Beetle Taxidermy at Observatory

I went yet again to Observatory in Brooklyn this month in order to attend their
Anthropomorphic Insect Shadowbox Workshop with Former AMNH Senior Insect Preparator Daisy Tainton [class description]. The first part of the class was to select your shadow box (out of a large table full of them) and decide its pose. Having arrived late, I grabbed one of the few remaining and had to figure out what I was going to do to work with it, instead of having it as a blank slate. The shadow box I selected had a large ceramic flower pot in it, which took up most of the interior floor space. I do so love a challenge though and came up with a nice little horticultural scene. The beetles came to us in little plastic baggies. They were placed in hot water in order to steam them and remoisten their joints and bits so they can be posed however you’d like – no dissections or armature wire this time.

Which makes me consider what a glorious pain it would be to use them in a stop motion film, but that’s neither here nor there…

Then they were pinned to a piece of foamcore where they had to dry out into your shape. Once dry, they’d remain forever in that position. But the dry time took over an hour. Also, I discovered that I hate the smell of dead beetles. I have lived through several insect infestations and their horrible sweet yet musty smell just triggers my inner fear. I ended up actually super glueing the joints, as mine was too squishy by the time most of the class had left. I did, in fact, manage to super glue my fingers. Once everything was together, I glued everything together inside the shadowbox. And, voila!

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