Vacuuming pests with a leaf blower

Editor’s note: This article is from the archives of the MSU Crop Advisory Team Alerts. Check the label of any pesticide referenced to ensure your use is included.

Most leaf blowers have the capacity of serving as a vacuum and a blower. There is very little conversion needed to use a leaf blower to suck up insects for sampling purposes, or to provide an eco-friendly way to remove them from crop plants.

When selecting a leaf blower, find one that has a large diameter opening and tube (approximately 8 inches) to provide adequate coverage per plant. You can even buy one that fits like a back pack with padded straps and a frame; if you want that type of handling. To prevent insects from clogging the system, you should use a nylon cloth. Nylon “knee highs” work great. Just open one up and attach the opened end to the opening of the vacuum with a strong rubber band. This will catch the insects for counting or disposal, depending on your needs. If you have a large number of insects, you need to empty them periodically. To keep them from flying away, you can empty the stocking into a container of soapy water, the soapy film will make it more difficult for them to fly away.

Walt Pett, an MSU professor in entomology, among others in the bug world, uses this system to sample insects for his research. He also uses this to remove Colorado potato beetle from potatoes. He has observed that this system not only removes insect pests from the plant, but also pulls some soil (especially in sandy soils) up and in the process damages any egg masses located on the underside of the leaves. He stated he has not noticed damage to the plants, but he uses it mostly on potato plants to manage the Colorado potato beetle. You may need to be cautious when using it on young transplants. Having a wider suction nozzle will also reduce the tendency to suck up the plant.

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