Berlese Funnel




A berlese funnel is a device that is used to extract insects from soil and litter samples. It was invented by Antonio Berlese and later improved. by Tullgren. Basically, it uses a heat source (in this case a light bulb) to dry the sample, forcing the insects through a screen and into a jar of preserving fluid. It is a useful tool for attaining cryptic species that would otherwise evade even the most avid collector.

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Step 1: Materials

Materials; These are the materials that I used, but I just used what I had around. Please feel free to take the idea here and modify it. 
-1 gallon tractor funnel; I ordered mine through ace hardware for about $16
-Reflector light fixture (That's the only thing I know to call it. I got mine at tractor supply for  brooding chicks and quail.)  It should have a diameter equal or greater than that of the funnel, but if you find one with equal diameter it looks cleaner. The funnel and light used here both measure about 10". 
-cat litter bucket; The funnel sat well in this bucket, so I used it. Basically, you just need to suspend the funnel above the killing jar.
- 1/4" wire mesh cut to fit snugly into the funnel.
-Mid sized jar; Nothing Special.
-Clothes pin
-Some flexible wire; a few inches will suffice. 
-light bulb; I'm not sure what the best wattage of bulb is best here, so experiment. Just don't leave it alone and accidentally catch your house on fire.

Step 2: Putting It Together.

There are a few modifications that need to be made so that the pieces fit together. First, I cut one side of the bucket out so that the collection jar could be removed without disassembling the entire thing. Next, I punched a hole in the funnel and ran the wire through it to create a rudimentary hinge. FInally, I cut the tip of the clothespin off, so that it could clamp the light fixture to the funnel. The funnel was then placed in the bucket and the jar under the funnel. The jar can be empty to collect live specimens, or have a few inches of rubbing alcohol in the bottom.

Step 3: Results

I have only tested it once, but the results were quite good. It was still cold, so I used some active compost as the litter, since it was warm enough to contain insects. From just a couple handfuls of compost I collected  countless springtails as well as a number of larvae. For more info and results, check out 

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    25 Discussions


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Just remember, you can make a Berlese Funnel without the killing jar!
    I guess I depends what you want it for...

    2 replies

    Definitely a good point. Observation of a live specimen provides far more valuable information than a preserved specimen alone. If you are collecting them alive, make sure to coat the inside lip of the jar with fluon, petroleum jelly, talc, or some other barrier to insects.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    I was about to write up an Instructable on the Tullgren funnel, but I'd check to see if anyone had posted one already. Lo and behold. Is the 1/4" mesh fine enough to keep soil and particulate out of your samples? I was thinking I might need to use 1/8" grid.

    1 reply

    Probably depends on the size of your particulate. With the, 1/4" some particulate would fall through when the funnel was filled but would hold after that. 1/8" would probably work even better, I just had 1/4" on hand.

    Rubbing alcohol or water with a little soap in it would do, or you could rub some fluon or Vaseline on the lip of the containter, use no killing agent, and collect them alive.

    I've had great success with the following formula for insects, small fish and other small critters (especially spiders). Specimens stay soft a pliable for years and photograph well in the solution due to the refractive index of the glycerine.
    All available at the local drug store:

    "Bug Juice"

    1 part glycerine
    1 part 95% isopropyl alcohol
    1 part deionized water (distilled, or Britta filtered or equivalent)

    I keep a pint bottle in my collection bag.

    Does that formula preserve the coloration of the specimens? I put the springtail above in 95% isopropyl alcohol, and it promptly became a whitish color.

    It seems to do a fine job on the color. Go to my Facebook page (Tim Shickley) and see the profile picture of the spider. That was in the juice for about 2-3 years before the photo was taken for a macrophotography class.

    This is great ! Perfect timing. I've recently gotten into Entomophagy and I have been trying to think of a way to collect bugs in a semi-automated way, rather than spending hours sifting through the forest floor. Of course this will take a bit of modification and multiple units made to be productive enough for my needs but this instructable certainly gets my gears of imagination going. Thanks.

    2 replies

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Worms,grubs,larvae,beetles. Most anything is up for grabs. Since information on this subject is scarce and scattered it's pretty much a prep and taste test for anything collected. Soon to start raising worms, crickets and mealworms/beetles, but need to expand the menu with wild harvested insects.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction


    If you have time, would you please let usknow how it worked out for you?