Updated: Apr 27, 2020
If you step outside on a warm, spring evening, you will probably find yourself accompanied by more than a few nocturnal insects.
Entomologists (insect scientists) like to take advantage of the abundance of evening insects for their studies. They use what is called a “light trap,” but is really just a white sheet in front of a bright light.
Because this weekend is the 2020 City Nature Challenge, I thought it was the right time to test out this method for myself. I highly recommend that you give it a try!
Here's what you need:
1. a light colored sheet, blanket, or tablecloth
2. a sturdy place where you can hang this sheet
3. a bright, outdoor light that you can shine on it
After an hour of waiting, I already had 8 different species to add to the iNaturalist app and contribute to the City Nature Challenge. It's a great way to have the critters come to you, and you don't even have to leave your yard. Urban, suburban, rural- wherever you live, there is certain to be a wide variety of insects who will accept your spotlight invitation.
I can't claim to have any experience in identifying insects, but the good news is that I was able to upload the pictures to iNaturalist, where there are researchers and experts in Entomology who can clarify and correct my vague descriptions. It's a good reminder that, despite physical distance, science is still all about collaboration! To paraphrase the great Sir Isaac Newton, we stand on the shoulders of giants.