Semper Fidelis - Semper Discentes

Make Your Own FS1 “Pseudocorpse” Carrion Beetle Trap

In Coleoptera on March 19, 2013 at 11:36 pm

My wife thinks I’m weird. My wife also thinks I have too much time on my hands.

Today, I was e-mailing my friend and Insect Mentor, Kent Fothergill, who’s now living in Idaho. Kent got me interested in beetles a couple of years ago, and I really enjoy studying carrion and dung beetles. I was telling him how I’d taken advantage of the unseasonably warm “tornado weather” here in the Ozarks today by stopping at a rotten deer carcass alongside the road. I picked around through the bones and found quite a few really neat bugs.

Ever since I first saw Gil Grissom in “CSI” a few years ago, I’ve been intrigued by his use of insects to determine how long a human corpse has been, well, a corpse. Thanks to the Miracle of Amazon.com, I’ve even bought several books on the subject, and find them fascinating.

Soooo….I was wondering what sort of beetles I might find on dead bodies during these cold January Ozark days. My deer carcass has just about “returned to dust”, and I’ve been totally unlucky in finding any new roadkill to bring home. I don’t know the guy at the local funeral home well enough to see if he could supply me with any paupers. The books claim that deceased pigs are often used as “stand-ins” for experiments of this nature, but I don’t know any pig farmers, either.

I asked Kent if I could use some “bad” grocery store meat to lure carrion beetles. We both agreed that neither of us was wealthy enough to let ANY meat “go bad” once we’d brought it home. “So,” I say, “could I use the remains of a leftover steak or porkchop, cooked of course, with a bit of meat left on the bone? Would beetles come to cooked meat?”

Kent, modest as always (be SURE to check out his great blog, at www.biologistsoup.wordpress.com), said he had absolutely NO idea. Kent was the guy who sent me instructions on how to make dung beetle traps out of large soda bottles, which I promptly dubbed the “Fothergill Model B Dung Beetle Trap”. Within ten minutes, he’d e-mailed me a modification, which we are proud to call the “Fothergill-Sims Model 1 Pseudocorpse Carrion Beetle Trap (FS1 Pseudocorpse)”.

Here, Gentle Reader, are the complete instructions on building your OWN FS1, complete with illustrations. Enjoy.

1. First I assembled all the materials. It just so happened that I had a cold leftover pork steak in the fridge.

You need a large soda bottle, a piece of wire (I used the wire from a surveyor’s flag), some duct tape, and a little antifreeze. Two cinderblocks, too.

Then I pulled out the pork steak.

Okay, we’re rolling now.

2. Remove excess meat from bait. Under normal circumstances, I rarely leave ANYTHING on the bone; however, this is SCIENCE!

3. Go out to your woodshed. It doesn’t have any wood in it, ’cause you were too shiftless to cut any last summer, but at least it’ll keep the trap out of the weather.

4. Cut off the top of the soda bottle, invert it into the bottom, and tape the edges with duct tape. Pour a bit of the antifreeze into the bottom (this will kill the captured specimens), dig a hole in the dirt floor of the woodshed, and bury the whole affair in the ground, with the rim at groundlevel.

5. Get a wire vegetable rack out of an old refrigerator. If you don’t have an old refrigerator, get the wire rack out of your WIFE’S refrigerator. Tell her somebody stole it.

Wire the porkchop bone to the bottom of the rack, using the wire from the surveyor’s flag.

6. “Okay,” you say, “WHY do we need the wire basket?” Because, Grasshopper, in a few days this bone will be a stinking mess, and will attract all SORTS of animals–coyotes, skunks, weasels, and such.

7. You then turn the basket over, and place it over the trap, with the bone dangling over the opening:

8. NOW, place two cinderblocks on top of the basket, to weight it down. If an animal comes along who’s strong enough to move them, you don’t wanna fool with him, anyway.

Ta-daaaaaaah! Installation is complete. Now, all you’ve got to do is sit back, and let the Bugs Come Rolling In. Ain’t science grand? Patent pending.

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