Do Attractants Bias the Results of Malaise Trap Research?

(1) Western Center Academy, Hemet, California , (2) Mount San Jacinto College, San Jacinto, California , (3) University of California, Riverside, California

The study of biodiversity is crucial to the stability of the planet as it assists scientists with the knowledge and tools necessary to maintain a functional and sustainable environment. Previous research has utilized malaise traps to collect insects in order to study trends in biodiversity. However, malaise traps may have a potential for bias, depending on the type of attractant used, given that flies are attracted to rotting, fermented fruit. This study aims to test whether inadequate sampling occurs during the collection of flying insects. We hypothesized that attractants do bias the results of malaise trap research. The project was designed to test this hypothesis. We placed two identical traps in similar areas of the Southwestern Riverside County Multi-Species Reserve near Western Center Academy. All variables were maintained across these traps, except for the type of attractant used (independent variable). Traps were placed three feet apart, both parallel to the prevailing wind in a homogeneously vegetated field. After one week, we counted and identified the insects down to order manually under a microscope and their genomes were sequenced. This process was repeated the following week. The data from the two traps were compared to each other and to a concurrent Mount San Jacinto Junior College study to test our hypothesis. Based on analysis of our data, we found our hypothesis to be supported by the data and there was indeed a bias when using denatured alcohol.

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