Beautiful macabre

Beautiful macabre

Taxidermy revives the appearances of the deceased, making them appear lifelike. From mummies of the ancient Egyptians to insects and mammals in the modern age, taxidermy has been practiced since the earliest of times to further preserve what remains after death.

Meet Red De Guia, your 18-year-old girl backyard insect taxidermist in Cebu who finds herself doing it as a hobby and exploration for her pastime. She has already mounted some of her works in which she grew fond of since last year, and currently, she is in the making of her next piece of art.

Before learning taxidermy, Red already had a fascination towards the insects themselves, specifically the ones around her home surrounded by forest. Her childhood revolved around the life of insects, which piqued her interest in studying them and eventually mounting them later on.

“Even before I was interested in taxidermy, I was already interested in insects. And I prefer the insects that I find around me like beetles,” she said.

She collected dead critters around her home that would soon be her subject for the taxidermy miniature, however, she also collected ones that were still alive but did not kill them as they undergo a special process.

“I do not euthanize them. I actually keep them in the house alive and I put them in a container with a well-curated space for them. There are miniature trees for them to climb and all.”

And by the time they die, Red performs the maceration process, in which she removes all the fleshy organs of the insects, leaving their exoskeletons behind. She then carefully prepares their wings as they are the most fragile part. Finally, she lets them dry out before mounting them. For taxidermy to be performed, there has to be state and federal licensing, especially when it comes to rare, migratory, or endangered species.

In addition, if your taxidermy is for a service, federal law requires you to keep the taxidermied pet until the owner collects it. However, this only applies to mammals. Insects, on the other hand, are not subject to such strict laws as they can be found almost everywhere compared to larger animals. Not to mention, their preservation procedures are way easier as they only need ethanol for their bodies to be preserved before being left to dry out.

“I guess you need the very basic stuff like insect anatomy. Like, before, I didn’t know that beetles have much longer and bigger wings than their whole body,” she said as she added a silver lining for newbies who want to explore taxidermy. “You start with small things, and maybe things that are already dead so you don’t feel bad for them.”

All in all, taxidermy is an interesting and fun way of learning more about the biology of a species from the inside-out. It is an art that allows us to craft a beautiful display from an animal’s demise. But, at the end of the day, taxidermy is definitely not for the squeamish.


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