How to Beautify Bee Specimens For Museum Display


Before they can reside in the American Museum of Natural History's research collection, bee specimens must be properly prepped and preserved. The process of "beautifying" the bees is performed by Curatorial Assistant Melody Doering, who ensures that their most important anatomical features are readily visible.

Bees collected in the wild are first stored in alcohol but are presented dry in the collection. So, as at any good salon visit, the process starts with a wash and a blow out.

A single drop of soap is added to a tiny vial of water to create the cleaning solution. After the bee is placed in the bath, Doering gives the whole thing a few shakes to wash the alcohol off each of its delicate hairs.

Once washed, the hairs need to be dried. A quick pat down removes any excess water and then the bee is placed in front of an air pump for a delicate blow dry.

It looks a little bit like they're flying:

Before it can be permanently pinned into the specimen box, Doering gives the bee a thorough brushing to make sure every teeny tiny hair is perfectly in place.

And then it's ready to go! Check out more behind-the-scenes looks at AMNH in their web series Shelf Life.

All gifs and images courtesy of the American Museum of Natural History.