Using motion-activated vacuum cleaner to control camel crickets

For those of you with camel cricket infestations in your basement, this should be of interest.  The technique below should also work for field biologists needing to collect small animals whose size is smaller than a shop-vac tube.

Here’s what you’ll need: vacuum cleaner, motion-sensing lamp, Belkin WeMo motion switch, bait. Yes, it involves bait and switch, so how could this go wrong? Anyway, set them up in a dingy basement like shown below:

colin purrington photography: Blog photos &emdash; automated-cricket-suckerThe photograph below shows the a close-up of the sucking arena.  Motion-activated lamp is the square white object, back left.  You need that only if the basement is usually dark, in which case the motion sensing switch wouldn’t work. Black tube is the vacuum.  Foil tube is a blinder for the motion sensor so that I can be in basement without it going off all the time.  The plastic water bottle was initially there to provide a smaller enclosure to increase suction, but I don’t think you need it.  Bait is barely visible just to right of the green part on the vacuum tube.  I used leftover grilled salmon marinated in dill, plus a little caramelized parsnip.  Any bait will work, even a dead cricket.  Just secure the food inside a perforated plastic bag so that the bait is not sucked up along with the cricket.

colin purrington photography: Blog photos &emdash; automated-animal-trapAfter all this is set up, bring up the WeMo app on your phone and make the rules you want your sensor/switch to follow.  Rule 1 should be: turn on switch / turn off immediately (this vacuums the cricket).  Rule 2 (optional) should be: notify me, every 5 minutes (this lets you know it’s working, and when). It’s really nice to wake up and get the report on the night’s anti-cricket war, fought with drone vacuums.

colin purrington photography: Blog photos &emdash; crickets-sucked-wemo

Just in case you doubt that all this works, here’s victim number one.  She has lots of company now.

colin purrington photography: Blog photos &emdash; cricket-in-vacuumBy the way, I first tested this setup using my Rigid shop vac, but it turned out to be so powerful that the sensor was sucked up, ripping the power unit right off the outlet.  If you need that kind of power (to sample mice, for example), just be sure everything is really, really firmly attached.

If you’d like to see it in action, here’s a short clip (new window). I know I should get a motion-sensing camera to record an actual cricket biting it. Perhaps some other day.

If you have a camel cricket problem like I do, please also see my “Getting rid of camel crickets” page.


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