How to prepare (set up, mounting) beetles
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Equipment for preparing specimens.

Entomological pins size 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6
Preparation needle
Mounting paper cards or paper points.
Brush size OOO, OO and 1
Mounting block
glue (Weldbond -

Is handy to have a binocular preparation microscope, especially for small specimens.


You can prepare / set up beetles only if they are soft / relaxed

If the beetles are dry out you can:
put them into solution 1/5 vinegar, few drops of detergent and 4/5 of boiling water.
The beetles will get soft depend of the size and sclerotisation. Sometime the hard specimens has to be boiled for few minutes.
You have to be careful that specimens do not macerate and loose antennae or tarsi.

Further reading about relaxing specimens


The beetle could pinned using entomological pins to top part of the right elytra.
Especially large beetles has to be pinned.
Use proper entomological pins.
There are sizes from OOO,OO,O,1,2,3,4,5,6,7. but for beetles we use size from number 2 up to 6, size 7 is used for very large beetles only.
The most used size of pin is size 3.

To pin a beetle, grasp it underside down by the thumb and forefinger of your left hand (if you are right-handed) and insert the pin perpenducular trought the right elytra behind the base.
Look on picture in this section.
Be careful not to insert pin throught your finger.


Pinning may damage small specimens and the best mounted with glue on a paper point or small card.
For the handling of small beetles is the best use the brush size OOO or OO wetted with saliva.

The paper point.
[I've substituted the instructions on pointing I give my entomology class] Insects that are too small to be pinned directly may be mounted on a point. A point is a triangular piece of stout white paper that you can make with a point punch. A pin is inserted through the broad end and the small end is bent with forceps at a right angle. A very small amount of glue is placed on this turned over tip and this is then applied to the right side of the thorax of the insect. A correctly pointed specimen has its body horizontal when the pin is upright, with the long axis of the body at right angles to the point.
(contributed by Steve Halfordf)

The paper cards.
There are different sizes of mounting cards from 11 x 4.5 mm to 60 x 30 mm. For smaller cards use a number 3 pin, for larger use a number 5 or 6 to prevent the card rotating and damaging the specimens. Use water-soluble glue. A: Hold the beetle upside down with your finger or with the corner of a large microscope cover slip mounted on a small cork. B: Choose an appropriate size of card. C: Spread the legs and antennae with a damp brush. D: Put a small drop of glue on the card using the preparation needle and allow to set up. Transfer the beetle to the card using the wet brush. Orient the beetle with head towards the top of the card. Glue only the body, leave the legs and antennae free of glue for the time being. E: Insert an entomological pin in the bottom of the card and pin to a preparation pad ( I use a cork drink coaster) F: Leave the glue to dry for few minutes. G: Arrange the beetle's legs and antennae with the wet brush. Once arranged you can glue the tips of antennae or legs to the card with water-soluable glue. I am using white latex based glue.
H: Set the mounted beetle to the right height using a mounting block. I: Attach data labels to the pin.

Do not forget to attach a locality label to each specimen . The data on a specimen are as important as the specimen itself; a specimen without data has little value. The locality label must carry the following important information: Where, When and by Whom the specimen was collected. For example: BOH.c.5.X.1990 Prague Zd.Svec lgt. = The specimen was collected in Bohemia centralis, 5th of December 1990 in Prague by Zdenek Svec. The "leg." is abbreviation for legitis = collected by... The state (in capital letters, abbreviated if long), followed by date of collecting The collection site (locality = city, town,) The collectors name.

Mounting block.

A mounting block can be purchased or can easily be made at home, preferably from a plastic or hardwood. A metal block can damage pin Holes have to be drilled into the block to the following depths: 28mm, 25mm, 21mm, 18mm Specimens are set to the 25 mm depth and the locality label to 21 mm.

The glue.
It does depend on what you are looking for in an adhesive. I can speak from the fine art framing standpoint, that being we use glues that are neutral and archival, meaning both they will last without damaging what they are adhering,and, most importantly, that they be completely reversible.
Prit and Uhu gluesticks are neutral and will not damage anything they are applied to. They are also reversible ( with water ). But at best they should be used as a temporary adhesive. High humidity will cause both types of glue sticks to release.
As Ann states, Methyl cellulose is by far the strongest and safest glue. We alsouse heat activated adhesives such as Fusion 5000. These are brought up to 180 degrees F. with a tacking iron. They are stronger then Methyl cellulose, but I don't know if it is worth the bother for insect labels. The heat activated adhesives are also archival and completely reversible.
What about PVA glue? Book binders use it constantly. It is not reversible, butneutral, and will never release. Cheers, Craig Z ammiello


I put the recipes of 2 fixation fluids on the list, beacuse it may be of general interest. Both, FAE and Bouin (Dubosq Brazil) work well with all insects, adults and larvae. FAE: 2 parts 80% ethanol (e.g. 400 ml) 1 part Formalin (37%) (e.g. 200 ml) 10ml acetic acid/100 ml (e.g. 60ml) Dubosq Brazil (modified Bouin): 150 ml 80% ethanol + 1 g picric acid (trinitrophenol) add before use: 60 ml Formalin (37%) + 15 ml acetic acid
I would greatly appreciate if more colleagues would use this stuff. Larvae thrown in boiling water are completely useless for study of internal structures. Muscles, digestive tract etc. of specimens fixed in 70% ethanol deteriorate after a while. Rolf Beutel


Some pictures of properly mounted beetles.

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Last modified on Thursday, 25 July 2013