I found a good quality molted exoskeleton (exuvia) of a cicada, about 3-4 cm long on the ground. I'm amazed at the completeness and detail, the exit hole is in the center of the back and you hardly notice it. The "claws" on each foot are sharp and you can stick it onto any surface with a bit of roughness.

It had rained and there is some mud on it. I'd like to gently wash it and then keep it.

Are there any particular guidelines or techniques I should know about? Can I just gently swish it around in soapy water and then let air dry, or do I need to take some precautions, or even use some kind of fixative? Humidity is high where I live; anything that can possibly support mold will get moldy if you are not careful!

Sorry I can't add a real photo right now but it looks a bit like the emptying exoskeleton in this randomly chosen photo from here:


  • $\begingroup$ Are there any additional tags for this? I couldn't find "preservation" or "specimen" or "collecting" $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jul 25 '19 at 13:52

The exuvia is made of cross-liked chitin, and will not decay. You don't need any special preservatives as all. If you need to get the mud off, just rinse it as you said, in soapy water, let it dry, and you are done. Simple.

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  • $\begingroup$ Excellent, thank you for your quick reply! It might be good to add a supporting link for the "cross-liked chitin" for future readers, but personally I'll take your word for it. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jul 26 '19 at 1:36
  • $\begingroup$ fyi I've just asked Is the chitin in an insect's exoskeleton cross-linked? $\endgroup$ – uhoh Aug 18 '19 at 11:14

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