Sifting Through our Hand Collections

Every week we decide to find a few trails that are not near our regular sites to do some hand collecting. This week in Kejimkujik National Park we decided to go to Beech Grove Trail. When we got there we found out that the trail runs parallel to a river so before we got to hand collecting we did some aquatic collecting. After getting our feet wet we were visited by a few people that were interested in what we were doing. We told them all about BIO and the BIOBus, we told them about what we were doing in the park and what we were doing right then and there with our rain boots and nets. They seemed very interested in what we had to say and thanked us for the free bookmarks that BIO provided us to give out. After making some new friends we head back to the bus to change into our hiking gear and gather all our equipment for hand collecting. Each crew member carries with them four ethanol vials to store insects they catch, an aspirator to suck up insects and a piece of collecting equipment of their choosing, such as sweep nets and sifting trays.

Martin Zlatkin aspirating insects from a sifter at Saint-Louis Cape in Kouchibouguac National Park
Martin Zlatkin aspirating insects from a sifter at Saint-Louis Cape in Kouchibouguac National Park

Sifting trays are my favorite method of searching for insects, probably because I used them so much when I was on my field course in Vietnam. A sifting tray is very simple to use and it does exactly what the name implies, it sifts. To use the sifting trey I grab a large hand full of leaf litter and drop it in to the sifter, I shake the leaves around which causes the smaller pieces of dirt and insects to fall in to the lower compartment of the tray. After I’ve shaken the leaves around for about 2 minutes I take the leaves off and look at what has fallen into bottom section.  At that point I pick through the dirt to find all the insects that fell through the sifter. I find the insects that crawl on the ground to be much more interesting than the insects in the air, that’s why I use a sifter rather than a sweep net. I’ve never seen the appeal of catching many mosquitoes and maybe 5 interesting flies or bees. Sifting always yields something new for me; a gigantic spider, a quick springtail, or an interesting looking beetle. I find hand collecting events are always the most interesting part of a day.


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