SEES 2022: The Woes of Experimental Error

Guest blog: Gabrielle L.


In my trap experiment, I decided to test the attractiveness of different bait types to pregnant female mosquitos. I was interested to discover what conditions drew in mosquitos the most. 

Experimental Design: 

I constructed 4 mosquito traps using plastic tupperware containers and filled them each with about 400ml of tap water. I then introduced a different bait type into the water of each of the traps. The first trap contained fermented grass clippings (about two handfuls give or take). The second trap contained a cup of white sugar and two tablespoons of agave sweetener. The third trap contained 2 cups of white rice. And finally, the last trap contained one cup of dry cat food. I placed sticks in each of the traps as recommended, and set them up in shady regions of my AOI. 

*Note the fourth trap had already been setup 


After 4 weeks of monitoring, I was disappointed to find that none of my traps had caught any mosquitos. 


I was initially very confused on why my traps had not garnered any results. I had certainly suffered from no shortage of mosquito bites in my hometown, and I couldn't understand why my experiment had failed. 

It struck me a few days later while I was washing the dishes that the four traps I had set up in my AOI were all on or adjacent to golf courses. And although for this experiment I wanted mosquitos to show up, these private businesses certainly did not. Golf courses frequently use control methods to combat their high mosquito presence. These methods can range anywhere from eliminating potential habitats to chemical control. Through some online research, I discovered that the golf courses in my AOI used pyrethroid insecticides to control local mosquito populations. My traps were in impractical locations since human steps were already being taken to deter the mosquito presence. 

While my experiment was unsuccessful, as a scientist it provided a necessary lesson in accounting for factors that could potentially cause experimental errors and faulty data. 

​​​​​​​About the author: Gabrielle is a senior at Conard High School, West Hartford, Connecticut. This blog describes a mosquito trapping 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 (

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