How to Count Bugs: A Method to Estimate the Most Probable Absolute Population Density and Its Statistical Bounds from a Single Trap Catch
Knowledge of insect population density is crucial for establishing management and conservation tactics and evaluating treatment efficacies. Here, we propose a simple and universal method for estimating the most probable absolute population density and its statistical bounds. The method is based on a novel relationship between experimentally measurable characteristics of insect trap systems and the probability to catch an insect located a given distance away from the trap. The generality of the proposed relationship is tested using 10 distinct trapping datasets collected for insects from 5 different orders and using major trapping methods, i.e., chemical-baited traps and light. For all datasets, the relationship faithfully (R = 0.91) describes the experiment. The proposed approach will take insect detection and monitoring to a new, rigorously quantitative level. It will improve conservation and management, while driving future basic and applied research in population and chemical ecology.