The Perfect Spread

Matt Arey is well known among northeastern lepidopterists for his incredibly well mounted pinned specimens.  He was asked on one of the listservs about his spreading techniques, and here’s his response (with the photos added from the listserv website, so I may get some of them mixed up!)

>>Alex had asked me earlier today about my methods of mounting and spreading of butterflies / moths. It’s somewhat unconventional but I have had great results. Photos can be viewed in the new album titled ‘methods and materials’ (REB–I actually stuck the photos in the text here)

Spreading board methods:

For small Lepidoptera such as Lycaenids and Skippers on up to slightly larger, but ‘delicate’ winged species like Satyrs I use the BioQuip hardwood adjustable spreading boards. The wood (either maple or poplar) allows the pins to glide when adjusting the wings in place therefore greatly reducing damage to the delicate wings. I will also utilize glass strips (actually microscope slides) to hold down the wings in place once set with the pins.

Here I figure a small butterfly, Dainty Sulphur (Nathalis iole) and above, a slightly larger Black Satyr (Satyrus actaea) upon the hardwood spreading board with glass slides in place.

Dainty Sulpher (below) and Black Satyr (above)

Dainty Sulpher (below) and Black Satyr (above)

Far larger Lepidoptera (e.g., Papilio, large moths etc.) I will also utilize the glass strips as they are stackable and can therefore act as weights to flatten and set the wings. The spreading boards however are not the hardwood type, but the softer, corky balsa wood and are flat. These boards I have used for decades and had actually acquired them from the old ‘Butterfly Company’ down in Rockaway N.Y. way, way back in the stone age.

Here I feature two swallowtails (P. multicaudata and Byasa polyeuctes) currently on these balsa boards with the glass strips arranged in such a way that the wings will set properly. Another good aspect of the glass strips is that you can see through them and therefore ‘see’ and correct any error in setting. I’ve tried paper mounting strips and found them to be cumbersome. I guess we all have our methods to this madness.


Swallowtails with the wings held down by stackable glass slides

Swallowtails with the wings held down by stackable glass slides

Now the results are figured in the final photo of my ‘off season’ relaxing, spreading, curating and restoration. This old antique drawer I restored with placing a new BioQuip plastazoate foam sheet as the pinning bottom.

The final product

The final product


It’s nice to have off season time to catch up, otherwise it would all be a mess.

M. Arey <<

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