Soapy-Water Flush

Bring the insects in your lawn to the surface.


Scientists who study insects sometimes use a “soapy-water flush” to bring insects to the surface. The soap irritates the insects’ exoskeletons, forcing them to crawl up from their homes to the tips of grass blades. With this activity, you can play with bubbles in your yard while discovering the diversity of hidden life around you.


  • 5 Gallons of water
  • Dish soap


1. Make soapy water
Fill a container with 1–2 gal (3.8–7.6 L) of water. Put 1–2 tbsp (15–30 mL) of liquid dish detergent into the water. Mix until soap suds appear.

2. Pour water onto grass
Slowly pour the soap mixture over approximately 1 sq yd (1 sqm) of healthy lawn. Insects are less likely to be recovered from heavily-damaged grass.

3. Observe and record
Watch closely for 5–10 mins as insects emerge. Use a magnifying glass to add to the fun. Note: If you don’t find insects the first time, pick a new area and try again.

How might these insects play a role in decomposing our underwear?

Sod Webworm, Bluegrass Weevil, Mole Cricket, Chinch Bug, Fall Armyworm

Touch/Click any image to enlarge

How many of these insects did your soap flush reveal?

Tally up all the insects you can see rising to the tips of the grass blades.

If you find any caterpillars, beetles, or bugs, give each of those their own set of tick marks. If you find the specific insects pictured here, give those their own set of tick marks.

How many insects did you find in all? What were the most and least common?

Where to next?

To The Beginning