Not having used a net to capture insects before, I wonder if there are better and worse nets? Or better and worse techniques?
I have used a net to catch adult dragonflies and damselflies for photography and occasional collection. In general, odonates are fairly sturdy and if carefully handled, don’t appear to be any worse for the wear after netting. For odes, you want a net with a big mouth. You also want a net with large-ish holes (for some definitions of large!), because you need to swing quickly to catch these fast-flying insects. My net is 18 inches across and has a mesh size of 1x1 mm.
To catch odes in the air, swing at the bug and flip the net around when you catch it, so as to catch it in the net with no chance of escape (this takes practice). Then prop the net up on the ground, keeping the net folded, and reach into the net to catch the ode by holding its wings over its back, close to the thorax. Holding the end of the net up tends to encourage the insect to move into that narrow end, which can make it easier to catch with your hands.
If you know anyone who regularly catches odonates, this is easier demonstrated than explained in words. Also, don’t worry if you can’t catch them right off - experienced people probably miss 2/3rds of the bugs they swing at or more; dragonflies are FAST and I swear damselflies go into the fourth dimension when you swing at them - they just disappear!
I use a sweep net very similar to this one, the fabric and metal frame are pretty robust which helps if there are robust plants hiding in the vegetation. Swish it through the vegetation and all sorts of stuff comes up. (any observation of mine with a white fabric background will be from that net).
Less useful sweeping things out of the sky as the opening is not so big, but slow butterflies are occasionally swipable - never caught an ode with it!
Great advice so far, I would only add a few things. You can usually get by with getting one net which can be used as a sweep net and flying insect net. What you want to look for is reinforced fabric where it attaches to the handle, the net portion needs to be large enough so you can flip it over onto itself and see-through so you can grab insects without having to look directly into it (so they can’t fly off). As long as you’re not swinging through thorns or woody shrubs any reasonably-durable material should last, the reinforced portion will take most of the wear.
The wooden handle I’d look for something over 2 feet long so that you can swing at things reasonably far away, some of the nets for kids have great nets but the handles are a bit shorter than ideal.
I recommend making sure you know the rules and regulations of the area where you’ll be netting. I was confronted by an overeager ranger about having a net. Double check and see if it’s OK to use one.
I use a child’s butterfly net that was made by BioQuip before they went out of business (unfortunately). Using a screwdriver you can take it apart into two pieces, and therefore it will fit in my suitcase. it does not have a long handle, but the handle is OK for most uses. I use it to catch flying insects large or small, and also sometimes to beat through vegetation.
As @lynnharper says, when an insect I want to catch is flying, I "swing at the bug and flip the net around when I catch it, so as to “corner” it in the net with no chance of escape (this takes practice). Then, keeping the net folded I reach into the net to confine the bug in a plastic Petri dish (or a larger plastic jar) so I can photograph it.
Yes, some places don’t want you to use a net, even though you are doing “catch and release”, and not collecting in order to keep specimens.
I just wanted to add that it is often possible to capture a flying insect that has perched on a flower or stem by using a plastic Petri dish or jar to close around both the bug and the flower or stem.
Seconding this. If there’s a particular insect that wont sit still enough for me to photograph to ID, popping them into some sort of container can usually keep them still enough to get identifiable pictures. You could also use a net to capture the bug and then transfer them to the container from the net.
Yes, that is what I do.
Yes, I almost got into a bit of trouble when I inadvertently wandered into a state nature preserve with a net. Places like that are no go with a net or anything that could hurt something.
Also, please don’t try to take photos through the net, and if you are planning to photograph and release, use small scratch free containers to take the photo.
I use a standard bioquip 15 inch all the time. With enough practice you can become pretty good at netting critters. I generally avoid most state or federal parks when possible. National forests are generally no problem. The vial and cap method works pretty good for things perched on flowers or leaves.
I occasionally do (on my property) but I can’t say much about which nets are good and which are bad - mine is made from an old pillow case!
I do not use a net, mainly because I don’t feel the need to (if the bug escapes it escapes), but I can imagine shaking a small bush and using the net to capture whatever creatures get dislodged. It seems an interesting way to document smaller insects etc that would otherwise be hard to spot and/or reach.
I’m mostly in my own backyard but I will keep that in mind if I decide to travel.
I have a small glass container.