Tips for finding more beetles and caterpillars

I always see interesting posts of Beetles and Caterpillars in my area, and independent of how much time I may spend doing mini Bio Blitzes actively looking for different species, or just spending time outside, it seems like I never see Beetles or Caterpillars.
People regular post observations of both in my area, in similar places where I spend time, but again, I always seem to miss them.
Maybe Im not looking in the right places?
Would appreciate any tips to finding more beetles and caterpillas.

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I often find larva by uncurling curled up leaves or looking under bark.

Beetles can be found everywhere, look under leafes, in each small corner they can fit in (bark, stones, house base), if they feed on plants check those plant species. Both beetles and caterpillars can be more easily found at night.

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Try using a beat sheet. Put a light colored sheet, or shallow container under the plant (bushes and low vegetation) or hold it up near the tree canopy. Then beat or shake the plant, and see what falls out. There are often many arthropods in the vegetation that we don’t see, even if you are looking closely, but they can be easily found by beating the vegetation.

A beat sheet is usually made with heavy duty cloth, like white canvas, stretched over a wooden frame, with 2 diagonal pieces crossing through the center for support. You can also try a cheap canvas frame, or a wide variety of storage containers. You just want something light colored (so you can see the insects more easily), sturdy, and with a fairly large surface area, but small enough you can still comfortably hold it.


Great idea.
Thank you very much.

Hi @beetle_mch
For the simple purpose of observation (zero intent of collection or studying), would it be a good idea to use any traps or bait that I can set and return later without causing any damage to the habitat or insects?
I was doing research on different commonly used insect collection methods and it seems like bait is a common option, but more for people with scientific/research intentions, which is not my case.
I will 100% try the beat sheet, but Im wondering if there are any good baits or traps I could also use in tandem without causing damage to any plants or animals.

The best “bait” for caterpillars is a patch of their host plants. The target here is egg-laying females, of course. Very few caterpillars wander and it’s mostly female choice where to lay her eggs that determines where they spend most of their larval time. A patch of host plants will give off more of the scent signals the females are searching for than an isolated plant.

Once you have identified likely host plants, I find the best ways to find the caterpillars on them is to look for feeding damage and frass (droppings) on the plants. Caterpillars need to eat a lot and create tell-tale holes and markings on the leaves they chew on. Some have special modes of feeding - e.g. larger monarch caterpillars will often chew the petiole until the leaf droops down, so looking for those drooping leaves in a patch of milkweed can help with finding them.

Caterpillars are also themselves food for a lot of predators, so they tend to either camouflage or hide themselves really well. Many of them will be out of sight on the underside of leaves, and inside curled-up leaves was already mentioned as another strategy. However, they do need to poop a lot with all the eating they do and they are piggy little worms that just ooze their droppings all over the place. If you see caterpillar frass on leaves or the ground, check the underside of the leaves above the spot. I have found quite a few caterpillars by searching around on the plant after finding their droppings first.

Similarly, beetles may be attracted to particular food plants. The Japanese beetles in my yard for example always seem to congregate in large groups on evening primrose to mate and defoliate the plants while they’re there. Not always is the plant the food - I can usually find all life cycle stages of lady beetles by looking for aphids/ants on plants around the yard.

Some will emerge just for a short time of the year, so knowing when and where to look for them can pay off. There are some big beetles around my yard that seems to only fly during about two weeks in the summer and only in the areas with taller grasses. These seem to be active during late morning to early afternoon, while others fly in the evening or at night. I find leaving my porch light on during late spring and early summer evenings will attract a lot of beetles, especially the large June bugs.


My experience with traps and bait has pretty much been lethal for the insects, and has been for scientific sampling. The best baits are usually related to what the insect eats, or use insect pheromones. The problem with both of these, is that the insect won’t stick around at an empty station, so your chances of observing that insect would still be pretty small, unless you are using a lethal trap (like sticky stuff, or soapy water).

As annkatrinrose has already described, the best nonlethal methods involve creating a habitat attractive to the insect you are looking for. For both beetles and butterflies, native plants that are a good source of nectar will attract a large variety. For caterpillars, getting the right host plant is important.

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What about regular ground traps? If you check them often enough they would still be alive there?

Just a dry pitfall trap? That’s a good idea, that will probably turn up some beetles. Slugs, ants, worms and pill bugs can overwhelm the more interesting things. Some things will get trapped, some things will easily get out again, and some things will get eaten by other things in there. I would check it daily. Try doing a cup inside a cup, so you have one cup to hold the shape of the pit, and one cup you can pull out easily to see what has been trapped. Place the cup in the ground so the rim is level with the soil around it. It is often wise to place a board over the cup, with a few small rocks to hold it just above ground level, and a large rock on top to hold it in place. That will help keep out lizards and other vertebrates. If the trap is someplace where it will be impacted by rain or irrigation, punch some drain holes in the cups. If it fills with water regularly, you are likely to end up with a bunch of decomposing slugs. Try placing it where there is a lot of varied vegetation.


Thanks @fffffffff @beetle_mch
Im happy with these tips
Ill give it a shot in these days and update you both
Thanks again

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