How To Preserve Insects

Any burgeoning entomologist will have to know how to preserve insects sooner or later. Preserving field specimens can be as simple or as complex as you desire. This guide will show you the simpler methods to help preserve your collection.

To preserve insects you will need:

  • Dead insects
  • Vials
  • Rubber stoppers
  • Display boxes
  • Entomologist collection pins
  • Alcohol
  • Purified water
  1. Supplies. To preserve hard bodied insects, you will need to purchase display boxes and display pins from an entomologist supply store. The pins are thinner and longer than pins you buy at the store. To preserve soft bodied insects you will need glass vials, rubber stoppers and alcohol. The preferred alcohol for specimen preservation is 70% ethyl alcohol but you can also use isopropyl alcohol in a pinch.
  2. Prepare hard bodied insects. To preserve fresh, hard bodied insects, you can pin them immediately. If they are dried specimens, you will have to keep them in a moist box for a couple of days. Make sure the specimens are properly racked and not touching anything wet. Pin most insects just to the right of the middle line near the thorax behind the head. Pin beetles on the right wing cover just below the base. Pin true bugs through the triangle shaped space on their back.
  3. Preserve hard bodies insects. Now that the specimen is properly pinned, to preserve the insect you will need to seal the display box. The ones you buy from universities and entomology supply stores do not need any extra sealant. If you bought display boxes from a craft store and live in a humid climate, you may wish to use rubber cement or tape to seal the edges and keep out pests. Also, make sure the pin is not touching anything metal to prevent rust. If you have a problem with pest beetles invading your displays, line the storage area with camphor balls.
  4. To preserve soft bodied insects. To preserve soft bodied insects, you will need a glass vial. Place your specimen in the glass vial and add 70% alcohol and 30% water to preserve it. Now seal it with a rubber stopper. If you use a jar, you may have rust issues down the line which can degrade the quality of the specimen.



Keep your insect collection out of direct sunlight to help preserve the insect’s natural color.

A preserved insect is valuable but so are the field notes. Make records where you obtained the specimen, the environmental conditions, the date and time and any behavior you may have observed in the field.

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