Mounting Microlepidoptera

Monarchrst at Monarchrst at
Tue Jun 19 09:19:47 EDT 2001

I don't know about Web pages, but I can share some of my methods.

I use small strips of plastizote that I cut into 3 x 1 inch strips.  Into one 
side I use a sharp knife to cut a narrow "V"-shaped groove down the center of 
the strip.  The groove is about 1.5 mm wide and about 1 mm deep.  I purchase 
the small clear 3 x 5 inch boxes from Watkins & Doncaster on line (Cat item 
#E60531, - they only take a few days to arrive by air 
freight.  I put about 4 of these strips into each box and they work perfectly 
to keep bugs out, and prying children's fingers and cats away.  Plus you can 
see clearly into them.

I mount even the tiniest of micros this way.  I also buy my minuten pins from 
Watkins and Doncaster, they are all stainless steel and go down to 0.0056" in 
diameter, thinner than a human hair and suitable for micros that have only a 
3-4 mm wingspan (Cat # E6872).  I use matchsticks with minuten pins mounted 
in the end as setting needles and mount the micro in the center of the groove 
with the wings flush with the flat sides.  For mounting strips I use small 
squares of the clear plastic film used to wrap CD discs boxes or chocolates 
and cut this into squares of between 5 and 8 mm per side.  I use a single 
minuten to pin the square down above the wing and then lift the lower edge of 
the square up with one setting needle while I manipulate the wings into place 
with a matchstick mounted pin in the other.  When released, the small square 
has enough spring to keep the wings in place.  The hard edges of the plastic 
box are wonderful for steadying ones hand.  The tiny specimens dry in about 2 
days and can then be used for genitalia preps or for photography with a good 

All this may sound complex, but it is extremely easy, only demanding good 
vision.  I encourage you to look at the micros.  We still have hundreds of 
species to name yet in the USA, maybe many more.  Sometimes their habitats 
are very local and restricted and occupy niches perhaps not favored by 
butterflies, but just as worth protecting nevertheless.  We cannot hope to 
protect these precious resources unless we know what it is we are trying to 
protect, so get into the micros.  Even though they are tiny, they are just as 
beautiful as the larger moths and butterflies - just that bit more difficult 
to see, handle and identify.  Unfortunately, only a fraction are illustrated, 
so that will be challenge for all of us to face up to.

Best wishes with your studies, we have almost all of it ahead of us to learn.

Ian Watkinson, Arizona


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