Pitfall traps: A review of methods for estimating arthropod abundance

Wildlife Society Bulletin
By:  and 



Pitfall traps are commonly used in diet studies for insectivorous and omnivorous wildlife. Pitfall trap methodologies and designs vary tremendously among studies and investigators, and this variation and lack of standardization limits scientists’ abilities to compare their results to others. We conducted a literature review to identify the most common methods used by past investigators who placed pitfall traps for the purpose of quantifying indices of arthropod abundances, and we used this information to guide our proposal for standardized pitfall trapping methods. We documented the pitfall trap methods of 257 studies published between Jan 1994 and Mar 2016 in 107 scientific journals. Pitfall trap methods varied greatly across the time period we investigated. We found only minor differences in the pitfall trapping methods most commonly used in different vegetative communities (e.g., preservative use was less frequent for pitfall trap studies in grasslands). Studies published in wildlife journals tended to use pitfall traps of larger diameters than studies published in other disciplines, and they had worse rates of methodological reporting than those in entomology journals. We did not detect a decline in negligent reporting over time; >1 key methodological detail was missing from >50% of studies regardless of the decade published.
Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Pitfall traps: A review of methods for estimating arthropod abundance
Series title Wildlife Society Bulletin
DOI 10.1002/wsb.928
Volume 42
Issue 4
Year Published 2019
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) Coop Res Unit Seattle
Description 10 p.
First page 597
Last page 606
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