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DIY Insect Aspirator: Photo Guide


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#1 Offline VoidElecent - Posted March 23 2018 - 10:02 AM

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Hello,

 

Insect aspirators are simple devices used by entomologists and bug-lovers to collect tiny insects. There are many kinds of aspirators, ranging from very serious ones used by experienced professionals and researchers to manually-operated, smaller aspirators used by hobbyists for casual collecting.

 

For some reason, I didn't feel it absolutely necessary to dish out twelve hundred bucks on a glorified vacuum cleaner, and I also wasn't too keen on spending $20 on a relatively simple device. So, being the bored and far too nerdy high school senior that I am, I decided to make my own.

 

I'll admit, what I had laying around my house happened to be more than adequate for this project, but there definitely are alternative options for each part. 

 

Materials:

  • 3/8" Vinyl Tubing. You may not have this tubing laying around, so feel free to use a straw or any other relatively sturdy and flexible tubing. I do, however, recommend you pick some of this tubing up from Home Depot or Amazon if you are a dedicated ant-keeper; it's good to have to laying around for connecting formicaria and outworlds.
  • Drill bit to match the size of the tubing. Since my tubing was 3/8", I used a 3/8" drill bit. If you use a straw, 1/4" or 5/16" might be more suitable.
  • Drill.
  • Hot glue gun with sticks.
  • Gauze. Really, any fine mesh or fabric will work, just make sure it won't break (I wouldn't recommend a tissue, for example) and it's not too thick (or it won't let enough air pass through).
  • Rubber band.
  • Scissors.
  • Glass or plastic vial/small container. Make sure it's large enough so two holes can be drilled into the cap without a problem and small enough that it isn't too difficult to suck air through.

vBLSnpY.jpg

 

Note about container lid:

 

Make sure the lid is made of a material thin enough that you can drill through it fairly easy, but thick enough so it won't crack or break when you drill it. The lid of my container had about the same shape and feel of a pasta sauce jar lid, although it was significantly smaller.

 

jMz6mo4.jpg

 

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Step 1:

 

Using the sharp tip of the drill bit (maybe a thumbtack or pin if it isn't sharp enough), carefully poke two guide holes in the lid of the container. Make sure they're far enough apart that the holes won't overlap when they're drilled.

 

viN1HVZ.jpg

 

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Step 2:

 

Connect the bit to the drill, this should be pretty self-explanatory. Have a parent do this for you if you're inexperienced with a drill, it can be dangerous. Drill the holes carefully and smoothly. Be very cautious, starting light and slowly adding pressure. Instead of yanking out the bit when it's through the lid, change the direction of the drill and slowly guide it out.

 

GZLD9c8.jpg

 

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gGmk8Lw.jpg

 

Step 3:

 

Cut two pieces of vinyl to suitable lengths. I am well aware that there are probably appropriate lengths to cut each tube to optimize efficiency and functionality, but I don't have the patience nor mathematical ability to determine them. I cut my breathing and collecting tubes to 3.5" and 5.5", respectively. If I understand, the shorter your tubes are the less hard you'll have to suck, but obviously, the closer you'll have to get to the ants. It's all up to you.

 

mnJcTwj.jpg

 

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Step 4:

 

Thread the tubes through the holes in the lid. They should fit snugly. With the smaller tube (or whichever you designate the breathing tube), thread it almost all the way so the majority of it is sticking through the bottom of the lid. This is just so you have more tubing to work with when you add the screen.

 

2uc8uL3.jpg

 

HB71CCp.jpg

 

Step 5:

 

Cut a square of gauze and drape it over the end of the longer end of the breathing tube, protruding from the bottom of the lid. Use a rubber band to tie it down. I cut mine at 2" x 2", but I guess you can make it as large or small as you want. Be patient when tying it down with the rubber band, it can take a couple of tries. Trim off any unnecessary gauze or fabric with scissors. The purpose of this mesh layer is to prevent you from swallowing any ants when you suck them up. In fact, without this filter, the aspirator would effectively function as a straw for you to simply drink them!

 

2zaVyVq.jpg

 

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Step 6:

 

Once the gauze cap is secure, re-thread the breathing tube back through the lid so most of it is sticking out the top. Screw the lid back on the vial and admire your progress. There might be scratches on the tubing, depending on the materials you use, but these have no effect on the structural or functional integrity of the device.

 

CDIBVq6.jpg

all

 

0LAN3AD.jpg

 

Step 7:

 

Finally, you'll want to seal the tiny gaps between the cap and the tubing with hot glue. The tubing may fit very snuggly, and that's good, but there will always be very tiny gaps. You'll want to cover these up so very tiny ants won't slip through the cracks and they are as air-tight as possible.

