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Aspirator: Catching Insects Easily

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A vacuum cleaner for insects

Want to explore animals in your garden? It helps to build a catching instrument! Ants and other small insects are particularly difficult to catch with your hands, especially without hurting them. Researchers use an aspirator to catch small insects. The insects get into a cup without you touching them!

How does it work?

Imagine the aspirator is like a special insect vacuum cleaner. Two tubes are attached to a cup. You use the tube with a net attached to the end and suck in air. The suction creates a vacuum, in other words there is less air in the cup than before. To compensate for this negative pressure, air flows into the cup via the second tube. Hold the end of the tube over an insect. The air flow traps the animal in the cup. The great thing is that you catch it without touching it!


Explore biodiversity with your aspirator!

Naturalists use trapping instruments to identify animals in a habitat.
It is exciting to find out which and how many different species
species can be found in your own garden, forest or park.
Make your own aspirator and find out!


You need:

  • Transparent yogurt cup (or a jam jar)
  • 2 straws, as thick as possible (or a plastic tube)
  • Drilling tool (e.g. pointed scissors, screwdriver, …)
  • Airtight plastic foil
  • 3 rubber bands
  • Fine net (or thin fabric)

Time for your research

You can use your aspirator to examine the animals in your garden or a nearby park. You could ask yourself the following questions:

  • Which animals are particularly easy to catch with the aspirator?
  • How many animal species can be found in the hedge and how many in the meadow?
  • What do animals that live on the tree trunk look like compared to insects that live in the meadow?
  • How many different animal species can you find at different times of the year?

Good to know!

It is important that you release the animals back where you found them at the end of your observation. Do not collect more than one animal in your container, as they could injure each other.


Use the free "Seek" app to find out which insect you have caught with the aspirator.

More catching methods

Under this link you will find instructions for the construction of further catching methods:

Poster & info

Here you will find lots of information on biodiversity and also great free posters for identifying animals that occur in Austria:

Background information

Biodiversity, i.e. the variety of animal, plant and fungal species, is an exciting field of research. It examines how many different species occur in a habitat. We are particularly pleased about the high diversity of insects. They pollinate flowers from which fruit such as apples, pears etc. can develop. In general, a habitat with a high level of diversity is better protected from drought and other disruptive factors.

At the ISTA campus, there is a team of students, researchers and other ISTA employees working on sustainability issues. One project is researching biodiversity on the campus grounds. Anyone can help and enter the species found in the “iNaturalist” app.