SEES 2022: Sunlight, Color and Mosquito Traps!

Guest blog: Emily W.

For my experiment, I decided to test the effect of sunlight and different colored traps on number of mosquito larvae.

I started my experiment by gathering six white buckets. I then painted two of them red and two of them blue. I also covered each bucket with a sealant. 

After the buckets were prepared, I placed a white, red and blue bucket directly in the sunlight. The remaining three buckets were placed in the shade, under a tree. Then, I filled each bucket with 3 liters of water and 100 grams of weeds. A wooden stick was also placed in each bucket and used to stir the water and weeds together.

Week 2 Update:

A week after the traps were set up, I checked each trap to observe how many larvae were present. Since my buckets were pretty large and I had filled them with a lot of water, I though it might be a good idea to take a sample from each bucket. I tried scooping out 100 milliliters of water from each bucket and placing it into a bowl, where I could count the larvae. However, I later found that as I was reaching into the bucket to scoop out the water, the mosquito larvae near the surface would move to the bottom of the bucket with the weeds. I felt like this was ultimately not the best way to check the traps for mosquito larvae. 

Although, through this process, I did get a photograph of another insect's larva. Due to my phone's model, I was unable to use the microscope to photograph the larva that I found. However, I was able to zoom in pretty close to with my phone's camera. 

I ended up deciding to visually observe the number of larvae in each bucket. For the buckets in the sunlight, I observed 3 larvae in my sample from the white bucket, 1 larva from the red bucket and 0 larva from the blue bucket. 

For the bucket in the shade, I observed 4 larvae in my sample from the white bucket, 2 larvae from the red bucket and 1 larva from the blue bucket.

Although my experiment has just begun, I am excited to continue checking my traps and updating this blog!

Week 3 Update:

When I checked my traps this week, I noticed that there were significantly more mosquito larvae than I saw last time! 

Even though it was a bit difficult, I was able to get a couple of larvae out of the trap and into a bowl to examine them closer.

However, as I observed my traps, I noticed that there was a pretty big issue. The paint that I had initially applied to my buckets had started peeling off at the bottom of several of my traps. This presented a major issue, since the color variable of the experiment would no longer be consistent across both groups.

Thus, I decided that it would be best to create new traps that were already different colors. I wanted to avoid painting, since it had been shown to peel off. I also wanted my traps this time to be smaller in size, since I previously struggled to properly count the number of larvae in each trap.

I was unable to find cups in the exact colors of my previous traps, but I decided that it would be best to pivot the experiment in this new direction given the problems that I faced after two weeks.

These setbacks definitely showed me that problem solving is a big part of science and experimentation! I am hoping that with these new traps, I will be able to gather more precise and accurate data within the coming weeks!

Week 4 Update:

This week, I continued to check my traps frequently. Since my new traps were smaller in size, I had to make sure that the water in the cups did not evaporate. When I checked the cups on Monday, I noticed that there were not any mosquito larvae present in the traps located in the sun.

There was also not any mosquito larvae present in the traps located in the shade.

However, I did notice that there was a film on the top of the water in each trap. I think it may be from the weeds I placed in the trap, but I will continue to observe the film in the coming weeks.

Week 5 Update:

When I checked my traps this week, they looked similar to when I had last seen them. Since Week 4, there has been a thunderstorm with severe rainfall in my area. I believe that this affected the traps and potential mosquito larvae in them. There were no mosquito larvae found in the traps located in the sun.

I initially thought that the traps in the shade also did not have any mosquito larvae located in them. However, I was able to count one larva in the pink trap located in the shade. The other traps did not have any mosquito larvae.

After many attempts, I was able to remove the larva and photograph it. Although the picture is not clear, I believe the larva to be of the Culex species. 

I am interested in observing the traps in the weeks to come and hopeful that I will be able to find more mosquito larvae!


​​​​​​​About the author: Emily is a student at Clear Creek High School, League City, TX. This blog describes a mosquito Emily Wangtrapping experiment conducted as part of the NASA STEM Enhancement in the Earth Sciences (SEES) summer high school research internship. Her virtual internship is part of a collaboration between the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) and the NASA  Texas Space Grant Consortium (TSGC) to extend the TSGC Summer Enhancement in Earth Science (SEES) internship for US high school ( Emily shares her experience in this blog post.

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