Once you receive your collecting kit, follow these guidelines to collect caddisflies and any relevant data, then mail the specimens back to us!

We will include instructions in your collecting kit, but this page serves as an extra reference and a preview of what we are asking you to complete at the site. You’ll need to bring all the supplies in your collecting kit, along with a shallow, flat-bottomed container, at least 1-ft long.

Coming soon: a video demonstrating the collection protocols

1. Choose a location

Whether you are collecting in an urban (i.e., city) or more natural (e.g., forested area) site, plan ahead to find a location in which you can safely set up the ultraviolet light trap near a riverbank at dusk and run it until at least 1 hour after dark. There is no need to enter the water; the trap only needs to be on the ground, near the water. Additionally, plan to arrive at the site with enough time before sundown to record locality and environmental data and set up the trap.

Confirm that insect collecting is not prohibited at your site by looking at online resources, such as this list of common regulations in the United States. In some states, such as Pennsylvania, a fishing license is needed to collect aquatic insects. National Forest areas in the U.S. allow for recreational insect collecting, but National Parks and State Parks typically require permits. In some locations, it is a good idea to ask authorities before collecting insects.

Once at the location, record the GPS coordinates on your data sheet. This can be done with smartphone apps (e.g., Google Maps) by dropping a pin at your location and viewing the associated coordinates. Make note of the date and any observations about the surroundings and weather (e.g., temperature, clear/cloudy/rainy, full moon/new moon, etc.). Photos of the site taken before dark will be welcomed!

2. Set up your trap

Find a spot near the riverbank to place your UV light trap. The ground should be relatively level, the spot should not be more than a few meters away from the river if possible (this may be more difficult in urban areas), and there should be a clear line of sight between the trap and the water.

Fill the tray with the preservative, then set the UV light strip atop the tray, with the length of the light strip perpendicular to the flow of the river.

3. Run the trap

Turn on the light! Wait until it has gotten relatively dark (dark enough that it would be difficult to read a newspaper without additional light), then plug the light strip into the battery source. Take note on the data sheet of the time the light was turned on.

Caddisflies should be attracted to the light, and dive into the preservative. Other insects, such as moths, mayflies, stoneflies, and beetles, may also be attracted to the light and fall into the trap. That’s ok!

Leave the light running for no more than an hour. If you cannot stay for a whole hour, that is ok, just note the time you turned off the light. Try to keep it running for at least 30 minutes, however.

4. Preserve the specimens

Pour the preservative + all the specimens back into the jars using the funnel provided in the collecting kit. Fill out collecting labels with the date, location, and the identity of the collectors (names of everyone/the group present and participating), and place one label into each jar. Close the jars securely, making sure no fluid can leak out. Make any additional notes about your experience on the data sheet!

5. Return the specimens + data

Pack up the specimen jars and the data sheet in the pre-paid and pre-addressed mailer. Fill out the return address label with your mailing address, in case the package gets lost.

Drop off the package at a post office, and send us an email to let us know your specimens are on the way! Please also send any photos you would like to share of the site or your collecting process!

Thank you so much for your participation!