How to make your own bug collector

Collecting insects can be a very frustrating endeavor, especially live ones. I can only imagine what’s going on in the tiny bugs mind as he runs for his life while I’m trying to scoop him up with my rudimentary spur of the moment collection tool. I’ve always wanted a more professional way to do this but the need didn’t arise enough for me to spend a lot of time thinking about it. So when I had to catch and bring a specimen back to the office for identification I would quick grab a ladle, tweezers, dust pan, coffee cup or anything handy. I even tried to delicately use my fingers if the bug didn’t have pinchers but I rarely had enough left to identify if I could grab him at all. That’s changed as you can see, now it is as simple as ‘drinking through a straw’ and I collect all sorts of bugs in one piece and alive.

Click on pics to enlarge

A couple years ago I was asked to be part of a termite survey by Matt Messenger, Ph.D. Research Entomologist and Project Leader for the New Orleans Mosquito and Termite control board. I was to collect and save termites found in my daily routine, place them in vials, and send them off with all the pertinent information including zip codes so that different species of termites could be mapped. It was a fun project for me and Matt was very helpful and would take the time to e-mail each time I sent a vial letting me know the exact species I had found. He was a really nice guy and was very excited about the survey he was doing in the states and even over in Hong Kong and would send pictures of his adventures there as well.

As part of the study I was sent inspection vials filled with an alcohol and water mix, survey questions and a ‘termite collection tool’. Plus there was the promise of a t-shirt at the end of the project so for me this was a win-win. (I love t-shirts) While I learned quite a bit with the survey I also kept my termite collection tool and use it to this day. It has the vague look of some strange kind of crack pipe and I get a raised eyebrow or two from curious customers which always turns into an ‘ah ha’ look when I would show them the little bug caught and running around the bottom.

In my line of work professional tools always add to my credibility and this little device is no different. Although this tool was made to collect termites, I use it all the time now to grab ants and other small bugs for identification or to just show my customer which always helps verify what I’m saying or helps close the sale. For the professional pest control operator or just the curious little kid who loves collecting bugs this is a must have and easy to make.

What’s needed

You’ll need about three feet of clear 1/4 inch tubing
6 to 8 inches of 3/8 copper pipe
Rubber stopper (size depends on bottle size you choose)
Clear plastic bottle or you can use a medicine bottle
Small piece of cloth for filter (so you don’t ingest your bugs)

Now mine was made for me so these directions are not official but it doesn’t look hard;

How to make and assemble


  • You’ll need to gently bend your copper pipe and it’ll be easier to do at full length. At one end measure approximately 3 inches for the center of your bend. Using a larger metal pipe or other cylindrical object place the copper tubing over the curve and apply pressure slightly rolling the pipe and bending the copper till it bends to that shape or close enough without kinking. If you can heat the copper all the better.
  • Repeat the process on the other end of the copper pipe but only measure about 1 inch for the center of your bend. (This is where the heat will come in handy)
  • Now you need a pipe cutter or small hacksaw to cut the pipe to get your two pieces. Just about half way in between the bends should do and that will give you one longer pipe (about 4 or 5 inches) and a shorter pipe. (2 1/2 to 3 inches)
  • For the stopper you’ll need to drill two holes for your pipe ends to fit through. A sharp drill bit and a vice would be best. The drill should go through easily so don’t apply too much pressure with it or the vice.
  • To assemble simply place the copper tubes with ends facing opposite direction in the holes of the stopper and have about 1/4 inch of tubing protruding from the bottom of the stopper. Slide the plastic tube over the shorter copper tube section and cut about 3/8 inch off the top. Take the cut piece and your filter cloth and slide both over the shorter copper pipe coming out of the bottom of the stopper. The small piece of tubing will hold your cloth filter in place.
  • Place the assembled stopper in your bottle and you now have a certified bug collection device guaranteed to get you car searched if you ever get pulled over for a ticket.


Simple enough and simple to use, just point the long copper end near your bug and suck in the tubing and ‘ta dah’, you have your bug alive and intact for the entire world to see.

If you want to catch bigger bugs you can make this tool with larger materials or if you are a professional pest control operator you can contact Matt to see if they are still doing the survey. I don’t think they are but it’s still worth the time to look at his web site and see all of the valuable information he was able to collect. Either way I think this little device is a great asset to have and makes the job of collecting bugs so much easier and fun to do.

Good Luck and Happy hunting!

About The Bug Doctor

Jerry Schappert is a certified pest control operator and Associate Certified Entomologist with over two and a half decades of experience from birds to termites and everything in between. He started as a route technician and worked his way up to commercial/national accounts representative. Always learning in his craft he is familiar with rural pest services and big city control techniques. Jerry has owned and operated a successful pest control company since 1993 in Ocala,Florida. While his knowledge and practical application has benefitted his community Jerry wanted to impart his wisdom on a broader scale to help many more. was born from that idea in 2007 and has been well received. It is the goal of this site to inform you with his keen insights and safely guide you through your pest control treatment needs.

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