How to Relax and spread your
Dried Butterfly or Moth Specimen

Relaxing your butterfly specimen is easy to do. You may have read different ways of relaxing butterflies such as the use of a relaxing chamber or injecting warm water in the thorax with a relaxing syringe. In the instructions below I describe a much easier way to relax your butterfly specimen that anyone can do. Be sure to read these instructions fully before starting your project..

  1. Take a wash cloth or 2 paper towels and saturate them with water by holding them under a running faucet. Shut off the faucet and ring out the towels in the sink so that the towels are damp but not dripping.
  2. Place the towels on a plate.
  3. Carefully remove your Butterfly/Moth specimen from its protective envelopes and place it on the damp towels. Be careful not to bend the specimen envelope while unfolding to remove. At this point the specimen is dried, brittle and may break if not handled with care.

    use a damp paper towel

  4. Close the towel back over the top of your specimen as if it were being closed into a book.
  5. use a damp paper towel
  6. Place the plate with the damp towel and specimen on it into the refrigerator and leave it there for about 24 hours. This will allow the moth specimen to rehydrate. You may also use a sealed Tupperware container in place of the plate to further protect your specimen and improve hydration.

    use a damp paper towel

  7. After waiting 24 hours, remover the spreading board with specimen from the refrigerator.
  8. Pick up the specimen with a pair of spade-tip butterfly forceps and place it with the thorax between your thumb and forefinger.

    use a damp paper towel

  9. Gently squeeze the thorax with a pulsating motion approximately 1 squeeze per second. Watch as the wings slowly start to open and close with each compression.
  10. With the thorax still between your thumb and forefinger, using your forceps work the fore-wings forward and backward. Repeat the same action with the hind wings. You may hear popping as the joints start to loosen.
  11. If your specimen is to be pinned then insert the pin at this time. The pin should be inserted through the center of the thorax.
  12. With the wings open an adequate amount, place the thumb of your other hand on the top of the thorax with your forefinger on the bottom side of the thorax. Roll your thumb back and forth gently opening the wings further.

    use a damp paper towel

  13. Still between the wing with your thumb and forefinger, place the specimen on its back. At this point the legs are pointing up and the wings are spread open. Using the pins and paper strips, secure the wing into the proper position.

    use a damp paper towel

  14. Note that the rest of this instruction document is for using a flat Styrofoam board to spread your specimen. If you are using a grooved spreading board like the one provided in Quick-pix option D then place the pin centered into the groove with the top of the specimen face up. Using a spreading board to spread a butterfly/moth may be viewed on our YouTube Channel www.youtube.com/bugmanpaul.
  15. With a pen or pencil, write the date on one of the strips of paper. This will help you remember what day this particular specimen was spread into the drying position.

    use a damp paper towel

  16. Place the specimen in a dry location where it will not be bumped or disturbed. Let the specimen dry for at least 5 days.
  17. After 5 days of drying have passed, remove the paper strips and set them aside. While doing so be careful not to bump the antennae since they are dry and may break easily.

    use a damp paper towel

  18. At this point you may install your data labels and place the specimen into your collection display box.