Marvellous Minibeasts

How many minibeasts can you capture in one pitfall trap overnight?

Published in
4 min readMay 26, 2020


What you need:

· An area of a garden you are allowed to dig in!

· Empty, clean plastic containers, such as yogurt pots

· A garden trowel (or a large, old spoon — don’t take the best cutlery!)

· Flat rocks, pieces of tile or wood

· Some small pebbles

· Bug bait — try small pieces of fruit (not the best bits!)

· Scrap white paper e.g. a used envelope

· Optional — a magnifying glass, or a camera phone

· Optional — books about bugs, or internet access

· Optional — art and craft materials


  • Always release any minibeasts that you capture close to where you found them
  • Some minibeasts can bite or sting, so tip them out carefully onto paper or the ground, not onto your hand or little brother!
  • Wash your hands well with soap and water after digging in soil
  • Be careful when digging — keep hands and feet out of the way!


1. Ask an adult where you can dig holes in the garden — be careful not to damage any plants (the middle of the lawn would not be a good choice!).

2. Try to choose different locations — for example under a hedge, next to a lawn or amongst some plants

3. Check the weather forecast — avoid any nights when very heavy rain is forecast.

4. Put a small piece of bait (the food) into the bottom of your yogurt pots (or other containers). You could use a piece of apple core, the top of a strawberry, half a grape, a mushy piece of banana — whatever you have.

5. Dig a hole using your trowel or spoon to the right size for your pot, so that the top edge is level with the ground.

6. Place the pot in the ground, and carefully fill any gap on the outside of the pot with soil.

7. Repeat with more pots in different places (or repeat on other days).

8. Place a flat stone or piece of wood over each pot– anything that won’t blow away and makes a roof.

9. Prop up the roof with smaller pebbles to leave a gap for crawling insects to get in, then leave your trap alone!

10. Check your traps as early as you can the next morning — lift off the lid carefully.

11. Tip out anything in the trap onto a piece of scrap white paper or envelope — some minibeasts are tiny!

12. Use a magnifying glass or mobile phone camera to zoom in and look closely at your captured minibeasts before letting them go again.

Two yogurt pots, with lids, buried in soil under a hedge and waiting for minibeasts to arrive!
A trap was carefully tipped out onto scrap paper — you can see the apple bait, a woodlouse and a bit of soil.
A trap in the ground, with a piece of strawberry and a very well disguised caterpillar — look more closely — it is not a stick!

The science:

  • You have made a “pitfall trap” with your yogurt pot! The scent of the bait attracts the “minibeasts” and they fall into the trap. The steep sides make it difficult to climb back out, but some may get in, eat the bait, and escape before you check again!
  • There are lots of ‘minibeasts’ — invertebrates such as: insects (beetles, ants etc); spiders; worms; caterpillars; snails and many more live in our gardens.
  • Different baits, trap locations and weather conditions should mean you catch different minibeasts, but there is also a lot of luck involved.
  • The minibeasts in your garden are important for lots of reasons. They are food for other animals, and some help to pollinate flowers.
Some minibeasts are tiny, which is why tipping your traps onto white paper helps you see them more easily.

Investigation Ideas:

· Investigate different baits! You could try different fruits or vegetables, or a tiny piece of raw meat may attract beetles. Make sure you wash your hands well though and throw away the bait after it has been left out.

· Different locations (places in the garden) may give you different minibeasts — which location is best?

· Identify all your trapped minibeasts — use books, or internet searches to try to name them. There are many different types!

· Make a minibeast with craft materials. Try to recreate a marvellous minibeast! You could draw and label one, or you could make one with things from your recycling materials and whatever else you have.

The challenge:

· How many minibeasts can you capture in one pitfall trap overnight? Post your pictures!



Editor for

World leader in #biomass #tech, the UK’s biggest #power station & biggest single #renewableenergy generator, Drax is Europe’s largest #decarbonisation project.