Where to Find Insects

Insects are the most geographically diverse animals on Earth. In fact, once you learn how to look, it will seem as if they are everywhere. With some searching, insects can be found in the living spaces of your house, under your house, in the walls of your house, and in the yard around your house. Insects can be found in the sky, and under the ground. They can be found in lakes, rivers, streams and fields. Insects can even be found in the polar ice caps! Once you have found the insects you are looking for, you will need to know how to catch them. Depending on the insect , there are certain tools and techniques to aid in their capture. Below is a list of a small fraction of places one might look in the hunt for insects

  1. Look under STONES AND BOARDS.
  2. Look under LOOSE BARK on logs.
  3. Tear up and examine SHELF FUNGI AND MUSHROOMS.
  4. Tear up ROTTEN WOOD and look for insects living in it.
  6. Prowl around at night with a FLASHLIGHT. Look around STREET LIGHTS and PORCH LIGHTS.
  7. Open the WINDOW and or screen.
  8. Visit WOOD PILES IN TIMBER in spring and summer.
  9. Shut up PLANT GALLS in tight containers and watch for emerging adults.
  10. Collect PUPAE, confine in containers and watch for emerging adults.
  11. Use your SWEEP NET night and day.
  12. Examine FLOWERS for hiding insects.
  13. DIG DEEP in the ground.
  15. Look through KITCHEN PANTRIES for grain-feeding insects.
  16. Look in CLOSETS OR BOXES for paper and woolen insect pests.
  17. Wherever trees shed SAP, look for bees, flies and other insects.
  18. When eating out of doors, leave a SANDWICH OR SODA ON A STUMP for invaders.
  19. Spread a large cloth or BEAT SHEET under a tree or shrub and beat the trunk.
*Produced by Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service, Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, OSU, in cooperation with the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food, and Forestry and the Oklahoma State Department of Education, 2002

Insects Under stones and boards

To catch insects under stones and and boards all you need is a killing jar and a pair of tweezers. You probably have to go no further than your back yard to find stones and boards lying around. After that you can try fields, paths, and wooded areas. Have your jar and tweezers ready, turn over the rock/board, and with your hand or tweezers catch what insects you can see. A large variety of insects can be collected this way including beetles, ants, termites, earwigs, roaches, firebrats, and crickets. Once you have collected the insects under a rock or board, be sure to put the rock/board back the way you found it. This is important as it provides shelter for many types of animals and should be disturbed as little as possible.

Loose bark on logs and trees

Loose bark on logs and trees can be home to a variety of insects such as Ambrosia Beetles, Bark Beetles, Darkling Beetles, Ground beetles, and sometimes moths and bees. Find a log or tree with loose bark, peal the bark back and see what you find. Collect what you find with tweezers and a killing jar.

Shelf fungus and mushrooms

Walk through wooded areas and look for old or fallen down trees. many of these trees will have shelf fungus growing on them. Break open and tear apart the shelf fungus or mushrooms and with your tweezers, collect the insect that you find. Pleasing Fungus Beetles, Saw-tooth Fungus Beetles, and Minute Fungus beetles can be collected this way.

Rotten Wood

Walk through densely wooded areas and find fallen trees and stumps that have been there long enough to rot. Use a small chisel to break away chunks of rotten wood. Tear apart the rotten wood and tear away at the logs to see what you find. Again, tweezers and a killing jar are the best tools to use for collecting in rotten wood. I have found Bess beetles, Darkling Beetles, Termites, Ants, and Roaches this way. This winter I even found 20 or 30 Metallic Sweat bees hibernating throughout the rotten wood.



Many different types of insects may be found in dried leaves, sticks, and debris lying on the ground in parks, by lakes, and in wooded areas. Collect a sample of the debris in a large trash bag or trash can. Spread your sample over a white sheet and with your killing jar and tweezers, see what you find. Another way to remove the insects from your sample is through the aid of a Burlese funnel or a Separator. Find more information on the Burlese funnel and the separator in the section on Insect Traps.

