Relaxing and setting hesperiidae specimens

Grkovich, Alex agrkovich at
Mon May 3 17:25:19 EDT 2010


First, you never know (from MY experience at least) how a skipper will turn out. One will spread just fine after relaxing; then just when you're feeling good about yourself and how you've mastered spreading skippers,the next one will get ruined totally...But...

First, there is the "Klots Method" of making small cuts to the FW and HW muscles, in order to "loosen" the muscles and allow for more effective movements of the wings during the spreading process...Check the 1951 Klots Field Guide for this method...I personal have never used this, because there is the inherent danger of cutting the wings too high and thus cutting them off...

First off, the specimen must be as thoroughly relaxed as possible. I use a tupperware container, about 1-3/4 inch high; I place sponges in the bottom of the container. The sponges are soaked in HOT tap water, then you wring out the excess water and place the sponges in the container. Then I place a plaster trellice, or just a piece of flexible and thin screen material over the sponges. The specimens then rest on the outside of the glassine envelopes (each one on it's envelope so the data doesn't get mixed up of course). And then a large envelope cut open into a flat piece of "paper" is placed over the top of the specimens on their envelopes...Now what I have found is also important is to let the specimens relax inside the container over dry heat, such as fintube radiation, or as I use, a dehumidification heater ("soft heat"), or you can leave the container out in the sunlight; but whatever, the relaxing specimens need to stay warm...Using this method, a large skipper should be relaxed in approx. 12 hours or maybe a little more for a very large specimen...

When taken out (without the specimen getting very wet), then you hold the specimen by the thorax by your fingertips, and gently squeeze the thorax at the wing muscles to "loosen them"...Then place the pin through the thorax. Now, take a set of tweezers, and further work the wing muscles with the tweezers - especially the hindwings which as you said, a re particularly a problem...Work them real well, but without of course damaging the wings...Then place the specimen on the spreading board and go to work...I use #1 pins as the spreading "tool"...

Another thing that can be done is this: About 1/2 to 2/3 through the relaxing process, turn the specimens over in the relaxing box, thus allowing both sides of the wings to be in direct "contact"" with the sponges...

Anyway, expect to ruin a number of specimens...Practice first on "Junk" or "Trash Bugs", like Silver Spotted Skippers, Long Dashes, European Skippers and the like.. then go ahead and try not to risk ruining your stuff from Cyprus...

Good luck...and you'll probably need it...

I am sure that others will have better methods than mine...


-----Original Message-----
From: owner-leps-l at [mailto:owner-leps-l at] On Behalf Of Andrew Torry
Sent: Monday, May 03, 2010 4:46 PM
To: Leps list
Subject: Re: Relaxing and setting hesperiidae specimens

Hi Folks, I need some advice.

I recently came back home from a collecting trip in Cyprus and took a short series of Gegenes pumilio (Pygmy Skipper). The specimens were kept frozen whilst on Cyprus and were only defrosted for the journey home.

I have discovered that of all the specimens I collected these are completely unsettable. The wings seem to be absolutely locked in the closed position and any attempt to relax them and spread them result in a destroyed specimen (The hind wing usually splits along a vein the moment it is moved).

Anyone any ideas on how to get these thing set!


Andrew Torry


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