Like many children, Otis loves his nature collection. He loves to collect items from his nature walks including dead bugs. In the past, we've stored his nature collection including his bugs in a lovely wooden box (it has sections and a glass cover) which has worked really well and looks beautiful on his shelves.
But what if you didn't want the child to touch the bugs, what if the bugs were too delicate to be handled by young children, what if you wanted to pass the bugs around to many young children?
Have you thought about preserving them? Here are two ways we've tried to preserve our insects and spiders.
Preserving insects and spiders in hand sanitiser. Yes, it's a thing! We know we can preserve animals in alcohol but the hand sanitiser suspends the insects, making them easier to view in the bottle! This is perfect viewing for little hands and very easy (and cheap) to DIY.
If you want an official tutorial you can read this one Collecting Insects: Preserving Insects in Hand Sanitizer at The Dragonfly Woman or How to preserve and display insect specimens in hand santizer by Sam Droege, Biologist. Please note that we did not boil our bottles but removed the bubbles with a plastic pipette.
We used 10ml glass vials with screw top lids (this size is perfect for little insects like bees and small insects but you would need something larger for beetles like a stag beetle) hand sanitiser gel, tweezers, a plastic pipette (our pipettes are like this but look for smaller packs) and some dead and dried insects.
We filled the vials with hand sanitiser gel. I found there were a lot less bubbles if we poured the gel directly into the vial from the hand sanitiser bottle not using the dispenser in the lid, this is a little bit messy as the gel kind of blobs in but it's worth it because of the fewer bubbles.
Once the vial was full of sanitiser we used the tweezers to put the dead and dried bugs into the vials. It is easy to move them into the position that you want. Then with a pipette (as shown below) I removed the unwanted air bubbles. Some of the bottles needed topping up with hand sanitiser gel and I went back and forth removing the bubbles and adding more gel. By the end, I was happy with the small amount of bubbles that remained. You want to fill the vial to the top with hand sanitiser to prevent future bubbles from forming, especially if they might be handled roughly by children.
It's almost too easy. I think they look lovely! There is so much potential in this technique depending on the specimens you have. We had a couple of different bees and a wasp, so these are useful in wasp and bee study. They could work well in lifecycle study too.
If you look closely you can see so much detail, all of the parts of the bee, the hairs and wings. The image below shows how they look with all of the air bubbles removed.
I would definitely try this again!
Another way I wanted to try preserving insects is in resin. We love our store-bought resin insects, they have been invaluable in our home when teaching the children about insects and spiders that we don't have locally or might not want them to touch like scorpions. Above is a lovely image from Luluslist and was my inspiration for trying this technique.
It is completely doable as a DIY and good for larger specimens. We used round silicone molds but there are so many molds available depending on the size of your specimens, and we used a high gloss, non-toxic, BPA free resin. If you only want to do a few samples this small resin set is perfect. It also has a 1:1 ratio for mixing which makes it super easy to use. We also use this mixing and measuring set to make it easier to measure the small but specific quantities, you need to be accurate with the mixing or it won't bond. The resin is cheaper if bought in bulk but once set the resin can't be recycled or composted so I didn't want to use too much or do too much experimenting.
The resin is harder to work with and takes longer to do but produces a very hardy product. I would also love to try this again, our bumble bee had lots of bubbles and that is perhaps due to its fuzzy hair. These would be lovely to make as gifts, my older children could make a paperweight for their grandparents, or as keepsakes for visits to special places, I love the examples with shells and leaves too! Otis could help preserve some of his small shells to remember his favourite UK beaches!
I loved playing around with the insects, the hand sanitiser method was the easiest but both have so much potential for insect and spider study in the home!