A pitfall trap is a device used to trap insects that are active on the ground surface. Pitfall traps usually consist of a beaker that is buried so that the lip of the beaker is level with the ground surface. The trap is then left and the entomologist returns to it at a later date to inspect 'the catch'.
Insects reaching the lip of the beaker slip and fall in and are then unable to climb back out. Sometimes alcohol or another substance is poured in to the trap so that any insects falling in are killed. The thinking behind this is that predatory insects falling in to the trap will eat the rest of the catch.
Pitfall traps are often used as a passive sampling technique to assess biodiversity in an area.
A photograph of a pitfall trap.
Photograph by Mnolf licensed under Creative Commons.
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