Night Lights

Many insects are attracted to lights at night. Because of this, porch lights and street lights are a great place to collect. The tools needed will be an aerial net, a killing jar, tweezers, and an aspirator (see page on Insect Traps). As it starts to get dark outside, turn on your porch light and see what turns up. For most of the insects you will just need a jar and some tweezers. If you are lucky enough to have Giant Silkworm Moths like the Polythenus Moth or Cecropia Moth, then the aerial net will com in handy. Very small insects like mosquitoes, gnats, and leafhoppers can be collected with an aspirator. There are also many types of light traps and night traps that can be used with great success (see page on Insect Traps).


The windows of your house might be a good place to find insects both dead and alive. Many types of flies, gnats, moths, beetles, bees, and wasps can be found inside the window sills. Many insects fly in, become trapped, and die. A jar and tweezers is all you will need.

Wood Piles

Visit wood piles at different times of the year. There you will find Ground Beetles, Bess Beetles, Earwigs, Crickets, Rove Beetles, Termites, and Ants. Be careful when disturbing wood piles and sticks as this can provide shelter for poisonous snakes. In fact, is is a good idea to have a first aid kit and snake bite kit handy when going on a bug hunt.

Plant galls

Many insects make plant galls to protect themselves during certain stages of development. Walk along any wooded path and examine the leaves for galls. Place the galls in a jar with mesh over the mouth and wait for something to emerge. You can find many different types of wasps, flies, sawflies, and moths this way. When they emerge transfer the jar straight to the freezer to kill them for your collection.


Whenever you go bug hunting, weather in a field, in the woods, or at the lake, always be prepared to collect live specimens such as cocoons, pupae, galls, and eggs. Put them in an insect cage, or a jar with air holes in the lid. When the adult insect emerges, you have a prefect specimen for your collection.


Sweep Net

A sweep net (see page on Insect Traps) is a good way to catch large quantities of common, and unusual insects. Simply sweep an area of grass weeds, brush or leaves and see what gets trapped in the net. I have caught katydids, bush crickets, robber flies, treehoppers, planthoppers, leafhoppers, leaf beetles and much more with this method.


Flowers attract a variety of insects that can be readily collected with a jar or sweep net. I have caught many different species of bees and wasps as well as an endless variety of beetles using this method. Visit the flower garden in your yard or wildflowers in a grassy field. Usually all you will need is a killing jar.

Deep in the Ground

Digging deep in the ground can turn up many insects too. For this you will need a shovel, some buckets, and a large trough of water. With your shovel, did down as much as 10 inches into the soil and place the dirt in the buckets for transport. Take your samples to a water trough and empty the dirt in the water. Live insect specimens will float to the top. This is a great way to collect Mole Crickets and other subterranean insects.

Streams, Rivers, and Lakes

A large variety of insects live on, in or around streams, rivers, and lakes. Dragonflies and damselflies fly search patterns over lakes and ponds and can be caught with an aerial net and some practice. Whirligig Beetles and Diving Beetles that live in the shallow water of lakes can be collected with an aquatic net. On the surface of small ponds and puddles you can find Water Spiders and Backswimmers. Water Bugs can be collected in streams and rivers with an aquatic net or an aquatic trap. Scoop water from a pond or lake and pour it along the shoreline. Catch what crawls out.

Kitchen Pantry

Sometimes insect pests invade the kitchen panty where cereals, flour and other grain products are stored. Flower Beetles and Grain Beetles can be found in boxes of cereal and bags of flour. The infestation becomes more obvious when milk is added to the cereal and the insects float to the top. Indian Meal Moths can be found flying around lights near the pantry.


Closets and Boxes

Silverfish and book lice can be found in books stored in boxes in closets. An aspirator is useful in collecting these small insects. Cloth Moths can also be found in closets where fabric is stored.

Tree Sap

Some insects are attracted to and feed on sap from trees. Look for bees, wasps, flies and other insects on the side of trees where sap is flowing. Place a board on top of a freshly cut stump and allow sap to gather. Look under the board from time to time to see what is feeding underneath.

Sandwich or Soda on a Stump

Place a sandwich or soda on a stump. The sandwich will attract Ants and Flies. The Soda will attract a variety of Ants, Bees, and Wasps. Use an aerial net and a jar to catch the Bees and Wasps.

Beat Sheet

Beating Sheets or Beating Umbrellas can be used to collect a large assortment of insects. The sheet or umbrella is held underneath foliage while the foliage is beaten with a stick. Collect the insects that fall onto the sheet.