Ramco Primary School 1

Trap one!

Hi wonderful students at Ramco! Thank you so much for sending in your first Malaise trap samples – here’s what happened to them when they got to the lab – I was very excited to receive your parcel!

The samples arrived on a day when I was super busy, so couldn’t sort them straight away. I opened up the package and put fresh ethanol into the zip lock bags, which preserved the samples until I could sort them.

Then it was time to sort the samples! The first step was getting them out of the bag and from the netting used to drain them

Then we had something that looked like this! How many different sorts of insects can you see?

And then the sorting began….

I am sorting the samples to Order level – that means putting all the beetles together, all the flies together, etc. The insect orders that were in your trap were:

  • Lepidoptera: Moths and butterflies
  • Coleoptera: Beetles
  • Hemiptera: True bugs
  • Hymenoptera: Ants, bees and wasps (I did also separate the ants, Family Formicidae, from the wasps and bees)
  • Thysanoptera: Thrips
  • Blattodea: Cockroaches

And there were also arachnids – spiders!

Sorting took a really long time! Here’s a few photos of the vials I took along the way, made into a video so you can see how it changes whilst I sort – I pick the big things out first, and then it takes hours to pick out all the little tiny things using the microscope – so even thought it doesn’t look like much changes at the end, there would be hundreds more specimens in there!

Now the samples are sorted to Order, the vials go into the fridge to keep them cool – this preserves the DNA of the specimens. I will send the flies off to researchers in Canberra, and the wasps will stay in our lab – the other samples will go to the South Australian Museum for future researchers to use.

One of the coolest wasps you caught in this first sample was a spider hunting wasp, from the family Pompillidae.

These wasps paralyse spiders, and drag them into their burrows for their babies to eat. Pretty cool! There is a researcher in Canberra working on these spider wasps, so I will send this sample off to her!

Here is a pompilid wasp like the one you caught (probably a different species though) dragging a spider to her burrow. It’s a photo by iNaturalist user cobaltducks, used under a creative commons CC-BY-NC license

Above is a tweet from one of my lab colleagues who found one of these spiders dragging a spider into her burrow!

Unfortunately there were none of the caterpillar parasitoids that I study in this first trap – but I haven’t sorted the second fortnight yet, so fingers crossed!

Thanks so much for continuing to collect insect samples at your school – I’m so excited to sort the second trap, and can’t wait to see what you’re catching now!