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How to preserve and display insect specimens in hand sanitizer


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We describe how to use display insects and other natural history items in vials of hand sanitizer. Good for displays where people want to look closely and handle specimens and has wonderful visual effects.

  • I have three questions:
    1. Can you use small jars instead of vials?
    2. How long do the insects have to be dried before putting them into the hand sanitizer?
    3. Is there maximum amount of time before the insects start to loose there color and not look right?
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  • I am starting an insect collection for a classroom. We live in the jungle and I am afraid other creatures will come and eat our collection(or try to carry it away)! Is there anything I can do, other than put it under glass? We are in a very harsh environment, so I am also concerned about the heat in the dry season and mold in the rainy season.
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  • Latest Finds:
    1. Cuvettes permit specimens to be viewed under microscopes, would make wonderful photography chambers too...
    2. Anything with salt in it will dissolve the gel
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How to preserve and display insect specimens in hand sanitizer

  1. 1. How To Preserve Insect Specimens in Hand Sanitizer<br />By DejenMengis, Carl White, Moriah Browning, Denise Williams, Sarah Fisher<br />
  2. 2. Purpose and History<br />Hand sanitizer is a gelled alcohol and can be used to create very cool insect specimen displays that, unlike pinned specimens, can be handled by children and the public<br />Specimens will appear to float in air inside the vials and do not sink or move despite any amount of handling (Sam Droege has kept a vial in his pocket for 2 months without any shifting, for example)<br />This technique was shown to us by Wayne White, BCE, of American Pest who has used hand sanitizer to preserve and display bed bug specimens<br />
  3. 3. Pour hand sanitizer into an empty vial<br />
  4. 4. Choose a dried, alcohol- or glycol- preserved specimen<br />
  5. 5. Which Specimens to Use?<br />Specimens that have been in alcohol, glycol, or dried work well<br />Specimens that are freshly killed appear to dissolve the gel in the sanitizer for some reason<br />
  6. 6. Move the specimen toward the bottom of the vial with a probe <br />
  7. 7. Bubble Removal: Water Bath Method<br />At this point, there are probably many air bubbles in the vial. The next series of slides demonstrates how to remove these bubbles<br />Air also exists inside specimens and needs to be removed or bubbles will gradually migrate outside the specimen over time<br />
  8. 8. Pour an inch of water into a pot<br />
  9. 9. Place the vial or vials into the pot, don’t forget that hand sanitizer will burn if exposed to an open flame!<br />
  10. 10. Boil the vial in the water for 10 minutes or until most of the bubbles are gone<br />
  11. 11. Carefully, take the vial out of the water<br />
  12. 12. Use a pipette with a bulb to remove any remaining bubbles<br />
  13. 13. Top off the vial with more hand sanitizer<br />
  14. 14. Position the specimen as preferred Even dried specimens become flexible<br />
  15. 15. Tips…<br />Thoroughly clean vials before use<br />You can add labels to vials that “float”<br />You can add things like beads, dried flowers, sand etc. that will also float in place…and makes good “clean” fun for kids to make their own insect dioramas. OK, some adults like this too<br />Always be sure to overfill with hand sanitizer and if possible permanently seal the vials to eliminate bubbles<br />
  16. 16. Alternative Bubble Removal: Vacuum <br />Works reasonably well but….<br /><ul><li>Specimens and hand sanitizer tend to bubble out of the vial more easily as air bubbles expand under vacuum
  17. 17. Not as efficient as heating in removing all the bubbles in the vial
  18. 18. Vacuum pumps are expensive</li></li></ul><li>Correspondence and questions can be addressed to: Sam Droege (<br />Thanks to JelleDevalez for picture taking<br />