Welcome to
Caterpillars Count!

Caterpillars Count!

Taking it to the Classroom

A major goal of the Caterpillars Count! project is to provide a structured way for students and other interested individuals to learn more about the caterpillars and other insects that play a crucial role in our ecosystem.

If you are considering setting up a monitoring site and having your students collect data, please check out our Educator Guide for helpful tips and considerations.

Regardless of whether you participate in data collection, check out the resources linked below for exploring concepts of ecosystems, insects, and global change with your students

Classroom Activities

A list of learning activities focused on concepts related to Caterpillars Count! (but mostly developed by other organizations) is available on the Resources page.

We hope that you will share with us any learning activities that you develop related to Caterpillars Count! We would be excited to share it here for others to find and use.

Side Projects

These are examples of activities that could be done in conjunction with regular Caterpillars Count! data collection to gain additional research experience. Be creative!

Survey Method Comparison

Beat sheets and visual surveys each have pros and cons with respect to the types of arthropods you will encounter. Try using both methods at each of your survey locations (but beat a branch adjacent to the one you just did a visual survey on) to see how the method used affects your impression of arthropod diversity! We tend to find more beetles and fewer flies on beat sheets, for example. See our published results on this comparison (and more) here.

Rearing Caterpillars

Try rearing caterpillars (but not from your survey branches!) by placing a small section of leaves on which the caterpillar is feeding into an enclosed container. A plastic container with holes punched in it, or with nylon stocking rubberbanded to the top, can work well. See what adult form emerges!

Frass Traps

Is the caterpillar phenology you observe at ground level representative of what's going on in the canopy? Collect and measure caterpillar frass (i.e. poop!) at your site as it falls from the canopy and compare to the caterpillar data you collect. Check out our sister project FrassFall!


Most of the caterpillars you find will become moths, so monitoring the moths directly makes for a great comparison. You can see what comes to your porch light, or buy special UV or mercury vapor lights set up near a white sheet to monitor the phenology and abundance of different species. We recommend following the "Mothing" protocols used by Discover Life.

Caterpillar Predators

Build clay caterpillars and fix them to branches. Record the frequency and nature of attacks based on beak and tooth impressions in the clay! See this learning activity by Wendy Leuenberger.

Predator Exclosure

Place garden netting around individual branches for several weeks in the summer. Compare arthropod density on those branches (after the netting is carefully removed) to density on unmanipulated branches. Does the exclusion of birds result in more bugs?

Monitor Bird Nests

What time of year are birds building nests near you? What time of year do you notice young birds? If you find a nest, record your observations through Project NestWatch. Watch the nest with binoculars. Keep track of how many times a parent visits to feed its chicks per 15 minutes. Can you make out what kinds of food is being brought? Installing a nest cam could be a fun side project!


Document as much biodiversity at your nature center, school, or yard as you can by conducting a BioBlitz. Use digital cameras, phones, or tablets to take photos of as many different organisms as you can, and upload those photos to iNaturalist. The iNaturalist BioBlitz guide can be found here.

What's Your Idea?

What research question would you like to ask? The possibilities are endless!