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How to make a pitfall trap

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A trowel, a yogurt container, and a tray, you can discover what insects and invertebrates are crawling around your garden or local park. This insect-friendly pitfall trap demonstration by Natural History Museum ecologist Sam Thomas can jumpstart conversations in class or at home about biodiversity and the specific small creatures in your ecosystem.

pitfall trap diy
Start with these instructions, then keep reading for additional tips and related experiments.

1. Choose a location for your trap on flat ground near vegetation.

2. Use a trowel to dig a small hole.

3. Place a clean yoghurt pot in the hole. Fill in any empty space around the pot with soil. Make sure that the top of the pot is level with the ground, or you won’t catch anything.

4. Leave your trap overnight. If you prefer to leave it during the day, check it at least every few hours.

5. Empty the trap into a tray to see what creatures wandered in. Use ID guides (books, online resources or apps) to help you identify what kind of invertebrates they are.

6. Record your findings: make a note of what you caught, the date and location. You could also draw the creatures or take photographs.

7. Carefully release the creatures, returning them to a safe, sheltered place.

8. Return the area back to how you found it.

Previously from NHM: How to make a light trap.

Then watch these related videos: A simple way to tell insects apart: Look at their mouthparts, 1000s of Bugs, 100 Islands, 1 Happy Entomologist, Roly Polies Came From the Sea to Conquer the Earth, and Life in the soil revealed in claymation shorts by Maxwell Helmberger.

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