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Collecting by driving :-)

"Autokescher" (Car netting)
. . . is a well practized technique in Germany indeed. Some have modified the equipment to be suitable for bike-rides - for the reason, that in most forests and agricultural landscapes, you will either have no permission to drive by car, or you will obstruct traffic (30 mph is advisable maximum speed).

Car netting as we do it is "air plancton" harvest, and you will get many species hardly observed in another way (e.g. subterranean Leiodidae) - but of course, predominantly minute ones! If your special interest is in Staphylinidae, Ptiliidae, Pselaphidae or Scydmaenidae: Build yourself a car net!

greetings from Berlin,


I've been wanting to try this method for a while now...
I saw this method in a large traps and techniques packet I downloaded from an entomology site about a year ago, and I thought it would be excellent for catching insects on our farm, mostly prairie-type grassland. The way I'm setting it up for this summer is a wooden frame net (just some cheap 1/2 inch by 2 inch wood pieces and thin netting from Walmart) that is attached to the front of our four-wheeler. It'll have hinges at the top, and hang out and down so that the bottom of the frame hangs about 1 inch above the ground (weight the bottom with either a heavier piece of wood or some weights) and drags a bit (but not enough that it catches the front tires). I think this design is nice because when the frame drags, it combs the entire plant, but doesn't break the stems. I also like the net feature because it makes it so I can just stop and pick out the bugs or detach the net, and I don't have to pick bugs off of sticky pads. I'll take pictures when I have it completely built, probably this or next month.

Car predation
If I recall correctly, I think that it was Stephen Buchmann that put a sticky trap on front of his radiator, went for a ride and collected the insects that were caught. On the basis of these numbers and the number of miles he drove he came out with an approximation of the total of "predation" by car that takes place in this country. The results were staggering.

Steam locomotives used to have cow catchers. I wonder what could deflect bugs before they get creamed on the car's hard surfaces. A front-mounted bug catcher doesn't sound very safe from the human standpoint.

Stepen Marshall
shows a photo of a car net attached to the front of his car, on page 612 of his recent book. Paul Brunelle, ode specialist, uses a similar net on the front of his vehicle.

Thanks, Tony.
Somehow I never leafed all the way through Insects:Their Natural History and Diversity by Stephen A. Marshall. I have a bumperless car but I bet I can find a way. The article on (linked above) mentions richer harvests closer to the ground so a low-riding front-end net should yield more insects than a rooftop mount.

Would a tractor-mounted net work?
I often see interesting critters while mowing (with a tractor pulling a six foot shredder)--wondering if a net mounted in front of the tractor (not sure how I'd connect it, there being of course no bumper) would pick up some bugs to photograph. Anyone ever tried it with a tractor? My tractor has the modern wider-set front wheels...

That reminds me...
I agree with Jim that speed would probably be an issue if you are mowing.

Are you mowing very tall grasses/flowers? I've never had any luck with sweep nets, but we found out last year (quite by accident) that riding a 4-wheel ATV at high speed through 4-6 ft. grasses with a front-mounted basket will give great results. You just have to be going fast enough for the seed-heads or flowers to slam very hard into the basket as they bend over. Sounds absolutely brutal, but I was doing it to gather jumping spiders and none that I found were dead or mangled in any way.

Hi Elizabeth,
The uncertain thing about the efficacy of a tractor mount would be the amount of wind pressure that could be generated. It might work if you were able to mow, shred, or whatever in the highest gear. In the lower gears I doubt that you could keep many insects from escaping.

Why not dedicate the tractor to some non-work time racing around the fields with your insect catcher? Of course you could do the same thing in your jalopy (doesn't every farm/ranch have one?).

I think you could canibalize some worn-out aluminum-framed chase lounges to make a frame for your net, using glass tape and band clamps to fasten its components and secure it to three or four places on the tractor or jalopy. Then some long sheer curtain panels and some fabric glue could get you the rest of the way there.

Industrial size net

Guiness record!
Thanks, Phillip. What a great site. I think they were trying for the Guiness record for length of a Web page :-)

1. Print out web page.
2. Drop on insect.

Have you tried this yet?

No but I want to!
I just ran accross it in my browsing. I think the Germans must be *very* avid collectors :-)

And my friends make fun of my car NOW...
Just wait...

I thought that photo was hilarious...and I couldn't find anybody else laughing about it, until I got to the bottom of the page and saw where I would fit in, lol! I am very easily amused and I am seriously nearly in tears over this!

(But, yes, despite looking ridiculous, it probably works really well!)

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