What are good homemade insect traps?


I wish to put down some homemade insect traps in the backyard to see what kinda critters live back there. If possible I don’t want them to be killed in these traps. I’ve also heard about moth traps? I’d love to hear some methods and suggestions:)

PS: I have two dogs, please nothing toxic, thanks!

Edit 4/21/19 I set up a single trap by digging a hole, putting in a plastic red solo cup, baiting it with some apples, and partially covering it with leaves and sticks. Tomorrow I will update in my journal entry if it worked or not. I will also be trying different methods with different baits and locations. On a warm night I will try the sheet and light for moths. Finally, I may try some methods that mreith suggested. Wish me luck:)


One simple method would be to bury an empty can with a flat rock over it. Anything that normally hides under such things falls in. Just check frequently.


In Suburban Safari, the author talks about burying a small container, brim at ground level. She partially filled it with with rubbing alcohol to kill the critters and prevent escape, but it sounds like you don’t want to do that. You could try without the alcohol and see what remains in the morning. I’m going to try a yogurt container soon.

Another common method are sticky traps. You can buy sticky cards in the pest control section of hardware stores and lay them in various locations to see what kind of critters traffic there. Again, this will likely kill them even if you take the time to remove them after.

There are several good mothing tutorials online. A moth sheet is no more complicated than a thin sheet suspended and backlit with a lamp. There are guides to making a portable PVC frame if one wants to moth in different places, and suggestions for special lamps people think are effective, but this season I’m going to try draping one over a limb with normal lightbulb in the fold. Moths are not harmed in this process.

Bring a field glass or macro lens for magnification and post what you find! :)

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not a trap per se, but if you’re interested in seeing what critters are in your area I’d highly recommend setting up a black light in your yard. On a good night you might attract 100+ species with minimal work, just bring a camera and prepare to be surprised :)


I would recommend you lay down some flat pieces of plank or plywood in a dampish area on flat ground surrounded by weeds. Give it a week or two, or three or four, and you should get a bunch of woodlice, slugs, maybe some small snails, ground beetles, centipedes, spiders, and so on.

When you do finally lift the plank or plywood up by one side, be ready to capture the fast-moving things with vials so you can photograph them and ID them. The slow moving things will be a bit easier…

I realize this is not strictly an insect trap, but I thought you might be interested. This method is both easy and harmless.


putting fruit/flower/grain chunks on the ground can be surprisingly effective at night (though ants are likely to usurp the bait if it isn’t floral)


Moth sheets work really well in drawing in tons of insects (and often other Arthropods!). I use a UV flashlight I got off of Amazon paired with a normal spotlight and a cotton sheet (which is apparently the best for attracting insects).


Thanks Susan. I now have a new activity at HarborLab. Lots of planks there to lift up. I will not be surprised with what’s there, but will be thrilled.

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I would really like to try a moth sheet at some point, but I don’t have a black light or a battery right now. I found these instructions but I’m curious if anyone has other suggestions for what’s best to use.

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I made a very basic moth sheet last summer and found some interesting species, am definitely gonna try again this year. What are peoples opinions of MV lamps for mothing?


I’ve found lots of moths by turning on a porch light with a white wall behind it. Not as good as the moth sheet but almost.

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A year ago I made a journal post asking essentially the same question and got some good help from the iNat community:

My personal setup (which I have a picture of in the comments of that post) is designed to be portable and consists of a battery (can get for about 100% on amazon), a blacklight, a sheet and magnets,and using my car as a solid base to shield against wind. If you don’t need portability (ie you just plan on doing it at home), you can forgo much of this setup including the battery and just use a long extension cord from your home. I havn’t tried Damon’s setup but I know people who have and it is surprisingly effective. Another cheap solution is screwing a black light bulb into a back porch light. There’s many ways of going about it, I guess it really just depends on what kind of setup works best for your situation.


I was driving at night a few days ago, and it occurred to me that I could make some sort of catching net on the roof of my car, designed to funnel the moths into a chamber that is then protected from the buffeting airstream it came in on. I figured it would be illegal and/or require special engineering to do it…


and what awful location data when you don’t know where you caught them, haha


lol, +/- 1m from the windscreen of my car :)
dang good point!

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Colored dishes filled with water put in a sunny place will catch insects that search for flowers of certain colors.
Rotting and fermenting vine, beer and fruit mixtures can catch beetles (in a cup) and attract moth and beetles when painted on trees and observed at night.
Dung beetles can be trapped by placing fresh bait (the stuff they are named for) in the cap of a plastic bottle and fixing the cap with wire above the lower part of a cut in half plastic bottle. Butterflies and flies might visit this kind of bait too. But you need to hang a large mesh hood very low over the bait, to catch these butterflies and flies.
A similar trap can be made for beetles (and flies) that search for carion. This might require a dead mouse as bait.
Rotting fruit can attract butterflies during the day. Observe frequently, or hang a large mesh hood low over the bait to trap the butterflies.
Aromatic substances like vanilla can attract insects like orchid bees (success might depend on where you live).
A so called “bee hotel” can be homemade and will attract solitary bees and wasps as well their parasites. Observing the behavior of these insects can be highly interesting.
Honeybees and ants go crazy for sugar water. Depending on where you live, ants might also go crazy for protein or fat.
In late summer any kind of food might attract wasps.
Put pupae you find in containers to trap the hatching adults.
A inflatable pool with water can attract water beetles (as well as moskitos and dragonflies)… but water beetles and dragonflies sometimes also land on shiny surfaces that look like water.
Attracting male moth with a captive females is a moth breeders technique, but might also be helpful and interesting in other situations.
Commercial pheromone traps are not really homemade, but non the less interesting.

You will certainly enjoy the blacklights … but other observation methods will reveal other critters. So testing a range of traps might be fun.


I use a LepiLED moth light together with a bedsheet usually spanned between two trees. Works with a power bank, highly effective in dark nights.


Something on my to-do list is to place a small piece of glass on the ground and then cover with a piece of wood slightly larger than the glass. Then when you want to see what’s moved in, you’d just lift the wood. Might attract some interesting ground beetles and such. The advantage of the glass would be that you could see the animals and photograph them without instantly alerting them to danger. They will sense the light, of course, just not the big disruption of having roof separated from soil. Just a thought.

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Looking forward to seeing what you find under those planks, Ira!

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i was inspired by this talk of UV light setups. so i rigged up something of my own with stuff i had already. i started with my cheap tripod that has a hook on the bottom (like this, though at least 50% cheaper at a discount store: https://www.amazon.com/AmazonBasics-60-Inch-Lightweight-Tripod-Bag/dp/B005KP473Q), then dangled my UV flashlight (https://www.amazon.com/LIGHTFE-Blacklight-Flashlight-Fluorescent-Detector/dp/B07BC8L581) from the hook, then took an empty Lifeway kefir HDPE bottle (label removed) and attached it to the bottom of the tripod (a little masking tape added to the tripod to make it a little thicker to match the opening of the bottle) as a diffuser for the flashlight, and then draped a mesh laundry bag over the whole thing. (i might have to add some strategically placed holes in the bottle to allow for airflow. the flashlight was warm, though not hot, after i disassembled the setup.)

the end result was basically a glowing blue teepee. i set it up in a suburban backyard, and it seemed to attract lots of different tiny flies and plant bugs, plus a small beetle, a tiny wasp, a moth, a water boatman, and various other insects. i’ll have to try it out in a more wild place to see if i can attract more critters. i liked the teepee setup because i didn’t need to hang it from a tree, and i could take photos from 1 of 3 sides without disturbing the other 2 sides, but i don’t know if lifting it up a little higher might allow it to attract more critters…