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Tools of the trade

Spreading Butterflies: Tools of the trade. 1) BioQuip adjustable spreading board (#1022E) - my favorite. 2) Fine sandpaper. I sand the spreading board every once in awhile to clean it up and remove micro-splinters that may catch on the butterfly wings. 3) Body pins. I use No. 3 insect pins for the bodies of medium to large butterflies. 4) BioQuip pinning block (#1144). I sometimes use this stepped block to set the heights of the butterfly and the labels on the pin. 5) Pins to be used for pinning the paper strips to the board. I set up a group of No. 5 insect pins ahead of time on a piece of styrofoam. The BioQuip boards are rather hard so I have to use this very sturdy pin to penetrate the wood surface. It's best to set up your spreading pins ahead of time so that you can quickly access them with one hand during the spreading process. 6) BioQuip spade-tipped butterfly forceps (#4747). I have tried all kinds of forceps for handling butterflies. This model is the best general-purpose style. 7) Angled dental forceps. For larger butterflies I use this style of forceps. I found this one at a flea market. There are always people selling interesting and useful medical tools at flea markets and swap meets. Check it out. 8) BioQuip dissecting scissors (#4131). I keep small scissors around for trimming paper strips that go beyond the length of the spreading board. It is best to trim the excess paper so that it will not get caught on anything and ruin your pinning job. 9) Paper strips for positioning the wings of the butterfly. The width depends on the size of the butterfly: the larger the butterfly, the wider the strips. In this case I am using a width of 3/8" for a Papilio. I cut these strips on a paper cutter from 24 lb. laser printer paper. I use this rather heavy paper because it has better tension and durability for holding the butterfly wings in position than ordinary thin paper. 10) Wide strips for covering the wings of the butterfly after they have been set in the desired position. Also cut from 24 lb. laser printer paper. Some people use translucent glassine strips for this purpose but in my experience this kind of paper does not lay flat; it tends to warp and curl after a few days. 11) Butterfly just out of the relaxer. They dry out quickly, so don't leave them lying around too long before spreading.

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