Beating For Insects

by Johan J Ingles-Le Nobel
Last updated August 31, 2017

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Professional insect collecting equipment such as moth traps and butterfly traps can be expensive, so beating represents a nice cheap way to collect beetles that is not beyond even the most useless of DIYer.

Beating is a way of collecting insects that's been used by entomologists for decades, and it's a proven technique that should get you at least enough insects before you may decide to use other means to catch insects.

Beating also doesn't run the risk of ruining more expensive nets which can get torn up amidst thorns, woody stems and hedges.

Beating Equipment

Beating sheet for collecting insects

Beating sheet for collecting insects. Use by tapping branch with a stick and letting the insects fall in. Beating sheets are extremely easy to construct from some old sheets and wooden sticks, and catches different types of insect than sweeping does.

Beating can be done in several ways but at its most basic the idea is to beat a branch with a stick and have some sort of tray to collect whatever falls out.

You can use a beating tray or an A3 sheet of paper put underneath a bush, but the easiest way is actually just to use a cheap umbrella that you're prepared to reverse outwards: a white-coloured golf umbrella.

You hold it up by the handle underneath a tree branch. Then you beat the leaves and what you are looking for are the insects that fall down out of the branches and leaves.

Alternatively make a beating sheet - basically just a piece of heavy duty cloth stretched across two diagonal pieces of wood joined at the centre. They can be purchased or made. Beating sheets can vary in size, but a typical beating sheet would be about 3 feet square.

Successful Beating

  • Rather than holding the beating sheet horizontal, if you tip the far corner up then insects tend to try and walk up the slope instead of immediately flying away.
  • Pick up smaller specimens using an aspirator (pooter), a device that you suck a specimen into, or an alcohol-moistened brush.
  • Do not thrash the vegetation too hard as you will damage the plants and end up with a large pile of leaves and debris on your tray which will take longer to search through.
  • Large insects may fly off again very quickly so it is often a good idea to have two people on hand to clear the catch: one to grab the big stuff before they escape and another with a pooter to suck up the smaller specimens.

Downloads

Beating sheets Field entomology primer and bill of materials for beating sheets

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