An insect light trap – an additional source of livefood for your birds.
by David Holmes, NSW
Today we have numerous types of live food available to feed our birds. Termites, Mealworms, Bush Fly Maggots and Flies and Crickets to name the more popular ones available. For some species even these insects may not fulfil their diverse nutritional requirements.
There is, however, another live food source that is freely available if you have the equipment. They are the numerous moths, beetles and bugs living in our own back yard. They come in numerous shapes and sizes and their diversity will generally provide nutrient value to numerous birds or all sizes.
The unit needed to catch them is rather simple and can be made by any handy man, even me!
Basically, the unit is a UV light, just like what is used in commercial Bug Catchers. The light is the attracter. Behind the light there is a domestic 300mm kitchen exhaust fan, and on the other side of the fan is a fabric bag with a slightly open weave to allow the air to pass through easily but small enough to hold even the smaller insects. As soon as the insect gets near the light the fan just sucks it into the bag. Those are the 3 main components but making it is a little more involved.
The fan and light are fitted to a melamine board approximately 400mmx 750mm and attached to the board is a base so it will stand on its own.
Towards the top a 300mm diameter hole is cut into the board and the fan is fitted. In front of the fan the UV lamp is fitted. I found the circular UV lamp produces better results. Three clips are needed to be fitted to support the lamp.
On the reverse side behind the fan is a waterproof box which is required to house the ballast and starter required to run the lamp. These parts are from a cannibalised 20-watt fluoro light fitting as well as a short extension lead fitted to get power to the terminal box.
You can also buy a light fitting that will take two screw in UV lamps plus UV lamps which are available from “Bunnings-type” outlets. This type of fitting doesn’t require a Ballast or Starter that a Fluro light requires. Just fit both lamps in front of the fan (as per picture below).
For convenience I have also fitted an electrical switch on the device which allows it to be switched off there as well as at the power point.
On the reverse side you will find the motor and support frame for the fan. Itis advisable to fit a metal skirt the same diameter as the fan and extending out approximately 100mm. This allows fitting of a muslin type bag to the collar which must be held in place by an elastic strap. Without a fixing strap the fan will blow the bag off!
You may think this is all a lot of work but once your trap is made you will get years of service out of it and many kilos of a diverse array of insects.
So, you have your unit made, now what? Obviously, it will only work in the dark so just before dark point the light toward some open space, turn it on and walk away. Next morning simply remove the bag and close the top tight before turning the fan off otherwise numerous insects will escape.
Once you have your catch how do you feed them out? After collecting the bag, the easiest way is to just go into your aviary and release the catch, but many will just escape up through the roof. A much better approach is to slow the insects down before providing to the birds. This is easily achieved by putting the bag into a refrigerator for a while and then release. The insect will take a couple of minutes to thaw out before being able to crawl or fly which gives the birds a better chance of catching them. Better still put the whole catch into the freezer for about 30 minutes and then tip into a tray in the aviary. In this case they do not recover and are eaten at leisure. The other advantage of freezing them is that they can be stored in an airtight container and fed out as required. Some nights you may only catch a few insects yet another night you could end up with half a large ice cream container full.
When fed out you will see that different bird species will go for particular types of insects and will also pick a size that they prefer.
In my experience most of my birds attack the trapped moths and other insects with gusto and they are certainly deriving huge behavioural enrichment and nutritional value from them. I have watched my Weavers take a large moth and eat all but the wings and other birds simply walk through the insects, picking and choosing what they want.
In conclusion I believe that providing natural and diverse livefood in this way is very much worth the effort and something anyone can do.