Ramp traps: A simple design

Together with a group of undergraduate students, I am comparing the trapping efficiency of standard pitfall cups and ramp traps. Preliminary results suggest that the ramp traps perform quite well. They catch a similar diversity of insects and don’t trap as many non-target critters like lizards and salamanders. But, we are still sorting and identifying samples from the Hopland Bioblitz, where we ran the traps, so I don’t have the final word yet.



Trap components- Left to right, sheet metal flashing square; a pair of ramps; modified pipette tip box trap


The basic trap components are shown in the image above. The ramps are made from 5x7in sheet-metal flashing (on left) that you can buy at a hardware store in packs of 10. It would be cheaper to cut your own, but then you have to cut a lot of sheet metal, which is a hassle. For me, the precut pieces are worth it. Each ramp (in middle) has the sides bent up about 3/8in and a small tab cut and bent (image below) so that it fits and is held in the notch in the box. The box (on right) is a standard, empty pipette tip box with a notch cut out of each side. The lid is a handy, snap-on rain shield.


The sheet metal is slippery and so to make it rough and easy for insects to climb up, the inner surface of the ramp is painted with a mixture of metal priming paint and clean playground sand.

Assembled, the trap looks like the images above. When set up the field propylene glycol is put in the box. When you place the trap, be sure to push the ends of the ramps down into the dirt or leaf litter so that insects will walk right up the ramp and not go under it.

Building the traps takes more work than just going to the store and buying cups, but in the field, there is no digging, which means they can be set up quickly and easily. In the paper based on our study, we will explore in detail the pros and cons of each trap style, but it seems clear that ramp traps have a place in our standard insect collecting kit.

About Kip Will

I'm an insect systematist with expertise in carabid beetles, who is always happiest in the bush.
This entry was posted in Hopland, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Ramp traps: A simple design

  1. JKim says:

    That is very interesting set up indeed! I would love to see the result soon. I had troubles and found difficult to dig up a hole on a ground to bury pit fall traps time to time as ground isn’t away soft. It can be rock hard, and some things might be in the way… and this experiment is really intriguing.

  2. Mickie Tang says:

    Hello! I’m a restoration ecologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and I’m super interested in your ramp trap design and results. Would you mind if I built my own set of ramp traps using your design? My email address is mickietang@ucsb.edu. I would love to talk with you about your design and what I’d like to use it for.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s