How to Catch Small Bugs

Two Methods:Finding and Collecting Bugs By HandBuilding Simple Traps

Catching small bugs can seem like an exercise in futility. They are everywhere, but as soon as you try to focus on them they dart into impossible to reach corners or underground. Small bugs are everywhere, and if you know where to look and what basic traps to lay, you can grow your collection quickly.

Method 1
Finding and Collecting Bugs By Hand

  1. Image titled Eat an Insect or Arachnid Step 1
    Look under rocks and logs to uncover small insects of every kind. Bugs love dark, humid spots. Head to the nearest stream, or simply start turning over rotting logs, rocks, and other low-lying hiding spots. You can catch a large variety of insects this way as long as you're quick. In damp, loose soil, just dig 6-8" under the surface to reveal a plethora of insects.
    • A net or garden shovel will make it much easier to get multiple insects at once.
    • For delicate bugs, like mantises, consider using tweezers to keep them safe and intact while collecting.[1]
  2. Image titled Identify Woodworm Step 3
    Break apart rotting wood to search for termites and insect larva. The snug, relative protection of dead wood is a great place to go searching. While not necessary, gloves and long sleeves are generally recommended to protect your skin from splinters or nasty, moldy bits of wood. [2]
    • Always treat your environment with respect. Breaking apart insect habitats should only be done if you need the bugs for research or survival, not purely for fun.
  3. Image titled Catch Butterflies Step 2
    Snatch bugs out of the air with a net, though make sure you have the right one for the job. Flying insects are tough to capture -- unless you have a net. If you're trying to save the bugs (such as for a collection), make sure that you have a net with a thin, light mesh, protecting valuable parts like wings and antennae.
    • Sweep nets are solid, and are made for insects in bushes, trees, and long grass. You can use a pillowcase attached to a pole or branch to make your own.
    • Butterfly nets are much thinner, and are only for aerial insects. If you want to make your own, purchase some light mesh from your local craft store.[3]
  4. Image titled Make a Bow and Arrow Step 1
    Craft a stunning stick. If you don't have a net and aren't worried about keeping the insects in pristine condition, you can also use a stunning stick. Get a big stick with its large, leafy end still intact. Then, walking in tall grass, use the wide leaves and branches at the end to knock bugs out of the air, stunning them temporarily. Think of it as a large flyswatter. [4]
  5. Image titled Make a Herring Fish Net Step 14
    Use a net, or even a kitchen colander, to harvest insects from streams. Slowly moving or stagnant water is a treasure trove for small insects. Using some sort of strainer, skim the top 1-2" of the water to pull out all sorts of mayflies, water skimmers, and even dragonflies.
    • A net, especially one with a long reach, is almost always your best bet.
    • In a pinch, such as a survival setting, you can make a net with two poles and a shirt. Tie the shirt between the sticks and sweep it across the water. Once you have something, bring the sticks together to circle the "net" around your prey.[5]
  6. Image titled Save an Ant and Other Tiny Critters Step 9
    Catch ants with a simple stick and some patience. You'll want gloves for this, especially if you are unsure if the bugs bite. Simply jam a long stick into the mound and wait. As they panic at the intrusion, ants will climb up the stick in a frenzy. Once it is filled with as many as you want, pull the stick off and use your fingers to slide the ants into a bowl for safe keeping.
    • Bright red ants are usually the most dangerous, so collect with caution.[6]

Method 2
Building Simple Traps

  1. Image titled Tame Insects Step 2
    Use the right bait to get the right insects. The following traps can all be improved by using bait. Most bait is simple sugar and yeast in the form of rotting fruit, sugar water, corn syrup, or alcohol. While most traps will get a few insects without it, insect bait will significantly improve your collection.
    • Overripe fruit, fermented foods (like beer-soaked bread), peanut butter, and sugar will attract many insects.
    • Rotten meat will attract carrion like maggots and flies.
    • A mixture or fruit, rum or beer, and sugar will attract many nocturnal insects.
    • If you're serious about collecting insects, you can buy pheromones online or in major garden stores to attract males insects.[7]
  2. Image titled Catch Small Bugs Step 2
    Make a basic pitfall trap. Simple and effective. All you need is a plastic jar (like a peanut butter jar) or a soup can. Punch 4-5 holes in the bottom of your can. Dig up a hole the size of your can, then put the trap in so that the top of the can is even with ground level. Fill the trap with some dirt, leaves, and bait (optional), then wait for non-flying bugs to fall right in.[8]
  3. Image titled Get Rid of Roaches Step 15
    Make a funnel with an old plastic bottle to trap flying insects. A funnel trap requires little more than some scissors/knife and an old bottle. To make one, start with a soda bottle. While one liter is usually the easiest to work with, anything will do. Note, however, that this trap is not very effective in the rain. To make one:
    • Cut the top of the bottle off, starting just where it begins to taper in towards the cap.
    • Discard the cap, cutting off the small neck of the bottle.
    • Turn the tapered end (that you just cut off) upside down and place it in the bottle, forming a funnel. Adhere with tape if needed.
    • Place bait at the bottom of the trap and wait. Bugs fly into the funnel but use the walls to escape, making it impossible to leave again through the center hole.[9]
  4. 4
    Try a side-door type trap. This trap, though it seems simple, will capture a fair amount of insects, especially when used with bait. All it requires is a plastic bottle and a sharp knife:
    • Cut a small "U" in the side of the bottle, with the uncut side nearest to the cap.
    • Pull the flap upward, so that there is an opening in the bottle shielded by the "door."
    • Place bait in the bottom of the bottle and wait. Most insects cannot find the door to get out, especially if you use sticky bait like sugar water or corn syrup.
    • This trap is effective in the rain, as the door prevents water from getting in.[10]
  5. 5
    Make homemade sticky paper to catch flies and other small bugs. You can make your own flypaper with ease. Insects will be attracted to the sweet smell but unable to free themselves after landing. You can place the traps on the ground, though they are more effective when hung.
    • Take an old paper bag or piece of cardboard and lightly wipe the surface clean.
    • Mix equal parts sugar, water, and corn syrup on the stove until blended.
    • Cool the sugar mixture for a few minutes.
    • Spread the paste on the bag or cardboard to finish the trap.[11]
  6. 6
    Create a "beat sheet" to get lots of insects from bushes or small trees. The idea is simple -- you place a collection device (a pan, inverted umbrella, box, old sheet, etc.) under a tree or bush. Then you shake it. You can then collect the bugs that fall out with your hands or tweezers.[12]
    • This works best on smaller trees, or locations you know that there are a lot of small, flightless bugs.


  • Patience is a virtue. Try and leave any traps untouched for at least 24 hours for the best results.
  • Bug bait might include squashed berries or over-ripened fruits; bits of minced meat; sugar cubes, etc.
  • Leave trap's In a place where there are less people around.


  • Always handle unknown bugs with care, and with gloves. While very few bugs are extremely poisonous, it is best to be cautious when working with insects.

Things You'll Need

  • A small spade
  • A jar
  • Some bug bait
  • 4 small, same sized stones
  • A thin, square piece of wood
  • Gloves

Article Info

Categories: Bugs