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How to relax / rehydrate a butterfly ?

The best technique to relax butterflies

I've been collecting butterflies for 30 years and had never found the perfect technique for rehydrating butterflies before spreading them. I will thank here Nicolas Grimaldi for teaching me this technique. 

I can guarantee you that I have tried dozens of techniques, I will mention for example :
- placing the specimen in a jar filled with moist sand for 3 days,
- placing the butterfly in a tupperware with moistured toilet paper. 
- inject the butterfly with hot water using a syringe
- injecting the butterfly with gin or vodka

None of these solutions was perfect: 3 days in a jar is sometimes not enough to soften a butterfly but molds appear as soon as the 2nd day.
Injection is not practical on small specimens like Lycaenidae and sometimes dramas occur with fats present in the body that spread in the wings and stain them. 

It is only very recently that I discovered a very simple and fast technique (less than 24 hours).

All you need is a bottle of vodka, some toilet paper and an airtight tupperware.

Few important advices to rehydrate your butterflies

It is very simplevery fast and it relaxes the butterflies much better than the classical methods with water or injections. The other big advantage is that it avoids moistures.

What you need :
- a bottle of cheap vodka (buy the cheapest one, the one I use has 37.5% alcohol),
- an airtight tupperware,
- some toilet paper.

What to do :
- Fold a strip of toilet paper lengthwise and place it in the tupperware. (see picture)
- Pour in about half a cap of vodka. The paper should be well soaked but the vodka should not run out of the paper.
- Put the butterflies next to the toilet paper, I just put the head of the butterfly on top (to relax the antennas)
- Close the tupperware
- Wait about 12 h for a Delias, 24h/36h for an Agrias.


A relaxing box with some Delias and Agrias butterflies

- the butterfly is much more relaxed than with the traditional methods of hot water or injection
- it is faster than the classical hot water method. One night is enough for most butterflies.
- you can leave the butterflies hard to relax (Agrias, Charaxes...) several days in the tupperware without risk of moisture because there is no water.
- I did not encounter more problems of greasing than with other methods (less risk than with the injection)
- it is not expensive : maybe 5 cents of vodka per tupperware ?

Two things to watch out for:
- you should not leave the butterflies too long. 12 hours is enough for most species. Otherwise the risk of greasing increases.
- before spreading your butterfly, ensure the butterfly is perfectly rehydrated. If not, leave in the tupperware for 12 more hours.

If you've never tried this vodka technique, please try it and let me know. I am sure you will be impressed. It works perfectly for all sizes of butterflies.


A second method to rehydrate your butterflies.

If you don't have any vodka at home, you may try another strong clear alcohol. You can also use the classic method with hot water, have a look to the video below. But be careful of moisture and be aware that it is not as efficient as the vodka method. This is the method most collectors are using because they are not aware of the vodka technique.