As part of a recent donation from the family of Dr. Kerv Hyland, The Frost Museum was gifted a display case full of stag beetles in the family Lucanidae that includes some neat specimens from all over the world. Stag beetles are really striking in appearance, with features that are often associated with interesting mating behaviors. Unfortunately, though, this display case had been sitting in storage for a number of years where it was clearly exposed to the elements and showed signs of some pretty serious deterioration.
Case of Stag Beetles
You can see in the photos above that mold had grown inside the case and all over the specimens and tags. We really wanted to restore these beetles, which led to some discussion with others in the museum community and looking around in the literature to find ways to address the issue of molding specimens. Andy was suggested this method described by C. Brown in 2015 that treats moldy specimens in entomology collections, so, we gave it a shot! But first, we tested it on some bees that had also grown mold. We felt okay about testing this method on the bees because we already had representation of this bee species from the same year and location in our collection. So, in the event that the method didn’t work as described, they were lower stakes than the stag beetles. We were pleasantly surprised because the method seemed to work really well!
Because it worked so well on the bees, we used it to begin restoring the stag beetles. One at a time, the beetles were pulled from the affected case and treated. Some of them were in pretty rough condition to start:
Example of a specimen completely covered in ick
The tags were carefully removed from the pin with forceps and wiped down with a cotton ball. The beetles were treated with aerosol sprayed Lysol and then wiped down with a Q-tip. After being treated, they were left under the fume hood to completely dry out. While the beetles’ tags were removed, we digitized the label information before reuniting them with the beetles. This was my first curatorial project at the Frost and the entire process was super rewarding.
Here are some before and after pics!
In total, there were more than 85 individuals from Central America, South America, Africa, Asia, and parts of Oceania. All of the specimens had already been identified and contain collection locality information. Some of them even have the date or year they were collected! It would have been so easy for the Hyland family to just throw out the display case of beetles when they found them molding in their family storage. I’m so glad they didn’t, because now these specimens can be used for teaching, outreach, or possibly even research in the future. Thanks, from the Frost!
If you are interested, you can find a previous post from 2013 about Dr. Kerv Hyland and a separate generous donation here.
Christopher G. Brown; Effective Use of Disinfectant Spray to Combat Fungal Growth on Preserved Insects, American Entomologist, Volume 61, Issue 3, 1 September 2015, Pages 149–150, https://doi.org/10.1093/ae/tmv048