Mt. Washington, Coos County, New Hampshire, USA
June 8, 2007
I asked Tom Murray to snap a couple shots of me decked out in my beetle-hunting garb and gear during an impromtu visit to the summit of Mt. Washington. We were searching for the extremely rare Pyt*ho stric*tus
below the timberline, but it was a nice day so we drove up to the summit for a look-see. (Good thing we did; we were amazed to find the summit swarming with insects. See my forum article
about this phenomenon).
All my outer clothes plus hat and the top portion of my socks are treated with permethrin spray (Repel Permanone for clothing & gear) as protection against ticks, mosquitos, and other biting pests. Treatments are said to last two weeks and continue to be effective after clothes washing. My belt pouch contains a small pump sprayer of 100% Deet to apply sparingly to skin. I have never been bitten here or in the tropics using this kind of protection.
You can't see them in this photo but I'm also wearing pull-on rubber boots. Besides alowing me to walk through shallow water and mud they tend to protect my lower shins from scrapes as I barge through thickets and clamber over boulders and criss-crossed log piles. After a nasty bout of pre-patellar bursitis (very sore knee) last summer I am a more faithful user of knee pads when collecting.
The thing around my neck is a homemade "pooter" for collecting insects by mouth-applied suction. It is fastened with a length of cord as a lanyard around my neck so I can have it ready to use while employing both hands in climbing, bark stripping, rock turning, etc. I will post a series on its design and construction sometime soon. Suffice it to say that it's a very quick and handy way to collect live insects although you might want to avoid those that would release defensive chemicals in the pooter receptacle.
There is a downside to collecting everything into one receptacle. Many specimens can be injured or killed by others in the container. Emptying the receptacle frequently into a larger container in a cooler would avoid some of the mayhem (by cooling down the hotheads ;-) but it is often unrealistic to carry an ice chest with you as you collect.
For special specimens I have adopted the use of plastic pill sorters that I carry in the main compartment of my belt pouch. After fumbling with a half-dozen loose pill sorters I switched to the one-week kind that has a separate 4-or-5-compartment sorter for each day of the week. These snap into a plastic frame, making it easier to keep track of which ones are full and which are empty. I can carry three of these plus a couple individual sorters (over 100 specimen compartments) in my pouch.
Often I find conks and other fungus samples I want to investigate at home, or decide to bring home bark for larva rearing attempts. After trying to use plastic bags for this and suffering bag rips and specimen loss on too many occasions I finally decided to employ nylon stuff sacks for the purpose. I cinch them up tight, stuff the excess drawcord down into the bag so it doesn't get caught in the brush, and hook them into a clip on my belt pouch.
Fastened to the belt of my pouch is a hatchet scabbard (I see I misspelled that word in my image above). Bark stripping is fast and easy with a sharp hatchet, and various wood boring larvae can be accessed as well. The blunt end of the hatchet head has its uses too, such as "conk bonking," a method I've discovered for collecting assorted beetles hanging onto the undersides of conks. No need to pry off the fungal fruiting body, just hold your hand or net or container under the conk and give the top a jarring bonk. The beetles will become alarmed and drop to the ground, only their fall will be interrupted by your hand or whatever.
One pouch item is a very lightweight plastic throw-away poncho for sudden unexpected downpours. They take up very little space. I bought several for less than a buck each.
Another pouch item is a small plastic 15x loupe for examining specimens in the field. It comes in handy for keying out Py*tho larvae in the field.
If I think I might get disoriented while collecting I take several precautions. I take a cell phone in my pouch and warm clothing and an led headlamp in a small rucksack. I also mark the way I have gone with bright, night-reflective plastic flagging that I carry in a roll that feeds out an opening in the top of my belt pouch. I just tear off a length and tie it onto something in line of sight with my last marker, allowing me to retrace my steps, even at night by light of the headlamp.
I will probably move this image to the equipment section when I add photos of individual components such as the pooter.