What is it?

No, no -- it's not a euphemism for 'flask of bourbon'. A relaxing jar is used in insect collecting.

Contrary to the implication of the name, an insect finding itself in a relaxing jar is not likely to be lounging around sipping cocktails. In fact, by the time an insect makes it to the relaxing jar, it's already dead. There are two main purposes that relaxing jars serve:

  • To make insects more flexible so that they may be manipulated into the collector's preferred position when mounting them to a surface.

  • To gradually and slightly moisten the specimen, either in order to manipulate it (as above), or to improve its appearance.

Relaxing jars are especially useful for butterflies and moths, because it is often difficult for the collector to fully spread the specimen's wings after it has just died.

How to make a relaxing jar

Making a relaxing jar is very simple, but there are a few important things you need to keep your eye on. One is mold; the jar will be moist, warm and humid inside, which is the whole point, but this is an ideal environment for mold too. Make sure that mold is not building up because that could easily contaminate your specimen altogether. You'll need sand, a jar with a lid, some Lysol, and a small piece of cardboard.

Here's what you do:

  1. Get a jar that is big enough to accommodate one or more insects of whatever species, without piling them up.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix water with a few drops of carbolic acid (Phenol). Personally, I would dissolve a little bit of Carib Carbolic Soap to do the trick, but any household disinfectant will help retard mold growth. Just be sure that whatever you're using doesn't have bleach in it, because that could ruin your specimen.
  3. Put a few inches of sand in the bottom of the jar.
  4. Pour a bit of your mold-retardant solution onto the sand so that the sand is wet but not submerged. Even a little less than that, perhaps.
  5. Cover the sand with a piece of corrugated cardboard, or, if that's not handy, any thick paper that remains relatively intact when moist.
  6. Place the insects in the jar, not touching each other, and cover for several hours, until the insect is ready for mounting.


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