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Discover a secret underwater bug world

Discover a secret underwater bug world

Saturday, February 27, 2016

One of my favourite places to visit with my own children is the local creek. Yes, there might be slippery rocks, dirty water, creepy crawlies, and maybe even snakes, but it is a playground like no other.

There are endless hours of fun and exploring to be had, not to mention the cooling swim once they have worked up a sweat. 

They can skim rocks and count the bounces, they can have boat races using seed pods, they can do some turtle spotting, they can make their own bridge or dam using rocks, or they can have a tadpole and crayfish hunt. 
Photo 1 – One of our favourite family past times is exploring the local creeks. 
This is my son at Stoney Creek, near Woodford.


But by far the most interesting activity for me and my children is to get the net out and collect some waterbugs (or aquatic macroinvertebrates as us science people call them) (see Photo 2).

Although these critters might be small, they pack a punch in the “interesting” stakes. It’s like a secret underwater world, of which most people have absolutely no idea!


Photo 2 – Collecting macroinvertebrates from Kobble Creek, near Dayboro QLD.

You need to look in all the right places to catch these little guys. There are many different underwater habitats in the creek, such as detritus (leaves and twigs), logs, aquatic plants, undercuts, overhanging vegetation, still water, running water, open water, under rocks, or in sand and mud. 

Each of these habitats provide the right home for certain waterbugs, and having a wide variety of habitats in the creek provides the opportunity for many different types of waterbugs to inhabit it.

This teaches children all about habitat diversity and why those aquatic plants might be crucial to the freshwater shrimp.

Or why the leaves and twigs might be important to the caddisfly larvae. Children also come to understand that these critters form the basis of the diet of many fish, turtles, amphibians and waterbirds.

So now they are learning about food chains and life cycles, right in front of their eyes.

The most common thing I get told during my workshops is “Excuse me Miss, there is nothing in my tray!”. To that I say “LOOK CLOSER!” Children and adults alike are amazed at the variety of insect life inhabiting our local waterways.

Whether it be a mite as small as a grain of sand or a 10cm long water scorpion, there is such a vast array of insects to discover. It takes a few minutes, but once you get a taste for it, you’ll be hooked.

I often get teachers so absorbed in picking bugs from their own tray that they don’t hear the cries of delight from the surrounding children!

So next time you are heading down to the creek, don’t forget to take your waterbug catching kit. This consists of a fish net, a magnifying glass, long tweezers and a white tray.

Have a good look around the creek and see how many habitats you can identify. In each of these habitats, stir up the bottom, grab your net and swish it around close to the bottom.

Fill your white tray with a few inches of clean creek water and empty your sample into it. Give it a few minutes, then see if you can see any movement. Pick up cobbles and look underneath them.

Is there anything moving under the rock? Look for a crayfish (See photo 3). Is there anything on the rock? Such as a mayfly nymph, black fly larvae or freshwater snail. Discover this secret underwater world with your children and foster a love for nature in all its variety of forms!



















Photo 3 – Freshwater crayfish, commonly found under rocks in waterways


If you are a teacher in South-East Queensland, we can bring the creek to your classroom (see Photo 4) with our very hands-on and educational workshop designed for kindergarten to primary school aged children! We tailor the workshop to the age of the children, incorporating different complexities for different ages and aligning the content to the Australian Curriculum in schools.

Due to the life cycles or many waterbugs our workshops run from March to the start of June and then again from September to the start of December.



Photo 4 – Waterbug Wonders Workshops bring the creek to your classroom with our interactive, hands-on and fun activities


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