Of course, we have to have ants in this final photograph. Can you spot them?
Bonus question: What is the flower?
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.
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
Although we usually concentrate on ants, sometimes other creatures creep into our consciousness.
Last weekend we finally got some significant rain here in the Sonoran Desert. To celebrate, we went to a local park.
Desert millipedes (Orthoperus ornatus) were crawling all over the place.
These are significant millipedes, 4 to 5 inches long.
They are also commonly called “rainworms.” Although the millipedes are not really worms, it seems appropriate since I’ve never seen one except after a rain.
The millipedes did not seem to be pairing up at all, so I did a quick search of the Internet to see why exactly they were suddenly so active. Not much information was available, so I am assuming they are simply taking advantage of the humidity and softer soil to relocate to better burrows, as well as possibly to locate mates.
I did find one website that suggested their “food habits” were “insects, lizards, and rodents.” Yay, Internet! For those of you who are not familiar with millipedes, they actually are detritivores, which means mostly they eat dead plants. I suspect the authors of the website were thinking of centipedes, which are predators of other animals.
The desert millipedes were really moving across the ground. I did take a few videos, but since this one from YouTube has a better soundtrack (and ants!) I’ll share it instead.
Have you ever seen desert millipedes come out after a rain? Do you know what they are doing?
I need to thank some people for their invaluable assistance:
Terry – I owe you a couple of pizzas, or maybe even a pizza franchise. Thank you for making this blog possible again.
Karen and Bill – You are the best. I can’t even begin to express my gratitude.
Jason Driskell and the fine support team at Online Backup for WordPress for decrypting the backup that made the restoration possible.
All the support personnel at our server who answered innumerable questions (although some of them seemingly in a foreign language :-)).
To my family, who have patiently listened to me rant against computers for the last month.
Also, thanks to you Facebook Followers who inspired me to keep trying.
Now let’s get talking about ants again!