of mold, you’ll need to coat it with a release agent. This will help the butterfly come out of the mold when it’s time.
Finding the perfect mold is essential! You’ll want to ensure that it’s the right size and shape for your butterfly.
You can find molds at most craft stores or online. You can use anything to hold the butterfly in place while the resin hardens.
Some people use jewelry molds, candy molds, or even silicone molds designed for cake decorating! Get creative and have fun with it.
If you can’t find a mold that’s the perfect size and shape, you can always make your own out of clay.
Mix the Resin
Now that you have everything you need, it’s time to mix the resin.
You’ll want to follow the instructions on the package, as every type of resin is different.
Generally speaking, you’ll mix equal parts of the resin and hardener, then stir thoroughly.
Once it’s mixed, you’ll have a limited amount of time to work with it before it starts to harden, so you’ll need to work quickly!
Pour the Resin
Once the resin is mixed, it’s time to pour it into the mold.
If you’re using a silicone mold, there’s no need to worry about the resin sticking.
If you’re using a different type of mold, you’ll need to be careful that the release agent is still in place and that the butterfly doesn’t move when you pour the resin.
Fill the mold until it’s just below the top. You don’t want to fill it to the top, as the resin will expand as it cures, and you don’t want it to overflow.
Wait for the Resin to Cure
Once you’ve poured the resin, you’ll need to wait for it to cure. Depending on the resin you used, this can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days.
You’ll know it’s cured when it’s hard to the touch and no longer tacky.
Once it’s cured, you can remove it from the mold and enjoy your preserved butterfly!
When working with resin, it’s essential to be aware of the risks. Resin is a liquid plastic that can be harmful if ingested. It can also cause skin irritation, so it’s important to wear gloves and long sleeves when working with it.
Some general tips to follow when preserving butterflies in resin are:
- Resin is toxic, so be sure to work in a well-ventilated area.
- Resin can be challenging to remove from surfaces, so use a drop cloth or newspaper to protect your work area.
- Resin can be very messy, so be sure to wear old clothes that you don’t mind getting ruined.
- Resin can be expensive, so be sure to buy in bulk to save money.
- Resin takes time to cure, so be patient!
Butterflies preserved in resin last forever. They make beautiful and unique gifts or can be used to decorate your home. With a bit of time and effort, you can preserve these delicate creatures for generations.
Why Should Butterflies Be Appreciated?
Butterflies represent different things to different people. Some may simply love enjoying the beauty of these creatures as they flutter about in nature. Others may see them as a symbol of hope and new beginnings. Whatever a butterfly’s meaning, there is no denying the impact that butterflies can have on our lives.
For many people, butterflies are symbols of rebirth and change. After all, they begin their lives as tiny, insignificant caterpillars before undergoing a radical transformation into stunning winged creatures.
In many cultures, this transformation is seen as a metaphor for the soul’s journey. As such, witnessing a butterfly spreading its wings can be an incredibly powerful experience.
In addition to their metaphysical significance, butterflies play a vital role in the ecosystem.
They are key pollinators, helping spread pollen from plant to plant and ensuring the health of our ecosystems.
They are also a vital food source for many animals, including birds and bats.
By supporting butterflies, we are not only helping to nourish the earth but also providing food and shelter for countless creatures.
Whether we see them as symbols of hope or agents of change, there is no denying the power of butterflies.
So the next time you see one fluttering by, take a moment to appreciate the beauty and mystery of these creatures.
Learn More About Butterflies:
- Are Butterflies Animals?
- Is a Butterfly a Mammal?
- How to Raise Butterflies In A Greenhouse
- How Butterflies Breed In A Greenhouse
- How To Start A Butterfly Greenhouse
- Do Butterflies Have Poison?
- Do Butterflies Bleed When They Hatch
- How to Preserve Butterflies (Three Ways)
- What Do Caterpillars Need to Survive
- What Does it Mean When a Butterfly Follows You
- How Caterpillars Know They’re Going to be Butterflies