Method I „Headtorch"


For applying this collecting technique a light-weight and water-proof headtorch or headlamp (e.g. Petzl Megabelt) including several batteries for change are required; the number of batteries carried with you should ensure the lamp to work for at least 4-6 hours. The advantage of using a headtorch instead of ordinary hand lamps is, that the light is always where your´e looking at and both hands are free to handle caught insects or taking photographs. Additionally however another strong hand lamp (e.g. Maglite) should be carried along and is best fixed to the collectors belt to ensure it can not get lost during a fall.
In ones rucksack there should be different sized plastic containers or plastic bags with air holes in the lid as well as a butterfly net and extendible handle.Petzl Megabelt Headtorch

SammeldoseSearching for stick-insects at night is much more worthwile and productive than looking for them during day-time. The true fullness of biodiversity in a habitat is usually only seen at night and stick-insects seem to hide deeper in the vegation at day-time and are often camouflaged that well, that they are completely overseen even by the expierienced eye. We should not forget that they are the real masters of camouflage. As an example: At one collecting site in Borneo (Sarawak) we were able to locate only 5 specimens at day-time but 92 in the same night ! The most prolific time seems to be shortly after dawn until 23.00, while females usually appear later during the evening than males. If there was rain in the late afternoon and the vegetation is still wet until darkness arises or with rainfalls during the night the number of specimens located my rise frequently. This is especially the case in tropical regions and concerns to other Orthoptera (e.g. Ensifera, Caelifera) as well.

Searching along forest borders, roads, wide paths, riverbanks, around clearings caused by fallen trees or rocky outcrops appear to be the most prolific habitats for this collecting method, as in all of the mentioned areas there will be enough vegetation close to ground level.
Furthermore mountainous regions have proven to be very prolific and do usually posess a very high rate of biodiversity. For many species the presence of human settlements does not seem to be of importance and large numbers of phasmids can even be found in the direct surroundings of villages and smaller towns, in agricultural areas or even gardenings and public parks.

 

FangnetzMost phasmids are usually found on low growing vegetation and smaller trees between 0.5-5 metres off the ground. Followingly these are the species which can predominantly be collected with this method while species that live in the canopee blocks (e.g. subfamily Necrosciinae) remain inaccessible to the collector.

The selection of prolific collecting sites requires some expirience but can be summarized as follows:


-Forest border or wide path / road with a width of at least 2 metres, which is fenced with rich low-growing vegetation, if possible damp, shady, slightly protected from wind, at least 100 metres off the coast and eventually close to rivers, lakes or at river banks as well as mountainous regions.

„But exceptions confirm the rules” - everyone should try for him- or herself !

It is of advantage to investigate and mark the sites which are planned to be collected at night already during day-time. This allows you to get an overview of the surroundings, vegetation and possible areas of danger. Should you plan to collect at or in private properties, gardens or public parks you need to talk to the owner first, in order to avoid any misunderstandings. Please keep in mind that you might easily look like a criminal or burglar to people (or dogs !) who don´t know what you´re doing on their properties at night, wearing a hand- or headtorch and rucksack !

Sammelstelle AustralienAfter dawn the low growing vegetation alongside those paths which have been marked during the day, is systematically and carefully searched with the use of a headtorch. Therefor you should start searching near to the ground and then go on searching the more higher regions and smaller trees. Care to avoid neglicence as phasmids are real masters of camouflage and may even be difficult to locate at night for the unexpirienced eye ! Carefully searching a stretch of 200 metres can easily take up to an hour or more, but patience and thoroughness are worthwile in most cases !Sammelstelle Französisch-GuyanaSammelstelle in Queensland

Whenever a feeding phasmid has been located, it is of importance to keep the plant it was found on in mind, as this is a potential native foodplant of the species found and more specimens might be located if this kind of plants are searched more carefully. Generally it is of advantage to have a knowledge of the preferred foodplants of the different phasmid species and if the insects are wished to be kept alive in order to rear them, fresh cuttings of the foodplants should be done at once which can then be offered as food. Furthermore leaves or flowers can be dried in order to identify them at home.
A high percentage of phasmids is polyphagous and thus quite widely distributed while more specialized feeders (predominantly flying species) are generally distributed more locally and may often be found in large colonies.

