Family activity: how to make a pitfall trap to collect mini-beasts

Claire shows us how to catch marvellous mini-beasts in your garden to get a closer look

Would you like to know what lives at the bottom of your garden? There are probably all sorts of little creatures moving around on the ground that you have never noticed!

A pitfall trap is a pit below ground level for catching small animals like insects, amphibians and reptiles (if you’re lucky, and use a big enough pot!). The animals that enter the trap are unable to get out because the sides are too steep, meaning that you can get a look at them! The traps are harmless as long as you remember to check them the next day and release the creatures.

Pitfall trap equipment

You will need

  • An area of soil in your garden at ground level
  • A jar, yoghurt pot or deep sided butter tub (if your garden has reptiles or amphibians, you may want to choose a bigger tub like a seaside bucket)
  • A trowel
  • Some stones (enough to surround the rim of your tub)
  • A flat piece of wood to cover your tub
  • Some leaves
  • A spoon
  • A magnifying glass and a mini-beast ID sheet (and maybe extra pots or a tray for looking at your creatures in more detail)
Bury your jam jar

Step 1

Find a spot in your garden (a shady spot is best so that creatures that enter your pit don’t overheat in the sun). Using your trowel, dig a hole big enough to drop your pot in, so that the rim is at ground level.

Put stones around the rim

Step 2

In the base of the pot, place a few leaves as hiding places, low down, so your creatures do not crawl up and out of the pot. Then put some stones around the rim.

Place a piece of wood on top

Step 3

Place a piece of wood on top to keep the rain out.

Leave overnight

Step 4

Leave the trap overnight!

See what's inside!

Step 5

Check the trap early the next day and see what has come along. You can use your ID guide and magnifying glass, if you have one. Use your spoon to gently collect the creatures and put them in another pot for a closer look.

Remember, after you have finished, release your creatures onto the patch where you found them so that they can go and find food and water.

Minibeast detective spotter sheet
Beetle detective

We'd love to see a photo of your minibeast trap! What did you find?

Share a photo with us on Facebook!

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