Instructions for collecting and preserving various subjects of natural history; as animals, birds, reptiles, shells, corals, plants, &c. Together with A treatise on the management of insects in their several states; selected from the best authorities. By E. Donovan,:
Donovan, E. (Edward), 1768-1837.
Page  51

APTEROUS INSECTS.

MANY kinds may be preserved in spirits, or in the same manner as coleopterous and other Insects; but among those we can include very few, if any, of that extensive genus ARANEA (Spiders), no method having been hitherto discovered whereby they may be pre∣served in their natural colours, for however beautiful they may be when alive, their bodies shrivel and their teints become an obscure brown, soon after death; and as the moisture exhales, the size of the body diminishes, very little more than the skin of it remaining when the creature is sufficiently dry to be placed in the cabinet.

Spiders cast their skins several times in the course of their lives; the exuviae would be very acceptable to the collector, if they re∣tained any of the beautiful colours of the living Spiders.

To determine whether some species of Spiders could be preserved with their natural colours, I put several into spirit of wine; those with gibbous bodies soon after discharged a very considerable quantity of viscid matter, and therewith all their most beautiful colours; the smallest retained their form, and only appeared rather paler in the colours than when they were living.

During the course of last summer, among other Spiders I met with a rare species; it was of a bright yellow colour, elegantly marked with black, red, green, and purple; by some accident it was unfortunately crushed to pieces in the chip box wherein it was confined, and was therefore thrown aside as useless; a month or Page  52more after that time, having occasion to open the box, I ob∣served, that such parts of the skin as had dried against the in∣side of the box retained the original brightness of colour in a considerable degree; to further the experiment I made a similar attempt with some caution, on the body of another Spider (Aranea Diadema), and though the colours were not perfectly pre∣served, they appeared distinct.

From other observations I find, that if you kill the Spider, and immediately after extract the entrails, then inflate them by means of a blow-pipe, you may preserve them tolerably well; you must cleanse them on the inside no more than is sufficient to prevent mouldiness, lest you injure the colours, which certainly in many kinds depend on some substance that lies beneath the skin.

After inflating them, you may either inject them with fine virgin wax, or anoint the skin with oil of spike in which resin has been dissolved, and dry them in some shady place.

Of the largest kinds of foreign Spiders, the bodies are the only parts which are liable to shrivel; if they were prepared in this man∣ner their proper form would be preserved.

In 1792, Dr. Withering presented a paper to the Linnaean society, in which he relates the particulars of a new method of preserving Fungi, &c.; as we have given an account of this improvement with the instructions for the preservation of plants, we shall only observe in this place, that the composition which he has applied with so much success as a preservative of the most perishable tribes of vegetables, may hereafter prove also an excellent preservative for Spiders, and other apterous infects.