First things first. I assure you I'm not a butterfly killer! With the exception of the Monarch most adult butterflies only live a week or two. There are butterfly farms, and as far as I know they don't hook them up to a plow or anything and just wait for a natural death before collecting them. I find the ka-put insects in my yard, the park and even parking lots where I've recieved an odd glance or two as I carefully pick them up. I don't limit myself to butterflies and have collected deceased moths, cicadas and even hornet wings for my art!
Butterfly wings are very delicate. They are covered with thousands of colorful scales that are so tiny it is almost powder like. With a very light touch, using a paint brush I coat both sides with a gel medium. I let each coat dry then add another coat. This makes them a little easier to handle. Since I am using them in collages, usually with a paper image on top of part of it, I cut away some of the thicker veins that wouldn't be seen anyway and would cause a ridge in my image.
In collage art, after arranging all the images that you have decided on, you have to take it all apart again before glueing everything down in the order it needs to be. The wings are still very fragile, sometimes I will use tweezers. Even once I have glued the wings in place, numerous times I go back and add more gel medium around the edges. If there is an air pocket I will carefully make a tiny slice with a razor blade and fill it with more gel medium.
Once an entire collage is finished I coat each one with about four coats of decoupage finish. If a collage has insect wings, I put this finish on thicker on the wings.
My intention is to perserve a beautiful part of nature in art.