How to Preserve Stick Insects

an alcohol-based method

(by Bruno Kneub├╝hler,   PhD  Switzerland)


1) cut paper to the following size:




2) roll up the piece of paper - this is very easy, if one rolls the paper over a pencil first !



3) close one end of the paper roll with a stapler



4) label the paper roll with the collecting data - date and place of collection (as precise as possible)

  • ONLY use a pencil for labeling the paper rolls
  • do NOT use ball-pens or similar things for this. Inscriptions made with other materials (like with ball pen or coloured pencils) will be erased by the alcohol used in this protocol!
  • write in capital letters to avoid misconceptions




5) prepare the phasmid specimen:

  • for quite thick phasmid specimens (especially female specimens) it is important that one empties their abdomen. Use a sharp knife to open the abdomen from the ventral ("belly") side. Take out the bowel
  • then cross the front legs of the dead phasmid specimen in front of the head as shown in the photo below. Align middle and hind legs along the abdomen.




6) insert specimen into the labelled paper roll:

  • crossed fore legs and insert the specimen head first
  • align feelers along the thorax and abdomen




7) close the second end of the filled and labelled paper rolll:

  • close it with a stapler (make shure you leave enough room behind the specimen), so that the specimen is not damaged




8) how to store the samples before shipment:

  • use plastic bottles with plastic caps - and insert the paper rolls with the specimens inside these bottles
  • such plastic bottles (with a plastic cap !) are leak-proof, making it very easy to store preserved specimens for some time
  • use alcohole as a preservative
  • ad about 1 decilitre of alcohol to the bottle
  • the alcohol used as preservative must contain at least of 80 vol% of alcohol - and better if the alcohol content is even higher!
  • such alcohol can be obtained from drug stores, where it is often sold as  „sanitary alcohol“, „medical alcohol“ or „disinfectant alcohol“. Just make shure that you buy it from a trustworthy drug store
  • for bigger species you may even need two litre plastic bottles
  • in a cool place (like in a fridge or even freezer), the bottles with the samples can be stored for up to 10 months before shipping them to us
  • but if you have to keep them at room temperature, then they should stored only 3 months before shipping. Otherwise the samples may start to decay - despite the alcohol
  • turn the bottle from time to time to enshure that all paper rolls are soaked thoroughly with alcohol
  • if you store the samples at room temperatures, then add some some fresh alcohol every 4 weeks



9) shipment of preserved stick insects specimens:

  • fill about 2 decilitre of fresh alcohol (at least 80%) in the plastic bottle - which contains the paper rolls with the specimens
  • then put the whole bottle into a  robust, sturdy plastic box / container.  This will protect the samples from being crushed during shipment (as the plastic bottle does not offer much protection)
  • seal the lid of the container with a strong adhesive tape
  • do NOT use metal containers - as metal containers might be detected by the x-ray maschines at airports as being potentially dangerous
  • glas containers are also not suitable as they are too heavy and may break in transport!
  • declare the shipment as "dead insects - for scientifc studies only"
  • do NOT mention that the speciemens are preserved in alcohol on the declaration sheet. Otherwise airlines might refuse to transport it.......