How to build an “insect-vacuum”

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It’s a method to collect insects using a jar with two pipes: one for suction and one to capture. Once the insect has fallen into the jar, it can be observed with the magnifying glass.

Some basic rules

  • Capture and handle insects with care.
  • Avoid touching insects as much as possible.
  • Place them in a shady place.
  • Do not put different species in the same vessel, use one for each.
  • Keep insects in captivity only for the time needed for observation.
  • Release the animals at the same place as the catch.
  • Minimise the number of insects caught.

Needed materials

  • vessel: a plastic jar or a 0.5l plastic bottle
  • plastic tube: diameter 2-3, length about 20cm
  • sterile gauze
  • scissors or utility knife
  • tape
  • magnifying glass
  • notebook and pencil
  • insect’s guidebook

Get to work

Get help from an adult in this first step, because you have to make two holes in a jar or on a plastic bottle. Make two holes, with the scissors or with the cutter, on the vessel you have chosen. Should be about 2-3 cm in diameter (depending on the tube section you have available) and practiced at two different heights: one high near the opening of the container, the other lower and opposite.

Get help from an adult for this step too: cut the plastic tube exactly in half, so as to obtain two equal parts of at least about 10 cm each.

Place one of the two tube pieces inside the top hole previously drilled on the vessel. Remember that at least 2 cm of the tube should be put towards the inside of the bottle. Fix it outside with tape and close well any openings between tube and container.

Apply a little gauze to one end of the other piece of tube and thread it into the lower hole in the container. The side closed with gauze must enter the bottle for about 2 cm. It will help to ensure that the moment the insect is aspirated, it will fall into the container without entering the tube! In this case too, fix carefully the tube, using tape.

And now, what to do? Take the vacuum, go out into the garden, look for a small insect and as soon as you have found it, carefully approach to it the highest pipe. As soon as you’re close enough, suck from the other tube down, and... CAUGHT! At this point your insect will be in the vacuum, ready to be observed with a magnifying glass! Write down in a notebook all your observations, which will be useful for the recognition of the insect.