Cheap or DIY mechanical pooters

I am thinking of getting or making a mechanical pooter and wondering if anyone has any tips or can tell me how a standard one works. Is there something in a typical mechanical pooter that traps the insect once inside? Could the cheaper one below be easily adapted if so?

Mechanical pooter

Bug vacuum

YSI Nature Center used to have kids at nature camp make their own pooters with baby food jars, bendy straws, and glue. They worked surprisingly well, I thought.

This is a similar idea from National Geographic Kids with the refinement of using a piece of nylon stocking over one side as a filter to stop any debris from being inhaled:


My suggestion is to just get one of the relatively inexpensive aspirators sold by Bioquip products. They have a fine mesh screen installed but you need an additional inline filter to remove most of the smallest particles which will get thru the mesh. For years I just used an inexpensive vehicle fuel filter, bioqup as a hepa type which works nice but does slightly increase the amount of lung power to inhale specimens.

If you are crafty, you might be able to DIY one from a small car vacuum cleaner! Here’s an excerpt from an old article on the subject:

Aspirating from objectionable or dangerous substrates. Direct aspiration from dung, from carrion, from fungi, or in caves can be hazardous, and aspirating from other substrates can result in allergic reactions. Blow-through (venturi) aspirators usually lack sufficient suction, and power operated vacuum aspirators of which published descriptions are available (i.e. Weekman and Ball 1963) are inconveniently bulky or heavy. These problems can be overcome by using a small vacuum aspirator made from a portable automobile vacuum cleaner. The rechargeable models made by Black and Decker are excellent for this purpose. Detachable aspirator heads can be made from 32-mm (inside diameter) plexiglass tubing (Fig. 1). A screen barrier (Fig. 1) can be glued into the plexiglass tube, or held in place using a plastic ring cut from a 35-mm film container [haha, good luck finding one of those nowadays!]. These aspirator heads fit directly over the end of the old model Black and Decker auto vacuum, but the newer and more powerful DustBuster™ must be modified as in Figure 1. The dust chamber is discarded and a small tube, made from a standard 35-mm film container, is affixed, using molten plastic or hot glue, directly over the fan input hole. A tool which melts sticks of plastic for adhesive purposes is widely available and marketed under the name ‘hot glue gun’. The same adhesive is also used to seal the space surrounding the small tube. Aspirator heads can then be snapped on and off this tube. The vacuum aspirator is excellent for emptying light traps and car nets, and is well suited for collecting live samples from different microhabitats.

Marshall SA. 1982. Techniques for collecting and handling small Diptera. Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Ontario 113: 73-74.


Nice, thanks all!

@chrisangell… this is the kind of thing I´m thinking, yes.
It does look pretty much like the second link I posted(?), just with a cap on the end and more power.
I can imagine the power aspect is pretty important though.

I´m not interested in lung powered pooters particularly @teellbee @gcsnelling… heard too many stories of people inhaling insect eggs! Kind of puts me off… :) Though I do wonder also about some sort of hand pumped versions which are manual but don´t involve lungs.

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Inhaling insect eggs is nothing but an old wives tail, however there is no question that inhalation aspirators do have issue which is why I suggest the hepa type filters. However there are also exhalation types which eliminate the hazards. In my experience the powered types often damage the specimens.


Ok, great to know. Thanks for this.
Does “powered type” include manual hand pump ones?
( These do exist right? I have in my head an image of a sort of balloon you squeeze and release … )

You could make one schematically like teellbee’s link, but put a “pipet bulb” in place of the person’s mouth. Examples that might work:

image image

Kind that probably won’t

The simplest looking bulb above may be the cheapest and best bet for the field.

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Here is a website offering various products:

…and another link to a really cool idea that catches things relatively softly. I almost bought one of these. But, I just don’t go after bugs enough. Still, if you have a partner that is squeamish about bugs, it could be a good purchase.

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As long as the suction is strong enough, that “insect vacuum” should work just like the one I posted. It looks like you will still need to add a mesh barrier (“C”) if you want to be able to take the tube off the vacuum base and use it as a vial. You would probably want to have a handful of tubes like that, so you can capture multiple insects separately.

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