How to Encapsulate Insects in Resin

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Posted in WorkshopMolds-and-casting

Introduction: How to Encapsulate Insects in Resin

About: Travelling since 2013. I'm currently in Australia for some reason. --- I’m Calvin Drews, and I love to learn, experiment, invent, create, repair, and generally just do things myself. A sort of modern jack o...

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    46 Comments

    I have a question. Since it has been several years since you made this, I'm wondering how much yellowing you've had? Most resins yellow and some do so in a very short time. I'm hoping that since you basically encased most of your resin within the polycarbonate sheets that maybe the sheets prevented the yellowing. Thanks.

    i have a good ten year old blue beetle or scarab encased in acrylic or another resin,,when i bought it there were no bubbles in the thing,,,now i look and its LOADED with them all seeming to come to the surface in the resin,,the first time i saw them i could no feel anthing on the surface,,now,,i can almost feel a kind of roughness on the surface,,there are so many that i almost cant see the beetle through them from the top,,anybody ever heard of this? or know what to do about it??

    4 replies

    Unfortunately once a specimen is encapsulated in the resin and the resin has cured, there is not really anything you can do to fix bubble problems without destroying your specimen. The reason the bubbles have risen and your surface has clouded is because the specimen was not properly prepared before being encapsulated in the resin. Before encapsulating any organic specimen in resin of any type, the specimen should be FULLY dried/dehydrated/desiccated and, depending on the shape/size of the specimen's body, filled or sealed with preserving acrylic. Otherwise, eventually, the moisture and natural decomposition of the specimen will result in gas release, which creates the bubbles and can discolor, pop, or cave a specimen while it is in the resin.

    Depending on how much resin is layered above your specimen, you may be able to use planing tool to cut a off the topmost layer of ruined resin, a buffing/sanding wheel to smooth it, and polish it using marine grade polish products (used to clean/polish acrylics). The surface will probably never be completely clear again, but it might be a little better. However, if bubbles continue to rise, this won't do you much good anyway.

    Honestly, it sounds like the piece is doomed. I'm very sorry about your beetle!

    Not sure that's 100% true. I've encapsulated 100's of insects with never a problem, and almost all the insects I've encapsulated have been encapsulated within minutes of their deaths. By the time an insect would start to decompose the resin has already hardened and cured. In that case, how would bubbles be able to be emitted and rise in a fully cured and hardened resin? It can't,it's impossible!!!! I use a resin that fully cures within 24-48 hours....

    Unfortunately, it is very possible. It's called "silvering". Yes, the resin is hard and you would think there's no where for bubbles to move, but it happens with organic specimens that were not properly dried because as they dry, they shrink (even if miniscule amounts), which creates room for the bubbles to occur. It doesn't matter how fast the resin cures; what matters is the moisture content of the specimen at time of encapsulation.

    Often, silvering may not occur for months or even years after encapsulation. It might never occur at all, with luck and smaller/drier insects. But it does happen, and the fact remains that if it does, there's no way to fix it because the resin, acrylic, or other hard substance used for the encapsulation has already cured.

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    Interesting post. Noting that a specimen would need to be dried etc, is there a limit to size of a specimen? Such as...can a human be cast in resin?? I saw a lot of interesting preservations at the Body exhibit, but nothing in resin. Can a person be cast in resin?

    hi if i put an insect into a large cast of resin an i then cut/machine and then polish it so its transparent all around ..thanks fish

    I didn't see anything mentioned on it here but I've seen people kinda pre-moisten objects with the resin to eliminate bubbles. They wet all of the object with resin first, then they placed it into the resin. I've yet to try, please share on it. I look forward to collecting some things outdoors once winter is over.

    1 reply

    That trick is very useful with organics. It prevents the color leeching into the surrounding resin as much, and also helps to seal any potential bubbles that might escape the specimen later. It also keeps them from getting twisted up in the resin. A similar trick to use is to coat specimens with acrylic spray, which stiffens and protects them as well. I tend to do either method on a case-by-case basis depending on the delicacy of my specimen.

    hey, i did a project a while back and made resin hands came up a treat after a few fails! the bubbles were a problem! and i can see the same bubbles in yours! if you put it on top of a washing machine on spin cycle it forces them all to the surface. not sure how it will work with having stuff encapsulated in it but it would be worth a try if you dont dig the bubbles. just wanted to pass this on, made my hands 10 times better, love your idea i will be giving this a go for sure. peace

    1 reply

    Washing machine on spin cycle is a new one! Hadn't heard that before, very funny! But hey, it worked, so way to go ingenuity. With specimens it probably isn't a good idea though as that would shake off the delicate bits or send it rising to the surface. Instead, to eliminate bubbles, a person can use a low-temperature heat gun, pins, and GENTLE agitators.

    But a great tip! Next time I do a large casting without embedments, I might put the washing machine to work!

    Hi, what kind of resin did you use? I had a project that necessitated +-90ml of resin but since it's a large quantity the chemichal reaction was to strong and it became yellow and the tape and acetate walls melted a little...

    great instructable! clear instructions, nice visuals, and no distracting music in the bg :)

    can I use this method for this dead spider I found? all I've done so far is cover it with clear finishing gesso (it's all I have) and dry overnight. the legs are staying up in place, but now the spider's stuck to the bottom of the paper cup I worked on top of hah...

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    Wonderful. Kudos. I'd like to experiment with an ice cube tray

    Can you do this with a jigsaw? I do not have a tablesaw.

    You can find some information about bugs in lucite at http://www.lucitetreasures.com

    Do you know if I can encapsulate dead baby birds in resin? Their mother never returned and they died a few days after being hatched. They are laying side by side in the nest in sort of a sweet way. They are hummingbirds so the nest and the birds are pretty small. I'm thinking I could find some sort of box that fits the nest pretty snug and then just pour resin over the whole thing.

    1 reply

    Sorry, birds have too much water in them and they will interfere with the resin, and rot. Give them a proper burial with a little cross, but do not try to encase them.
    Bugs work because they usually have a hard carapace. When the bug dries out, the carapace stays intact as a sort of stand-in that won't really ever decay.

    you can use a lighter to make the edges clear