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In 2016 I’m doing a 365 Nature project. Each day of the year I will post something here about nature. It may be any format, a photo, video, audio, sketch or entry from my nature journal. It could be a written piece. Each day I will connect to nature in some way and share it here by the end of that day. You can keep up-to-date by subscribing to the RSS feed or be notified by email. See all the 365 Nature posts.

June is also 30 Days Wild and I’m participating again this year.

I’d love to spend all my money at Bioquip, an entomological supply company, but I also like to DIY and reuse materials when possible. Today I made an aspirator, sometimes also called a pooter, which is a device for collecting insects, particularly those which are especially fragile. We catch bugs all the time, but a four year old can easily flatten an ant no matter how gentle she is. The aspirator will allow us to catch bugs like spiders, earwigs and ants without damaging them.

The general construction of an aspirator is a vessel with an airtight lid and two tubes sticking out of it. The collector sucks through one tube like a straw, creating a vacuum and pulling the insect in through the other tube. For our DIY aspirator I used a glass jar and dug around our basement to find a rubber tube. It’s probably not an ideal tube, but it was in the house and what I could find. I drilled two holes in the lid of the jar, inserted the tubes and then used a hot glue gun to seal the area around the tubes in the lid. I then took a small piece of jersey knit and attached it to the end of one tube, holding it on with a rubber band. This is the tube we suck through, the fabric keeps us from inhaling the insects in the jar. I should probably paint it so we don’t mistakenly suck up spiders.

After I put it all together we went outside looking for spiders and insects. We found a spider on a web and I held the jar so the end of one tube was in front of the spider and I sucked through the other. And to my great surprise, it was pulled right into the jar! It worked just like it was supposed to. We ran around the yard finding more insects and ended up with a few earwigs, an ant and a couple of spiders in the jar. A great success.

I’m going to keep my eyes open next time I visit Goodwill for some small, plastic containers to make more aspirators. I think I’ll also look at the hardware store for tubing that’s a little more flexible. A small one would be a great item to keep in my field bag.

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Kelly Brenner

Kelly Brenner

Kelly Brenner is a naturalist, writer and photographer based in Seattle. She is the author of NATURE OBSCURA: A City’s Hidden Natural World from Mountaineers Books. She writes freelance articles about natural history and has bylines in Crosscut, Popular Science, National Wildlife Magazine and others. On the side she writes fiction. Kelly holds a bachelors degree in landscape architecture from the University of Oregon and a certificate in non-fiction writing from the University of Washington.

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