Take a garden insect census to see if you have a good range of bugs and beetles in your backyard.

To take a census you need to trap and then count the bugs and beetles, but don’t do this too much as they don’t like being disturbed.

1. Follow the rules for bugs and crawlies

  • Handle them carefully.
  • Look, identify, count and record.
  • Return them to where you found them. (This is tricky because you will be using traps. You will have to make a studied guess because they will walk from somewhere to get to your trap!)

2. Make a trap for your bugs and crawlies

Mighty trap 1 – the potato trap

  • Get a big potato and cut it in half.
  • Scoop out some of the insides with a spoon to make a room.
  • Close the potato and make an entry hole to the room inside.
  • Place your potato trap half buried in the soil and leave it for three days.

The even mightier trap 2 – the pitfall trap

Diagram of a pitfall trap.
Create a pitfall trap like this one

These traps are so mighty you need to check them every few hours. You could set a few traps in different parts of your backyard but draw a plan of where you placed them so you can remember.

  • All you need is an empty plastic bottle.
  • Put holes in the bottom of the plastic bottle to let water out.
  • Cut off the top of the bottle and turn it upside down inside the bottom of the bottle as the picture shows.
  • Place a stick inside the bottle to let the critters out when you are not using the trap.

3. Identify, count and record your bugs and crawlies for the census

To look at your invertebrate you need:

  • A magnifying glass or hand lens.
  • A white ice-cream container so you can see the bug or beetle against a white background. 

You can move your critters by:

  • Picking them up gently in your hand.
  • Using a paintbrush.

To record your invertebrates you should write down the date, the trap number, the types of beasts you’ve found and how many you’ve found of each type.

Do another census in a few weeks. Do it at the same time of day and in the same conditions as your first census. Compare the numbers with your first census and see if your insect and bug population is growing.

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