Berlese Funnel

Discover and collect the arthropods in your soil.


Italian entomologist Antonio Berlese invented this insect-collecting device in 1905. It’s still used today to extract arthropods from soil samples. It uses a heat source (in this case a light bulb) to dry the sample, forcing the insects through a screen and into a jar of preserving fluid.* You can make your own Berlese funnel to explore and collect the arthropod life in different types of soil.


  • Empty 1 gallon plastic milk container
  • Empty specimen jar (or a 1 pt Mason jar)
  • 1/4″ Mesh aluminum window screen (15 x 15 cm)
  • Pair of scissors
  • Masking tape or duct tape
  • Rubbing alcohol*
  • Gooseneck lamp (optional)

*You can return the insects back to their habitat if you don’t use preserving fluid (rubbing alcohol).


1.Create Berlese funnel
Cut off the bottom of the milk jug and turn it upside down over the jar to make a funnel. The screen holds the soil back while allowing insects to crawl through. Cut and pinch numerous slits in the window screen so larger insects can pass through. Situate the screen at the bottom of the funnel.

2. Add soil
Use the soil samples you collected during underwear burial (Activity 1). Empty about half of the soil from one of your jars onto the screen. Be sure to note which depth you used.

3. Prepare jar
Pour alcohol (if you want to preserve the arthropods) into the jar to a depth of 1–2 cm. Leave the jar empty if you want to return them to the soil.

Carefully set the funnel on top of the jar.

4. Leave the funnel in a warm, quiet place where it won’t be disturbed
Set a lamp over the funnel to speed drying. Keep the lightbulb at least 10 cm away from the funnel. Record what you find after 9 days.

What arthropods did you find in your Berlese funnel activity? Soil Mites, White Grubs, Wireworms, Red Wigglers

Where in the soil are organisms most abundant and diverse? Compare life at the soil surface verses deeper below.

Where to next?

To The Beginning