Hunting for Arthropods at Bradner

By Carey Thornton, Garden Educator

At a recent Skill Share, biologist and Bradner garden steward Virginia Emery brought her collecting equipment to show us how to catch and release some of the resident arthropods at Bradner – what exactly is an arthropod, you ask? The phylum Arthropoda includes millipedes, spiders, barnacles, lobsters and many other creatures. Crustaceans have so far proven elusive to track down at Bradner, but lucky for us, there are plenty of arthropods of a certain class that have made their home in the garden – insects!


Virginia specializes in ants and brought her collection of ants and other critters from around the world to get us warmed up for our garden safari. Veggie crew volunteers got an opportunity to practice using specialized entomology equipment like sweeping nets, tube aspirators and something called a Winkler extractor. Virginia even taught us the entomologists’ secret handshake (actually a safe and secure way of passing insects pinned for display) – shhh, don’t tell!

Secret Handshake

It was incredible to be able to separate tiny insects out of the mulch and soil and spend a good amount of time just watching them crawl. There was a lot of “hey what’s that?” and “look at this one!” to be heard around the picnic tables as our eyes adjusted to seeing such tiny creatures. We found entire communities of critters underneath logs and on the undersides of leaves – some are considered “beneficial” while others are known as pests. It was the perfect opportunity to talk about the role that some of these insects played in food gardens.

Are you interested in hunting for bugs or learning more about gardening and other related things? Join us for Bradner Skill Share – a learning opportunity embedded in every volunteer work party. Bradner’s volunteer veggie crew meets Tuesday evenings 5-8pm. Want to find out more? Email Carey at

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