Where Have All the Christmas Beetles Gone?
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When I was young, Christmas Beetles seemed to be everywhere towards the end of the year. Later, when I worked in a beachside suburb of Melbourne, I would see them glistening on the edge of shop windows as I walked down the street. Where have they gone? I can’t help but wonder and I’m not the only one who's asking.
THE CHRISTMAS BEETLE COUNT PROJECT.
The University of Sydney is heading up the Christmas Beetle Count Project and they need your help. You see, they think the Christmas Beetle population in Australia is in decline, but they can’t be sure. They can’t know either which of the 35 species of Christmas Beetle is affected, or if they all are. This is where you come in, you the public, the citizen scientists.
HOW YOU CAN HELP.
The good folks at the University of Sydney and at Invertebrates Australia are calling on the public to help track the beetles. All you have to do when you see one is to take a photo and upload it to iNaturalist; it’s super easy to sign up. If you can, and the beetle stays still long enough, it would be terrific if you could get photos from the front and back and the top and bottom, because that all helps with identification. Even if the beetle you find is dead, knowing where it was found is still helpful.
HOW DO YOU KNOW IT IS A CHRISTMAS BEETLE?
The great thing about this project is you don’t have to know. Nobody expects you to be a beetle aficionado. iNaturalist has that covered. Once you’ve uploaded your photo, just click in the ‘Species Name’ box to unleash the iNaturalist algorithm to help with identification. Many of the Christmas Beetles are shiny or iridescent and can be many colours ranging from brown to green. Don’t worry if you get the ID wrong, the experts will sort that out later.
WHEN WILL YOU SEE CHRISTMAS BEETLES?
The Christmas Beetles start to turn up in November and might be seen on through December and into January.
WHERE WILL YOU FIND CHRISTMAS BEETLES?
Look for the beetles in the city, in the country and anywhere in-between. They are often about at night and are likely to be attracted to lights. They like to have a munch on gum leaves so you might find them on the eucalypt branches.
WHAT ON EARTH IS iNATURALIST?
iNaturalist is a biodiversity database that collects biodiversity sightings collected by citizen scientists all over the world which can then be used by scientists in studies that without your help would be unaffordable. iNaturalist can be accessed via their free app or on a computer, tablet or laptop. I’ve been putting photos of insects, spiders, birds and plants up there for a couple of years and have now recorded 177 different species in my local area. It’s a whole lot of fun.
HERE’S THE STUFF YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Where you are, where you travel, in the city, in the country and anywhere in-between.
In the Spring months and especially from November to January.
What you Need to Participate:
A camera—your phone will do—and internet access.
Website—Christmas Beetle Project: https://www.sydney.edu.au/science/our-research/research-areas/life-and-environmental-sciences/christmas-beetle-population-project.html
OTHER WAYS TO GET INTO CITIZEN SCIENCE.
If this has whet your appetite for citizen science, well, that’s brilliant! You’ll be surprised at how many opportunities there are and how easy it is to get involved.
is an ongoing project that has been run by the Australian National University since October 2019. It is aimed at collecting butterfly sightings from around Australia to fill the knowledge gap about these beautiful insects. Click Here
to find out more.
Frog ID Week
is a national citizen science project run by the Australian Museum every November which asks the public to record frog sounds on an app. Once you have the app, you can upload frog recordings at any time of the year. Click here
to find out more.
The Aussie Bird Count
run by Bird Life Australia is the country’s largest citizen science project. It runs in October each year and tens of thousands of Aussies take part. Click here
to find out more.
Australian Citizen Science Association Project Finder
is the place to go to find projects all over Australia. You will be astonished by the variety of study topics and locations. Click here
to find a project that inspires you and become a part of something exciting and important.
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