Journal of Insect Conservation

, Volume 16, Issue 3, pp 345–354 | Cite as

Optimising coloured pan traps to survey flower visiting insects

  • Sven M. VrdoljakEmail author
  • Michael J. Samways


Colour is an important attractant for many flower-visiting insects (anthophiles). Consequently, coloured pan trapping is an efficient technique that can be easily and cost-effectively used to quantitatively sample assemblages of anthophiles. However, colour preferences of anthophiles is an important source of bias that needs to be considered in pan trap surveys. By drawing sub samples comprised of different colour combinations from a database of pan trap surveys in the lowlands of the Cape Floristic Region, we examine the effects of colour on pan trap catches and determine which combinations of colours might provide better estimates of diversity when sampling with multi-colour sets of pan traps. Pan trap catches included the major groups of anthophiles in the region (Coleoptera, Diptera and Hymenoptera), but butterflies (Lepidoptera) were strongly under-represented. Colour played an important role in determining the species richness and composition of pan trap catches, with colour sets that included high reflectance yellow and white generally having catches with the highest species richness. While all colour combinations provided reasonable estimates of proportional species richness, proportional abundance of taxa varied among different colour sets, and did not accurately reflect actual proportions of different taxa in the entire dataset. For comparative biodiversity surveys and assessments we recommend the use of high reflectance colours such as white and yellow traps, while for full inventory surveys, it may be necessary to include other colours to catch rarer species that are excluded by the high reflectance colours alone.


Insect pollinators Colour preference Invertebrate surveys Trap bias Insect diversity 



This project was funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research through the BIOTA Africa project, with additional funding from the National Research Foundation of South Africa, and Stellenbosch University. The work would not have been possible without kind permission of landowners and managers who allowed access to work on their land at Elandsberg Nature Reserve, Cordoba Wine Estate, Vergelegen Estate, Porcupine Hills, HottentotsHolland Nature Reserve and Helderberg Nature Reserve. Gayle Pedersen kindly assisted in the field with pan trap surveys.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOC 159 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Conservation Ecology and EntomologyStellenbosch UniversityMatielandSouth Africa

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