The Butterfly Trap

by Johan J Ingles-Le Nobel
Last updated August 31, 2017


Butterflies are the most enchanting of creatures and are really better shot outside, sitting on stalks in their natural habitat. But there maybe a reason to catch them, and for this purpose a butterfly trap is what you'd want to use.

Butterfly Traps

Butterfly Trap

The classic tropical butterfly trap, usually baited with rotting fruit but there are a bunch of other lures you can try too. Easy to make, inexpensive and lasts for years.

Butterfly Traps are a relatively simple object which can quite easily be made at home as well. At their core they're a length of netting tube made into a vertical tube with a couple of coathangers, and a tray suspended underneath which has a bowl with a lure to attract the butterflies. They're easily made but there are a few points worth considering if you make your own:

  • Add a long zip down the length of the net for easy opening, otherwise you'll need three hands.
  • It's better to have a slightly heavier bottom tray so it doesn't sway too much in the wind.
  • A bottom tray that's 10cm wider than the tube make it nice and easy for them to have a platform to land and walk in.
  • Add a rainguard to keep them dry in the rain, cover the top 1/3.
  • Create a neck by tying a piece of string round the middle - this will help to stop them creeping out again.

Not Just Butterflies

I have one of these hanging in the woods baited with rotting fish, and I get all sorts of flies and beetles come in there, sometimes 100s of them during warm sunny days when the fish is especially pungent.

Watkins & Doncaster

Watkins & Doncaster, based in the UK, do a good butterfly trap with a zip down the side and cover, £40 at the time of writing. I have one, it's excellent.

Placing The Trap

Either place it at a place near a convenient butterfly feeding plant or if you're after canopy species, hang your butterfly trap high up in a tree by using a fishing weight to catapult a very long piece of string over a high branch, with the trap on the other end and hauling it to the top. Many butterflies also like warmth, sun and space, so at the edge of a forest, just outside, where the rays of the sun reach as long as possible is usually a good place as well.

Butterfly Traps Downloads

Butterfly traps in East Africa Butterfly traps in East Africa, Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society

Comments (3)

Article: The Butterfly Trap
Albert John says...
My sewing skills arn't the strongest so I'm not the guy to ask - maybe something like a velcro? Great that it's working for you Read more at
22nd November 2018 5:50am
Jon says...
Thanks for the info on the trash bag cover. I did manage to find some clear ones that may do the trick, but they are very wide so will have to figure some way of reducing diameter. If I put elastic around them, it will compress the trap too so welcome any more suggestions. The trap itself has been working wonderfully! I'm capturing some butterflies I haven't seen in years and I scored a fairly large moth too. I'm having two issues though: flies and hornets. I have zippers along the side, but the bugs tend to want to exit the top and not the side. I think I'm going to have to add two zippers to the top coming at one another from angles so that when both are unzipped, I can just fold back the material. Since this will take some doing, maybe you could suggest a better way? Thanks again!
I know what you mean about them wanting to escape from the top rather than the side - It's never been enough of an issue for me to warrant more zippers. My sewing skills arn't the strongest so I'm not the guy to ask - maybe something like a velcro? Great that it's working for you - have fun with it :)
1st September 2017 10:11am
Jon says...
Thanks for this information. To keep things ultra simple, I found a nylon netting "shelving system" with stacked circular shelves all joined together. All I had to do was cut out the shelf separations and there's already a ring at each place for support. The diameter and length are just about perfect. I do have a question though: Sounds simple, but I'm having a problem finding a plastic cover for the top 1/3rd to keep rain away. What would you recommend that's cheap and easily available? Thanks!
Simple black rubbish bags should be big enough to do the trick
29th August 2017 4:32am
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