Living With Aspirators



Aspirators are devices for collecting tiny insects. The target organisms are collected by suction into the device. The device contains a plug that filters the small animals, but allows air to pass. Biologists have used their mouth to suction insects but caution is prudent. Some insects such as ants can release toxic formic acid that irritates the lungs. Occasionally, the device fails to filter tiny organisms.

In 1954, Paul Hurd, Jr*. an entomolgist at UC Berkeley was using an aspirator to collect insects in Alaska. Two months later, he became ill. During the first week of his illness, several live insects passed from the left antrum of his sinuses. These included 3 rove beetles, 13 fungus gnat larvae, 3 hymenopteran egg parasites and about 50 springtails. Since the screen on the aspirator would have excluded adult insects, Hurd concluded that eggs entered his sinuses, hatched and developed. Beware of mouth aspiration!

With miniaturization of electronics, it should be possible to elimanate mouth suction altogether. Some entomologists still use mouth aspiration, primarily due lack of availability of an appropriate electronic device.

*Paul Hurd. 1954. Myiasis resulting from the use of the aspirator method of collection of insects. Science. 119:814-815.

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
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4 Responses to Living With Aspirators

  1. Pingback: Living With Aspirators | pestcontrolsutherland

  2. Pingback: Living With Aspirators | pestcntrlest

  3. Pingback: Living With Aspirators | pestcntrlrev

  4. Nifty device for collecting samples of small pests for your pest control technician to look in to. You’re right, it should be used with caution and control. You don’t want any toxins to get inside your body as well as pathogens that can cause serious illness.

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