Hands-on Activity: Build Your Own Insect Trap
Educational Standards :
Pre-Req Knowledge (Return to Contents)
Students should have a basic knowledge of insects, for example, that insects fly, that they are present during certain times of the year, that they are attracted to certain foods, that some of them are beneficial to humans whereas others are harmful, and that that they can be trapped.
Learning Objectives (Return to Contents)
After this activity, students should be able to:
Note: While the insect is fictitious, determine in advance some of the characteristics of the imaginary insect. The insect has to fly during the day and be attracted to one or more specific colors and food items that you can purchase inexpensively. Modify the provided Materials List accordingly. For example: if you indicate that the insect is attracted to yellow, provide items such as yellow cups and yellow paper. If you indicate that the insect is attracted to the odor of coffee, provide coffee or coffee grounds.
Materials List (Return to Contents)
To share with the entire class:
Note: This list suggests materials suitable for attraction of an example flying insect that are inexpensive and easily available at grocery stores. However, since it is up to the teacher to specify the species of insect to trap, feel free to alter the necessary supplies and ingredients and answer students' questions accordingly. For example, if you need sugar instead of lentils as bait, then if a student asks what is the insect attracted to, you would answer, "sugar."
Introduction/Motivation (Return to Contents)
A new insect has been sighted in your neighborhood. It has two pairs of wings and is capable of flying great distances. Whether or not it consumes plants is unknown. This fact alone has homeowners and farmers concerned that it might be damaging their plants. Because very little is known about the biology of this insect, entomologists would like to catch as many as possible so that they can be studied.
Entomologists trap insects for many reasons; for instance, to study them and to learn more about them. They know that insects can easily be studied once they are captured in the traps. How do entomologists find the right trap to use for an insect about which they do not yet know a whole lot? Well, they learn as much as they can about the insect and then ask engineers to design an insect trap according to what they have discovered. Once entomologists trap insects and study them more, they learn how to improve the trap.
Engineers must consider several things when designing insect traps.The first step in the design process is to identify your audience or user community. Who is the audience for the insect trap? It might be an entomologist, or perhaps homeowners, farmers and ranchers who are worried about the insects damaging their plants, crops and trees, or biting their animals. This shows that designing an insect trap can have different goals and objectives. For example, scientists typically use traps so that they can study insects, while homeowners use traps to remove insects from their homes.
Next, you have to identify the problem. The problem has two parts, the problem statement and the design requirements. The problem statement for designing the insect trap might be, "How to catch the specific insects to be studied." What kind of design requirements do we have for the trap? Do we have any constraints? As a trap engineer, you probably have some limitations as far as materials and time. You would also think about how these constraints might affect the design of the trap.
Now we are ready to gather information about the insect species and brainstorm some different design ideas. We will choose our best idea and design a model, or prototype, of the trap to present to our audience. What do we already know about the insect? We have already been told that the insect has two pair of wings and is capable of flying great distances.
Many different types of insect traps are available on the market. Some use pheromone baits, which are scents that lure the insects to a trap. Other traps lure the insect with a food source. There are even traps that are simply attractive to insects because of their color.
The design of insect traps has the potential for wide variety since insects are so diverse that their responses vary. Researchers have found that for bee traps, the size matters, but only up to a point. For other insects, traps must be very large—a minimum size is needed for the traps to be even detected (show students the images of the very large Tabanidae trap in the Netherlands). To attract insects using odor stimuli, often the amount must be just right—if too much, they get confused and don't make it to the stimulus source at all.
Let's assume that your engineering team has been hired to design a trap to capture this new insect species that has moved into the area. Your job is to design a trap that will effectively capture this insect species alive so that it can be studied. To design a trap that will be effective in capturing the insect, you need some background information about the insect and where the trap must be located.
Now ask me some questions to learn more information that can help you design an insect trap that works. (See the Procedure and Assessment sections insect characteristics.)
Vocabulary/Definitions (Return to Contents)
Procedure (Return to Contents)
Before the Activity
Encourage students to ask you questions about the insect so they learn more information to help them build a trap that works. Provide answers based on the materials provided. This inquiry aspect is important. Example student questions:
With the Students
A. Brainstorm ideas
B. Plan/Design your trap.
C. Build the trap.
D. Communicate the trap design to the class.
Safety Issues (Return to Contents)
Troubleshooting Tips (Return to Contents)
Advise students to design the trap by making a drawing first. Then, they should get started on making the trap.
Make certain that the final dimensions are no larger than 12 in by 12 in. Engineers are often given space constraints when only so much room is available in which to implement a design.
The insect described in this activity is chosen by the teacher. Thus, if desired, the teacher can modify the description to match a more specific insect.
Investigating Questions (Return to Contents)
Assessment (Return to Contents)
Gathering Information: Engage students in a discussion about the known characteristics of the insect they are trying to trap.
Does the insect walk or fly? (Possible answer: It flies.)
Does the insect fly during the day or night? (Possible answer: It flies during the day.)
Is it attracted to any color? (Possible answer: It is attracted to yellow / red / white, or whatever materials color you have provided.)
Is it attracted to any scent? (Possible answer: It is attracted to the scent [odor] of beans / lentils [proteins] and Pepsi / soda. Or, whatever food cues the teacher has specified.)
How big is the insect? (Possible answer: It is similar in size to a yellow jacket wasp, about one-half inch long.)
Activity Embedded Assessment
Design Process: Have students follow the steps of the engineering design process: brainstorming ideas, creating designs, building prototypes, communicating, and testing and improving the insect traps. Also assess students on their ability to work in groups.
Trap Presentations: Have students present their traps to the class and draw attention to features that aid in insect attraction and retention. Use the following guide for evaluation of the trap.
Teacher Guide for Evaluation of Insect Trap Prototypes: While the insect for which the trap is being created is chosen by the teacher, the trap itself must be designed such that it meets certain specifications. Emphasize that the traps will be scored based on features that make it effective in accomplishing the objective, which is trapping of the insect, of which little is known. Give students the opportunity to be creative and figure out at least some of the critical Trap Specifications that are listed below. Others will come up during discussion as students present their traps. At the end of the class session, outline on the board with input from the students, the list of specifications that should match the list below.
Re-Engineering: Ask students how they could improve their insect traps and have them sketch or test their new ideas based on what they have learned.
Informal Discussion: Solicit, integrate and summarize student responses.
Activity Extensions (Return to Contents)
Place the traps outdoors and test to see how they hold up against the natural elements and whether they are successful in trapping any insects.
Have students plan out the entire process of inspecting the traps for insects, how to collect the data, what time of day would be best to check for any trapped insects, etc. Have them also draw up their ideas on the best ways to present the data (charts, graphs, photos, etc.).
Have students do a research project on a local insect to determine what it would be attracted to and design a possible trap that could be used to catch the insect.
As a research project, assign students to each investigate one example real-world insect trap, describing its design objectives and the features that make it successful.
Copyright© 2013 by Regents of the University of Colorado; original © 2007 Oregon State University
Supporting Program (Return to Contents)K-12 Rural Science Education Program, Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, Oregon State University
Acknowledgements (Return to Contents)
This digital content was developed by the Rural Science Education Program under National Science Foundation GK-12 grant no. DGE 0139372. However, these contents do not necessarily represent the policies of the National Science Foundation, and you should not assume endorsement by the federal government.