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Mounting a Specimen Butterfly
Relaxing dried butterflies
Spreading wings with a strip of glassine
A swallowtail with spread wings. Pins are not stuck through the butterfly or wings.
Three butterflies spread for drying.

Mounting dead butterflies is not hard! At least, not the most casual method of mounting. Most butterfly fans who write and ask us how to mount a butterfly has found a butterfly and simply wish to mount it for thier own enjoyment. This webpage is designed for those who simply wish to preserve a butterfly.

Many butterfly fans would not think of deliberately killing a butterfly. Others believe that a humane death at the hands of a human for the purpose of extending its beauty through mounting and framing is much better than the 'natural' death of many butterflies. Whether your butterfly is one you have found, kept, given, or dried, the steps below are a simply rough method of spreading the wings of a butterfly.

You will need a mounting board. The one in the photo above was made from balsa wood. We have three mounting boards. Each one is made with the boards at different angles. This makes it possible to dry a butterfly in several positions, from flat to wings over its back as if it were drinking nectar from a flower. Styrofoam is easy to use as a mounting tool. Simply arrange styrofoam pieces in the same manner as the pieces of wood in the above photos. Hot glue will hold them together for a while. A 1/3 inch groove should be between the two wing boards. This allows the body of the butterfly to sit evenly below the wings. Step One: In our opinion, the most humane way of killing a butterfly is to simply slip it into an envelope with its wings folded over its back and slip the envelope into a freezer. Placing the envelope with a butterfly in a air tight container prevents it from dehydrating. When you are ready to mount a butterfly which has not dehydrated, simply thaw it and mount. If your butterfly is not dehydrated, you do not need to follow directions in Step Two.

Step Two: Using a plastic box or container, place a wet paper towel on the bottom. Lay your dried butterflies on this wet paper towel. Place another wet paper towel on top of your dried butterflies. Place the container in your refrigerator for two days. If you do not have room in your refrigerator, you will need to add a drop or two of bleach to the water you use on your paper towels to prevent mold. When you are ready to mount or spread the wings of your butterfly, take the plastic box out of the refrigerator and remove your butterfly.

Step Three: We used strips of glassine paper (this is the paper used by the post office for 'lick and stick' stamps) to manipulate the wings. Straight pins are used to hold the glassine strips in place. The body of the butterfly is placed in the groove between the two wing boards. A glassine strip is used to spread the wings apart. Straight pins are used to hold the glassine tight against the board. Place the pins very close to the wings to hold them securely. We adjust the wings several times as we spread the wings of butterflies. Pins are used to hold the head and antennae straight.

Step Four: After finishing, we place the board on top of the refrigerator or on a shelf out of reach of children. To dry the butterfly will take several days for small butterflies (such as hairstreaks) to several weeks for large butterflies.

Step Five: Your butterfly may be placed where you wish with hot glue or other glue. Many different methods of securing it are used by different people. Tiny microscopic critters will eat your butterflies dried body. To prevent this, use a snip of a pesticide strip or moth ball granules in the frame. These are often placed on the backing under the butterfly's wings where they will not be noticed.