Hand Picking, Aspirators, and Tweezers

Hand picking. Most medium sized to larger insects can be picked up by hand, provided the species does not pose a threat or health hazard when handled. Knowing which arthropods are capable of biting or stinging is critical information. These should either not be handled or held in such a way to avoid injury. Holding them by the sides of the thorax so that they can not reach skin with their jaws and/or stingers can be accomplished with this knowledge and some skill. Caterpillars with spines or hairs on their bodies should be avoided because some of these have venom associated with these structures (i.e., puss caterpillars, IO moth caterpillars, saddleback caterpillars and others). Similarly, avoid handling blister beetles because of the irritant (cantharadin) produced in their bodies.

Tweezers. Various tweezers are sold to help handle smaller specimens. Needle-nosed tweezers are ideal for the smallest specimens, but easily damage soft-bodied forms. Special pliable tweezers are sold that are preferable for picking up delicate specimens and are usually called feather-weight forceps. Some experts say the feather-weight forceps is the singe most important piece of collecting equipment. It is used in the field to handle live specimens and in the laboratory to handle dead specimens.

Aspirators. To pick up small specimens without touching them, an aspirator is ideal. These devices can be made from a jar sealed tightly with a lid or cork containing two holes, one to accommodate a tube through which the collector blows or sucks air (depending on the model and design) to form a vacuum in the jar. The other hole accommodates a tube with the free end pointed close to the specimen to be collected. The vacuum draws the specimen into the container.

Fine brushes and cotton swabs. Tiny insect and mite specimens can be collected using a fine paint brush or cotton swab (Q-TipĀ®), either dry, soaked in alcohol or other fluid. The specimen can then be transferred to a vial of alcohol or microscope slide.


Comments are closed.