The Old White Sheet Trick: Light and Insect Behavior

Source Institutions

Source Institutions

Add to list Go to activity
Activity link broken? See if it's at the internet archive
In this outdoor, nighttime activity, learners gather around a brightly lit, white surface and study the behavior of nocturnal animals attracted to the light, particularly night fliers. Learners consider such questions as why attraction to light benefits certain animals, whether adding color to the light sources affects the animals' behavior, and how light could be used for pest control.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 4 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan


Materials List (per group of students)

  • old, white sheet, large sheet of white paper, or similar material
  • materials for hanging the sheet or paper (string, tape, tacks, rope, etc.)
  • light sources (electric lamp, flashlight, etc.)
  • junk box with pens, smelly substances, colored cellophane, tape, etc.
  • 2 sheets of Action Cards (pp. 5-6 of PDF)
  • copy of Action Cards for each pair of learners (pp. 5-6 of PDF)


  • Life Sciences
    • Diversity of Life
      • Animals
    • Human Senses and Perception
      • Smell
      • Vision
  • Physical Sciences
    • Vibration and Waves
      • Light and Optics
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Asking Questions
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data

Informal Categories

  • Animals
  • Nature and Environment
  • Outdoor Activity


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • be mobile

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



  • All rights reserved, The Regents of the University of California, 1981