Santa Clarita and Northern Los Angeles County Area
Tips and ideas for conserving, collecting, preserving, and displaying lepidoptera.
Butterfly and Moth Site
A simple way to remove grease stains from butterfly wings.
If this has never happened to any of your specimens, consider yourself
lucky. However, chances are good that you have, or will have, specimens
that become stained with their own natural body greases. Some discolor
immediately after being caught while others may not self-stain until
months or even years later. The trigger is not always clear - it may be
temperature, humidity, chemical exposure, age, etc.
Some species are more prone than others. Many Morpho species have their
abdomens removed when captured to help prevent staining. It does seem to
help but some specimens still stain anyway.
Two examples are shown below - a California Dogface and a Morpho Adonis.
I had about a dozen old and new Dogface specimens self-stain over a
year's time. The Morpho became stained during the relaxing process,
either due to grease or accumulated moisture (or both). The Dogface's
color is largely a result of scale pigmentation, while the Morpho gets
its color from light refraction due to scale structure.
Either way the color is produced, the result is usually the same - a
dark stain creeps outward across some or all of the wing area from the
insect's body, and the specimen is apparently ruined.
I recently learned that the grease can be removed by soaking the
specimen in acetone for a day or two. I had a number of stained
specimens around that looked hopeless, so I figured I had nothing to
lose by using them to test and document the procedure.
Here are the specimens with their grease stains before the tests.
1 glass jar of sufficient size to contain the largest specimen(s) that
you intend to process. Make sure that it has a tight-fitting lid that does
not dissolve - note that some plastics dissolve in acetone!
1 quart can of acetone (if you don't already have some) about $5 from
home depot (paint dept).