A common school project in the early autumn, making an insect collection often occupies students. When butterflies and other insects still flit busily from flower to flower, it is not difficult to snag them in a net and then add them to a collection. Although it is not pleasant for some students, part of creating an insect collection involves learning the proper techniques for killing butterflies.
Make the Killing Jar
Cut a circle out of the cardboard with the same diameter as the bottom of the jar. Set the cardboard circle aside for a moment.
Place enough cotton balls in the bottom of the 1-quart wide-mouth canning jar to cover the entire bottom completely.
Open the bottle of ethyl acetate and carefully pour the liquid onto the cotton balls to saturate them completely. Do not pour so much ethyl acetate into the jar that it pools beneath the cotton balls. Pour only enough to saturate into the cotton.
Fit the cardboard circle down into the jar and place it directly over the cotton balls. The cardboard will provide a barrier between the butterflies and the cotton balls.
Place the lid onto the jar tightly.
Label the jar clearly with the permanent marker. Write “ethyl acetate” once or twice in large letters.
Kill the Butterfly
Catch a butterfly in the net by swooping the net gently over the butterfly.
Grasp the butterfly by the body through the mesh netting with your fingers before it hurts itself or damages its wings.
Squeeze the butterfly’s body between your thumb and index finger for about three seconds to stun it temporarily. This will not kill the butterfly, but it will keep it from moving while you open the net and remove it.
Remove the butterfly from the net without touching the wings. Touch only the thorax as you handle it.
Place the butterfly into the kill jar and seal it tightly. Remove the dead butterfly after two to three hours and pin it.
Alternatively, if you find a butterfly near home, consider using the freezer to kill it instead of a kill jar. Place the stunned butterfly into a plain canning jar, and place the jar into the freezer for about three hours. Remove the jar promptly, and pin the butterfly. Purchase ethyl acetate in a pharmacy.
Use the ethyl acetate in a well-ventilated area, and do not breathe deeply as you handle it.