 

SammellausrüstungIf one has found a Phasmid, it is wise to take a photograph of the specimen in ist natural environment and on its native food plant, before catching it. When handling the insect, you need to be careful, as Phasmids can be very active and move quickly, in contrast to their lethargic behaviour in the daytime. The insect should be seized at the thorax and at best with only two fingers if the specimen is very delicate. Afterwards the insect should be placed in a plastic box or plastic bottle with a sample of the plant on which they were found. In addition to know its native foodplant, this gives the insect something to hold on. Rather than use a bottle, plastic bags may be used which need to be inflated before before being sealed. These can then be attached to the belt of the collector or placed in a rucksack. Very fragile species are better stored in stable plastic boxes or bottles rather than being left in plastic bags. Extremely large species can be placed in large plastic or rubbish bags. Well flying species are at best cought using a wide butterfly-net.
Females of unfamiliar species should be kept in individual containers, to ensure that eggs laid are recognised and and correctly assigned. Maiting pairs are kept at best kept apart from other phasmids.

Generally Phasmids can be cought easily and especially the expierienced insects collector who is already familiar with collecting Coleoptera or Lepidopter in the wild should not see himself being facing unsolvable problems. To prevent the insects falling to the ground, which is a very typical bahaviour in many phasmids, it is wise to place a wide net below the inset. The is important as phasmids, especially small specimens, are almost impossible to re-locate on the jungle floor !Sammelstelle Seychellen Mahé

If a specimen is found on a tree in heights of more than 5 metres (often the case with larger species, e.g. Pharnacia, Acrophylla, Ctenomorphodes) and the extendible handle of your net is still to short, there is a little trick which has proven to be quite successful:
First you search for a long branch (of course longer than the extendible handle of your butterfly net – there should be plenty in a tropical forest !), which is then used to make the insect move to lower regions or even catching it if possible. The branch is carefully moved beneath the insects body and between the inect and the leaf or branch it rests on. By slightly shaking the leaf or branch used for resting, the insect will start moving and in most cases use the collectors branch to find a stable possibility to recline. If the insect has done so (in some cases you need to be really patient !) the branch can be carefully and slowly moved towards the ground. In order to catch the specimen.
This little trick is however only sufficient with relatively large and non-flying insects, as the small and well-flying species will directly fly off as soon as the leaf they rest on is moved. For catching the latter species, collecting method No. II is more suitable and successfull.

 

Sammelstelle Französisch-GuyanaIt may be said, that by applying this collecting method, phasmids will appear to be some of the most common and striking Orthoptera in a tropical biotope. Pest-like, local occurance of single species may even cause strong defoliation.
Apart from Phasmatodea, the described collecting method has also provern to be quite sufficient for other Orthoptera (e.g. Mantodea, Ensifera, Blattodea), insect orders like Heteroptera or Formicida as well as other various arthropods (e.g. tree-living Arachnids or scorpions).

 

 


Recommended light:

The temporarely best headtorch is Petzl´s “Megabelt” which is water-propof and has a halogen bulb which lasts up to 30 hours. If you use a hand-lamp alternatively you should esteem on stability, low weight, strong light and a plastic casing. Cheap metal hand-lamps may rust in the high humidity of some regions ! As a powerfull hand-lamp we can recommend the Surefire M3T or the Maglite D6.

Surefire MT3

 

 Lucido C10

 

- Important – Never forget replacement batteries ! Who will find the way back to the car in the darkness of a tropical rainforest… ?! In tropical countries batteries should only be purchased from large super-markets as those bought in smaller shops are usually old and do not posess their complete power any more.