We never thought there could be 10 other things you could do with insect pins besides pinning them until this article called Insect Pins for Everything appeared in Threads Magazine in 2008: “Insect pins: superfine and rust-resistant. Forget bugs, this very skinny (size 00 -0.3mm) and flexible spring steel pin is a great choice for fine fabrics. Originally created for insect collectors and entomologists, the double-coating of black enamel—to, yuck, resist insect fluids—makes them easy to see, plus they’re rust-resistant.”
Here are 10 novel uses for these versatile pins. No doubt you can find an application we haven’t thought of or listed.
The conventional use of these pins is of course to pin insects for collections. We greatly appreciate the permission to use this photo taken by Stephanie Lind, a PA artist who is making a collection of non-endangered insect pollinators. Insect pins come in 10 different thicknesses with the finest, #000 for extremely small insects and the thickest, #7 for large beetles.
Butterfly Insect Collage
The “Butterfly Effect” by Jennifer Mark is a 4’ x 26’ installation that used over 840 hand-cut aluminum butterflies. Each large butterfly represents an employee & the order that each joined the company with notes written on the back with their intentions for their community, their company, their favorite client, and themselves.
This is another image from Jennifer Mark called Morpho Woman. As the name suggests, this is a composite made up of paper Morpho butterflies pinned by each employee as a team-building exercise at Nike. Jennifer used #6 black enamel insect pins & #7 black enamel insect pins in her work.
Collages-Flowers & More
These 2 artists below offer an entirely different perspective on imaginative uses of insect pins for the purposes of creating stunning artworks of flowers & other imagery.
This collection of works by Anne Ten Donkelaar is truly outstanding. In the image below you can see the pins holding up the objects but they are otherwise generally hidden. Be sure to visit the entire collection by clicking on the image below.
This collage by Emily Dorr also makes effective use of insect pins to create a nice 3D effect. The one shown below is a smaller piece but if you click on the image below you can appreciate the true breadth of her work including large murals. Emily used both #5 black enamel insect pins and #7 black enamel insect pins in her works.
Insect Pin Nozzle Cleaners
Nozzles come in many sizes for use in engines, paint sprayers, fountain pens & more. Many have hole diameters that are smaller than our smallest insect pin, the #000 at 0.25mm, but the sharp tips may still be sufficient to clear blockages. Click on insect pin diameters & go to the bottom of the page to see the entire list. Because the thinnest pins are very flexible, we recommend using them with a hemostat or tweezers as shown in the picture.
An engineering company needed to make very small but consistently sized holes. For them, stainless steel insect pins offered a low-tech, low-cost solution for prototyping a design for a high-tech problem in biotechnology. No picture to show unfortunately as the application was proprietary.
Museum Textile Conservation
This image of a silk tapestry was sent to us by Robin Hanson of the Cleveland Museum of Art. The pins are hidden at the top & back but are used to secure the material to a frame of styrofoam-like material. Fine stainless steel insect pins were ideal for this priceless material. They’re sharp enough to go through both material and styrofoam. They don’t corrode so won’t stain the tapestry material and are so fine they don’t leave permanent holes.
This image was sent to us courtesy of the Currier Museum of Art in NH on loan from the Harn Collection at the University of Florida who told us: ” At the advice of a conservator specializing in textiles we chose insect pins because they are thin and won’t damage the warp and weft of the fabric. We prefer the uncoated ones as the coated ones have to be cleaned with acetone to get the coating off of them. We also like them because they are virtually invisible even though we may have many in the garment. We insert them in a particular way that is safe and supportive for the fabric.” Nina Bozicnik used 5 different sizes of stainless steel insect pins on these works: 00, 0, 1, 2, 6.
Neuroscience: Insect Pin Electrodes
We noticed that several orders had gone to researchers in Neuroscience Departments. Two entirely different applications have made use of the uncoated stainless pins & the enamel-coated ones. No pictures but imagine tiny insect “brains” with wires attached to the pins stuck in them.
On the website Research Gate. Eric L. Hargreaves of Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital replied to the question: What are the best electrodes available for in vivo LTP induction? Answer: “…on the other hand if you are not doing CSD, and are not trying to get MUA or single units, then simple wire electrodes or electrodes made from insect pins and insulated except for the tips will cost a lot less.”
Another neuroscientist, Tom Jhou of the Medical University of South Carolina noted that in his work: “We use the insect pins to anchor wires into the holes of tiny circuit boards. We need uncoated pins because they have a conductive surface. These boards help us to record spiking activity of individual neurons in the brain.”
Robin Walsh at Screen Novelties told us our #7 stainless steel insect pins were used on models of Spongebob Squarepants.
She also advised us that puppeteering is one of the oldest uses for insect pins & was pioneered by Ladislas Starevich in a stop-motion film done in 1912 called the Cameraman’s Revenge starring….insects!
An unusual request came in from an artist who was making a painting for a blind girl. The artist wanted to annotate the painting with raised dots without damaging the canvas itself. She came up with the idea of using insect pins whose large heads emulate braille dots.
The nominal diameter of the pinheads is 1.1-1.3mm which is nearly the 1.4mm size of standard Braille raised dots. Unfortunately, the painting was not available for publication so an example using slightly smaller label pins is shown below.
Pinned Butterfly Art
Surely one of the most imaginative uses of #3 black enamel insect pins in art is this work by Steven Spazuk of Montreal who sent us this composite. He took cardboard & coated it with a thin smoke layer, then had butterflies walk across to create tracks & then cut the material into squares to make a mosaic.
Insect Pin-hole Cameras
With high-quality, low-cost digital cameras available to everyone, a pinhole camera to take a photograph seems rather quaint. However, it is a very useful method for teaching basic principles of optics involving focal length & diffraction. The technique requires a very precisely made hole & our sampler pack of the 10 sizes of insect pins allows for detailed exploration. Dan Pickard of Seattle, WA sent us this picture of a conch shell that he developed on photographic paper.
Pinhole photography can also be done with a digital camera in place of film & it adds a whole new range of possibilities. Information on this can be found at pinhole SLR cameras.
What makes this especially interesting is that here we have biology (insects) meets physics (optics) meets biology (evolution). Animals such as octopuses have excellent vision & do so without a lens…exactly how a pinhole camera works. This topic was also shown in exquisite detail in episode 2 of Fox Networks Cosmos. We also put together another blog related to this: Pinhole Photography & Eye Evolution.
Not Sure About the Size You Need?
Sizes, #000, #00, #0 are actually thinner than acupuncture needles while #7 is almost a finishing nail. We realize that ordering 100 pins of a given size that might not work could dissuade you from trying them. So, we are the only company to offer a special sampler pack of 10 pins of the 10 sizes. Click here to get the black enamel bug pin 10-pack sampler or 10-pack stainless steel insect pin sampler.
They are also good for lacemaking, particularly the laces that use very fine thread.