Wrangling ants is not an easy task and requires some special equipment. The standard equipment associated with most entomologists, the insect net, is rather useless for people who study ants. Instead we use a type of aspirator that we fondly call a “pooter” to collect ants.
This is a commercially-available model.
The idea is that the collector sucks on the end of the flexible yellow tube, which creates suction in the vial and the silver-colored metal tube that exits from it. If the metal tube is placed over an ant, the ant will be sucked into the vial. Because there is a filter over the end of the mouthpiece tube, the ant remains in the vial (although any fine dirt sucked up or chemicals released by the agitated ants are likely to pass right through the filter and sucked into the collector’s mouth, which is always pleasant – not!)
It is possible to make a simple pooter at home.
- vial, a clear film canister, or a small water bottle – with a tight-fitting lid
- plastic tubing (available at aquarium-supply, medical-supply, and hardware stores)
- drill with a drill bit the same diameter as the tubing
- piece of tough fabric to act as a filter
- small rubber band or tape to fasten on the filter (optional, see note below)
Rather than reinvent the wheel, let’s watch Peter Macinnis, author of the book Australian Backyard Explorer, demonstrate how to make and use a pooter.
Note: All I would add is that you don’t have to use tape or a rubber band if you make the piece of filter cloth large enough. Hold the cloth centered flat on the surface outside the opening in the cap where the mouthpiece is going to be pushed in. The push the mouthpiece tube into the cap with the center of the cloth covering it. The cloth will be secured by the pressure of the tube against the cap, leaving the loose ends outside the vial.
Pooters can be used to collect any sort of small, crawling animal. You can examine the animal through the vial if it is clear enough or move it to another dish as Peter Macinnis does in the video.
Any further tips about pooters from experienced myrmecologists?
If you have any questions about or suggestions for making a pooter, feel free to leave a comment.
Australian Backyard Explorer by Peter Macinnis