Capture Bugs with a home-made pooter

Bringing the forest to the classroom: exploring old logs with a pooter

I first read about pooters in a book by the famed English naturalist Gerald Durrell. A pooter is a tool for sucking insects into a vial where they can be observed. “Got to have one!” I said to myself. Plus, who wouldn’t love to say they’d gone pooting. A more scientific name for the device is aspirator.

Most supplies can be purchased at Tap Plastics or a brewing supply store
6 inch length of 1-inch diameter hard plastic tubing
8 inch length of flexible plastic tubing, cut into two pieces of 4 inch each
two rubber stoppers (with holes) to fit snugly into each end
small square of cheesecloth or window screen
Note: you can buy a length of hard plastic tubing and cut it on a table saw to 6 inches

Insert flexible tubing into the holes in the stoppers. Wrap the cheesecloth around the inside of one of the stoppers before shoving it into the tubing so bugs can’t get in your mouth. Put one end of the tubing over the bug you wish to observe and suck on the other end.

Pill bugs are excellent for observation, since they move fairly slowly and are easy to capture. Bring an old rotting log into the classroom and let children discover all the bugs hiding there. Bugs never seem to be injured in the process. They can be observed directly in the pooter or moved to another larger environment.

I have used pooters in many classroom and on field trips. Before I realized the importance of the cheesecloth, I swallowed at least one pill bug! However, during medieval times, people would swallow pillbugs intentionally, believing them to be medicinal; so I knew I would be fine.

A pooter similar to the one Gerald Durrell would have used

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