How to Make a Pitfall for Catching Insects

Have you wondered what beasties are crawling around your garden? Whether friend or foe is lurking among the vegetable patch or flowerbed, a pitfall trap can be a quick and easy way to find out what insects are enjoying your surrounds. This inexpensive task is a fun way for kids to learn more about gardening, scientific analysis and the outdoors, as it gives them the chance to look at what bugs or tiny beasties they've caught and identify them.


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    Dig a small hole in or near your garden. If you have noticed signs of tiny animal or insect activity in a certain place, that might be the best spot to place your pitfall.
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    Cover the sides of your cup or other container. Use cling film or vegetable oil to coat the container before setting it into the hole. This makes it slippery, so that the quarry cannot escape once trapped.
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    Camouflage the top of the small trap. Cover it with something like long blades of grass, leaves or very tiny twigs.
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    Check back the next morning. See what you've caught trying to sneak into your flowers or vegetables. After careful examination, set the beastie free to go about its business unharmed.
    • If you're curious of what you caught and have a digital camera handy, take a few snaps of the insect and upload them onto a forum for gardeners or bug collectors. Be sure to note specifically where and how you caught what you're showing them, and what kind of mayhem you suspect it of wreaking on your landscape. As always, be gracious and polite, especially if users are going out of their way to help figure out what kind of insect you've caught.


  • Kids love trapping bugs and getting to look up the creepy crawly they've caught. This project is a great science experiment, along with a way to get reluctant children to be more interested in the outdoors.


  • While it is best to set the insects or small beasties free again, if you have concerns about safety, call a professional exterminator for advice. Try your best to live in harmony where possible––teaching children that we can live alongside such creatures helps them to learn respect for other beings and to not fear their presence.
  • If your children are taking part in building the pitfall trap or helping to identify the trespassing pests, closely monitor them to ensure their safety against potentially dangerous quarry.
  • While this is a fun project for kids, remember to never let them use sharp digging instruments by themselves.

Things You'll Need

  • Small gardening trowel
  • One Styrofoam cup
  • Plastic wrap or vegetable oil

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