req: relaxing pointers -Reply

Nick Greatorex-Davies NGD at WPO.NERC.AC.UK
Wed May 20 03:58:56 EDT 1998

Alexei Belik wrote:

>I do relaxing my butterfly specimens by water vapors. This
>old-fashioned technique gives pretty good results!

>For this aim I do using the special chemical jar called "exicator".
>Chemists use it for the storage of the volatile chemicals. Any other jar
>with the hermetically closing cover would be OK, but then you will need
>to invent some improvement (a kind of grill to place it above the layer of
>the water on the bottom of the jar). NB that the insect specimens
>SHOULD NOT have the direct contact with the water.

I also use just water (usually distilled) in glass jars with air-tight screw
lids. All my relaxing / killing jars are lined with plaster-of-Paris, about 2
cms deep in the base of the jar with a thin layer round the edges of the
jar (up to about two thirds the height of the jar so I can easily see what is
inside). The layer round the side of the jar prevents specimens getting
stuck (and being damaged) to any moisture that might form on the sides
of the jar.

The plaster-of-Paris of course absorbs the water / killing fluid and there
is no problem with the specimens coming into contact directly with the
water. It works a treat!  I always aim to mount relaxed specimens within
a day or two (with larger specimens) before any mould sets in. The jars
last indefinitely (particularly if you use distilled water) as long as they are
left open to dry out between use. The jars can also be readily taken out
into the field.

I sometimes find I need to gently crush the thorax a bit (especially with
butterflies) before I can set a particular specimen (specimens left for
10-20 years between killing and relaxing can still be set). Perhaps the
injecting method suggested by Bruce Walsh avoids the necessity of this.
Any other thoughts on this? 

I use ethyl acetate as a killing agent - which incidently if you leave the
specimens in the jar for about 24 hours after killing them with some
water also absorbed in the plaster-of-Paris, they come out of rigor-mortis
and become perfectly relaxed, including the antennae, even the tiniest
micro-moths are a doddle to mount. I carry small quantities of ethyl
acetate around in 'old' Tippex (correcting fluid) thinner bottles. The
pointed nozzle makes it easy to put just enough ethyl acetate into the
killing jar or to put a drop or two onto a cotton bud  or peice of tissue to
anaesthetize a bug in a tube or box.

Hope this is of help and interest to some.

Kind regards

Nick Greatorex-Davies
ITE Monks Wood, UK.

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