Sifters are used to collect insects and mites that live in ground litter, leaf mold, rotting wood, mammal and bird nests, fungi, shore detritus, lichens, mosses, and similar material. Sifters are especially useful for winter collecting to pick up hibernating specimens. Almost any container with a wire-mesh screen bottom will serve as a sifter. The size of the mesh depends on the size of the specimens sought. For general purposes, screening with 2.5-3 meshes per centimeter is satisfactory. To use the sifter, place the material to be sifted into the container and shake it gently over a white pan or piece of white cloth. As the insects and mites fall onto the cloth, they may be collected with forceps, a brush, or an aspirator. A similar method is used chiefly to collect mites from foliage. Using a sifter of 20 mesh screen (about 8 per centimeter) with a funnel underneath that leads to a small vial, beat pieces of vegetation against the screen to dislodge the mites, which will fall through the screen and into the vial below.

Another type of sifter employs two hoops of heavy metal, each with a handle. A long (3-4 ft.) canvas bag is sewn to the top hoop. The bag is left open at the end and secured with a cord or twist-tie. About 1 foot down in the bag, the second hoop is sewn to the canvas and to this is attached a metal screen. Coarse debris is loaded into the top and sifted down to the end of the canvas bag. Sifted debris is then ready to be processed by one of the following separators or extractors.


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