It’s been so dry and hot lately that the little trickling creek out the back of our house has gone silent and I can’t even remember the last time I heard the chorus for Great Barred frogs from my bedroom window. Although I miss those sounds tremendously, the lack of them did make me wonder if the creek had little puddles of water that were perfect for exploring waterbugs.
Waterbugs are aquatic macroinvertebrates. They are small animals that live in the water and are just big enough to see with the naked eye. Many water bugs are insects but they can also include worms, mollusks and crustaceans. I took a quick look down at the creek and saw some pockets of water that I knew held a lot of little creatures under submerged rocks and leaves. I couldn’t wait to show the girls and I invited our neighbours along too.
Here’s how to explore the freshwater creeks and ponds for macroinvertebrates.
What to take:
- fish nets
- white ice cube try and paint tray
- magnifying glass
- identification book
- pipette and spoon
- paint brush
- White container
How to find Waterbugs
There are a few ways you can catch waterbugs but first you’ll need to fill your containers with water from the pond. Try to collect it before your children start to dip their toes in the creek and muddy up the water.
Pick up stones
Pick up a stone or rock that’s submerged under the water, turn it over and use a paintbrush to gently brush the bugs into the containers of water.
We found snails, a small leech and a few species of aquatic worms this way.
Skim with nets
Use a fish net to catch water bugs by gently scraping through the water as close to the bottom of the creek as you can without collecting too much debris. Tip the contents of the fish net into a large white container and sift through the debris to find the macroinvertabrates. If you brush the leaf as you take them out, you’ll start to see lots of movement on the bottom of the container.
If the waterbugs are small and you want a closer inspection, you can use the pipette or spoon to pick them up and place them in their own section of the ice cube or paint tray. Take a closer look with a magnifying glass.
By sifting through the debris we found snails, worms, mosquito larvae and back-swimmers. We also found tadpoles too. This may not be a macroinvertabrate but the children were very excited to find some.
Explore the surrounds
Water bugs can be found around and on the water too. We found water striders, dragonflies, a fishing spider and unfortunately quite a few mosquitoes!
My girls are quite young so my only objective was to build on their knowledge and interest of the world around them. We had a brief look at a book that we borrowed from the library that identifies local waterbugs, The Waterbug Book (affiliate link) by John Gooderham and Edward Tsyrlin, but the girls weren’t that keen to know the species of the macroinvertebrates just yet. Nevertheless, I enjoyed looking through it’s pages. It’s a fantastic guide book.
In future I’d love to take some home in a mini aquarium so that we can learn more about the little creatures we found. It would be a great opportunity to understand how they play an important role in the biodiversity and health of the creek. I’d also use that opportunity to introduce life cycles and food webs to Miss Possum too.
Right now, while their young, I’m just happy to get their little toes in the creek exploring nature in our wonderful world.
Have your children explored creek puddles or a gently flowing stream lately?