Collecting organisms

Organisms can be collected using a variety of methods. These methods include:

  • sweep nets
  • pooters
  • pitfall traps

Sweep nets

Sweep nets are useful for collecting insects and other small animals from bushes, long grass and ponds.

High angle view of butterfly net on grass
Sweep nets are made from light weight material


A pooter is a small jar used for collecting insects. It has two tubes - one goes into your mouth so you can apply suction, and the other goes over the insect so that is sucked into the jar. A fine mesh over the end of the first tube stops you swallowing the insect.

Student collecting insects
A pooter is a safe way to collect insects for study

Pitfall traps

A pitfall trap is often used to get a sample of small invertebrates living on the ground, such as beetles, spiders and slugs.

It consists of a container, such as a yoghurt carton, buried in the ground. The top of the container is level with the soil surface, and it is covered by a piece of wood with a slight gap to allow insects to climb in. It is important to check the trap regularly to avoid the animals escaping or being eaten before they are counted.

Cross-section of a bug trap showing an insect at the top of a hole. The hole is covered by a board which is raised from the ground at an angle by stones either side of the hole.Pitfall trapping involves the placement of open containers in the ground