 

JsDPgep.jpg

 

And that's about it! It works just like a vacuum cleaner; put your mouth over the breathing tube with the mesh filter, use your hand to position the collection tube above an ant, and suck in air. I didn't think mine would work at first, but it was surprisingly effective. My brother and I have a colony of wild Tapinoma sessile nesting near our kitchen that had found their way to the garbage can, and my refusal to let any of my family members hurt the ants led me to develop a humane solution to the problem. They work well for containing feral ants without killing them, but we also plan on using them to pick up tiny Temnothorax queens at our blacklight when they swarm in the summer.

 

w0HYUl4.jpg

 

I hope you appreciated this tutorial!

 

Please tell me what you think so I can optimize the design if I need to.

 

Edit: Please be very careful when collecting ants of the Formicinae subfamily. Some species, such as Formica spp., spray formic acid as a defense mechanism which can be dangerous to inhale.


Edited by VoidElecent, March 23 2018 - 12:04 PM.

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#2 Offline Wilbo62 - Posted March 23 2018 - 10:31 AM

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This is pretty cool, nice job! The only thing that I would be concerned about personally is the gauze degrading over time and tearing at an inopportune moment. From my experience with the material once its wet, it will tear much easier, so try not to get saliva on it as much as possible. But then again I don't know what brand your using so that may play a role.



#3 Offline VoidElecent - Posted March 23 2018 - 10:34 AM

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This is pretty cool, nice job! The only thing that I would be concerned about personally is the gauze degrading over time and tearing at an inopportune moment. From my experience with the material once its wet, it will tear much easier, so try not to get saliva on it as much as possible. But then again I don't know what brand your using so that may play a role.

 

That's definitely a good point. I'm not sure what brand it is either, but it seemed fairly durable and hard to tear when I started playing around with it. you could always use fabric from an old sock or t-shirt, as well.



#4 Offline FeedTheAnts - Posted March 23 2018 - 11:25 AM

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Great tutorial, I'll be building one of these(the ones I've built before were practically disposable), but I have one question about these. I've used them a couple of times and was wondering if there are ever any health risks when using them for Formica(or any other acid spraying ants). Last time I used one was on my Formica colony and it got pretty unpleasant near the end(I hope I don't sound like the uninformed idiot saying all this).


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I accidentally froze all my ants 


#5 Offline Martialis - Posted March 23 2018 - 11:43 AM

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Great tutorial, I'll be building one of these(the ones I've built before were practically disposable), but I have one question about these. I've used them a couple of times and was wondering if there are ever any health risks when using them for Formica(or any other acid spraying ants). Last time I used one was on my Formica colony and it got pretty unpleasant near the end(I hope I don't sound like the uninformed idiot saying all this).

Formicinae really shouldn't be aspirated with the mouth.


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#6 Offline sgheaton - Posted March 23 2018 - 11:52 AM

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Formicinae really shouldn't be aspirated with the mouth.

 

Don't knock it till you've tried it! Different strokes for different folks after all. 


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#7 Offline FeedTheAnts - Posted March 23 2018 - 12:57 PM

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Great tutorial, I'll be building one of these(the ones I've built before were practically disposable), but I have one question about these. I've used them a couple of times and was wondering if there are ever any health risks when using them for Formica(or any other acid spraying ants). Last time I used one was on my Formica colony and it got pretty unpleasant near the end(I hope I don't sound like the uninformed idiot saying all this).

Formicinae really shouldn't be aspirated with the mouth.

 

Thanks. I won't ever do it again then.


I accidentally froze all my ants 


#8 Offline VoidElecent - Posted March 23 2018 - 2:09 PM

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Picked at a foraging trail leading to the garbage can for about 15 minutes at collected approximately 250-300 Tapinoma sessile workers. I am confident that the aspirator does work and that, well, we probably have an ant infestation. I'm not sure what I'll do with these suckers. I figured if I stayed around long enough I might have been able to snag a queen wandering to or from a satellite nest, but the ants seemed to be more foraging-oriented and less concerned about moving.

 

I managed to take a short video, although the glass does warp the image a bit and most of the workers are clustered in the lid next to the tubes, hence the large black mass in that area.

 


Edited by VoidElecent, March 23 2018 - 2:10 PM.


#9 Offline SheepForgeBoi - Posted March 23 2018 - 2:11 PM

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"DIY Insect Aspirator" is a nice name but I would say "DIY Insect Pooter" is much better  ;)
 


#10 Offline gcsnelling - Posted March 23 2018 - 2:31 PM

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Bahh, "pooter" is the new cutesie name for aspirator. You need to learn not to actually inhale, yes that phrase actually applies here. I always use an inline filter in addition to the mesh on the intake.


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#11 Offline Lazarus - Posted March 23 2018 - 6:09 PM

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Was just about to build one myself. The only difference is that I'm using a plastic jar with a plastic lid. Don't even need a drill as I can use an exacto knife to make the holes just a bit smaller than the vinyl tubing so it becomes a nice tight friction fit. That way I don't have to worry about jagged metal edges cutting into the vinyl. I also have some sturdy fine plastic mesh that I will use instead of the gauze.

I'm mostly concerned as to how lucky I will be when it's warm enough to go searching.
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My online ant spreadsheet





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