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Four Easy Steps to Bagging Beetles with Bona Fide Bug Traps!

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Over the last two months, students at the Yew Chung International School of Beijing have had the opportunity to interact freely with the school’s Scientist-in-Residence Jacob Wickham, a decorated entomological scientist that wears a variety of professional hats in the US and China, from practicing chemical ecologist to adjunct professor to zoological journal editor to environmental consultant. During his tenure at our international school, Dr. Wickham has shared his passion for insects through both hands-on demonstrations and interactive experiments, some of which you can even conduct at home with your own children.

The easiest and least supply-intensive of these experiments is this Homemade Beetle Trap. Whether in your living in downtown Beijing or in your backyard back in your home country, this little experiment is easy to prepare with just a few household items.

Step 1: Gather Supplies

The foundation of any good science experiment are the supplies. For your beetle traps, you’ll need the following items:

  1. Box cutter and scissors (to be used with adult supervision only!)
  2. String
  3. Ziploc bag
  4. Spoon
  5. Hand sanitizer
  6. 2-liter soda bottle (or the biggest plastic bottle with a similar shape that you can find)

Step 2: Craft Your Trap

Once your supplies are assembled, you’re ready to craft your trap!

  1. With adult (parent or international school teacher!) supervision, use the scissors and box cutter to cut out a large section out of the side of the bottle, about half of its total circumference.
  2. Cut small notches in the remaining bottom section of the bottle through which to thread the string
  3. String the string through either notch and around the bottom of the bottle. You’ll be hanging the bottle from the trees outside using this string.
  4. Finally, pour a healthy helping of hand sanitizer into the cap side of the bottle. This will be the main attractor for all the bugs and beetles you’ll be catching!

The finished product should look something like the photo on the right.

Step 3: Hang It Up

Now that your trap is ready to go, it’s time to install it in a place where the local beetles will be able to find it. Find a nice wooded area to install it. While this can be a bit more challenging in an urban center like Beijing, even a small green area with trees will do; Yew Chung International School of Beijing students can take advantage of the nearby Honglingjin Park if their apartment complex is lacking this kind of space. Leave it up overnight and try to get some sleep while waiting for your trap to fill with insects!

Step 4: Collect Your Insects

The next morning, take a look at your insect trap and find what kind of insects you’ve collected. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t find massive many-legged creatures in your trap; the smaller insects can be just as interesting to study under a microscope! Use your spoon you’ve prepared to scoop up all insects with a little bit of the sanitizer and put them into the plastic Ziploc bag. You can put the insects under your microscope at home if you have one, or take them to school and show them to your teacher, who can help you to use your school’s microscope; if you do this, be sure to save them in the freezer if you’re not taking them to school right after you collect them.
Leave your trap out for a few more days to see if you can catch any more insects. Try changing locations or adding more hand sanitizer for different results. With dedicated trap checking, you’ll have a burgeoning insect collection in no time!

Learn more about YCIS Beijing’s China Culture Studies programme by visiting their website.

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Keywords: Beetle Trap Yew Chung International School

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