Have to frame a dragonfly - but how!


SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Jun 13, 2002
Fingerlakes Region of NYS
Yesterday morning I was blessed with one of those little gifts from above....

As I was putting my flags, open sign and a-frame sign out - I was stopped in my tracks as I looked down to see a dragonfly of a fairly good size on my carpet. I thought it was still alive, but alas it did not move.

It is a perfect speciman of a dragonfly - the wings with their delicate pattern glistening and the body and head of this insect - are just beautiful.


How do I attach it or mount it? Any "insect" people out there... all I could think of was the specimans in science museums that are pinned...


We framed a dragonfly once. The customer had found the dead dragonfly on his porch, and it was in perfect condition. We used a deep Larson oak shadowbox frame, suede mats (a beige color), and a Studio beaded fillet. My boss figured out a way to mount the dragonfly with a pin. I think she painted the pin black. I forget what else she did to prop it up.

She put a mat and a fillet around it. It was a nifty shadowbox and the customer loved it.
There are pins specifically designed to mount bugs. There are also foam substrates that are used to stick the pin in once you have skewered the bug. The foam can be covered with fabric and attached to the mount board.
I have been told to freeze the bug for a short period of time to assure their aren't any live critters that feed on dead bugs still alive and kicking in the frame.
I have two rather large moths to frame. They were mostly dead when I found them and they were frozen, thawed, and pinned to a specimen board in the proper position (with wings fully spread and antennae extended).
Oh Wally, you showed no mercy? If they were mostly dead, a little jab with the pin might have completed the job. Those poor moths put alive into the deep freeze! And, if they were Florida moths, what a frigid demise for a critter from the tropics.
Use the plastic fastner. One between the head and body and one between the body and tail. Pull the fastner just tight enough to hold the dragonfly in place without having them tight. No pins sticking up or poking down.

Just a thought....
I have framed two dragonfly's (dragonflies??? MM, Kit?), in both cases we had a pin through them in the main torso area with the top of it painted black (a single swish of acrylic). The first one came to a nasty demise as it was dropped, but the second one has survived a couple of years now, his name is Robbie. I will hunt him down and post a picture later today.
Alan Rolf (Hawkinman) recommended I read the book "Eats, Shoots and Leaves".

Lance, I will pass that recommendation on to you; it will help with that apostrophe in the incorrect-anyway 'dragonfly's'.

And what kind of name is Robbie for a dragonfly? Shouldn't it be something more etherial like Anastasia or Tatianna? (I'm now reading a book about Czar Nicholas. Can you tell?) Even Rasputin would be better than Robbie.


Edit: I have to pick on the kid every now and again - otherwise he gets uppity.
Roz, Wally has it. The time needed in the freezer happens to coinside with the time it takes for some manufactures to get stock and ship - 1 yr. But the La guys will remain nameless, unlike Robbie. PS: I like Robbie for a dragonfly. And yes Lance it is dragonflies. Same as in "those dang flies" as apposed to the former Beverly Hills Madam Flice.

Roz, most of the DF I have mounted (shut up Charles), have been by shoving the pin through the foam or rag substraight at slight angles and into the body. 3-4 pins are all that is needed. The caripace and excoskelaten will retain the final shape for many long years, so you need not worry about the tail. One of the professors that I framed DFs for, used to "fog" them with clear lacquer, but I thought the high gloss to be somewhat "unnatureal". But maybe a light dust of Satin clear maybe.

I once thought about doing one for my office once, but my wife said the two chipmonk heads were enough dead animals in the house. She still won't believe the heads are not real. The fur job was great and we charged a lot for them. They were for a movie call Bar Sinister that never made it off the cutting room floor. Oh well.

Enjoy your DF :D

Orton once told me that in order to get rid of little bugs, you must not only freeze them, but do it more that once.

Actually, you should freeze the item in question for aprox. three days.
Then let it sit at room temperature for one day.
Then back in the freezer again for three days... three time in the freezer should kill any little bug.

Bugs that can freeze and thaw have a hard time living through repeated cycles.

I did this to a frame that had been in an attic, and never saw a live bug.

As for mounting, call a local Taxidermist, and see if you can buy the mounting pins.
Thanks Dancinbaer for the suggestion of using EZ-Tach for this project, but I think a bug would be to fragile to use this product on. There would be a big chance of damaging it if the strings were pulled too tight by accident. Pins would be my choice if doing this type of shadowbox.
The pins allow the bug to be suspended above the backdrop. The AttachEZ would pull the bug to the backing and crush the legs which should dangle down in a natural attitude.
A friend of mine that photographs bugs told me of a web site (www.bioquip.com) that has all the hardware for properly mounting bugs & information about technique.
Oh, this is going to be a real science project... freezing, thawing, freezing, pinning, then I have to name it!?!! Hmmm.. That conjers up some interesting name thoughts... I'll think about that one..

Meantime, thanks for all your comments and as always commentary!!!

I love the grumble.

I have used 2 layers of anti-reflection glass and 2 layers of deep FrameSpace - bond the critter to the 2nd layer of glass and it "Floats" with no visible means of support.
Does Greg want to write the standards for framing insects? :D
If I were to tell you what adhesive I would recommend, it woud start another whole mess of posts. Just use it. It works just fine, thanks.

In Oregon its "Damp if you do, damp if you don't"
Greg -

I like that ideal - Very unique!!

Now... what kind of glue!??!!!

There are two types of mounts that you could use; it depends upon the purpose for which the dragonfly will be used. The pin method is gnerally used for and by the scientific community and is widely accepted by museums for display purposes. The insect should be protected from insect damage by use of moth chrystals or by fumes from sodium cyanide. Dabbing the insect, gently, with bits of strychnine soaked in water will achieve the desired result. Probably in todays safety conscience world, moth chrystals will be the best.

The second method commonly used for educational purposes is by use of a Ryker mount which can be handled by students and which can be adapted for framing. Dry the insect completely and place upon a sheet of cotton batting. Build up layers of batting around the insect until the batting is even with the top of the thorax. Cover with a piece of glass after inserting moth chrystals below the batting. You may then frame the insect or place it in a display box. You may want to protect the mount by making a shadow box.

Jack Cee
Ok, you asked for it... Clear acrylic adhesive-sealant available at most hardware stores. A very teeeeeeeny dab will doya. Let it sit overnite before you put the front glass on. You can see some sea horses framed this way on the FrameTek web site.
Remember that conservation framing should preserve the object framed and that the procedure should be reversable. If you do not want to preserve the object go ahead and glue it; if you want to follow conservation methods, do not use glue. I have not seen guidlines regarding preservation of insects so my suggestions are made from accepted museum guidelines.

Jack Cee
OK, I'm going to be halfway facetious here, and suggest a mold the size of the frame, and encasing the critter in that resin plastic. That way there's no need for glass and you can frame it so it can be viewed from both sides (and you know you love to frame things like that! Admit it!). :D
The encasing sounds interesting. How would one accomplish that!?!

I probably will still frame it as I have a lovely shadowbox designed, as I type!