Oct 16, 2013

Catching insects

Franke Scrub was a hive of activity last weekend, with approximately fifty people gathering there to study its insects.
Studying involves catching, and while there were undoubtedly plenty of insects left at the end of the day, samples of a huge variety of them were captured, to be sorted, counted, and further studied.
The activity was put together by the Friends of Franke Scrub, whose aim was to create a basic record of the insects to be found there. Besides giving us our first detailed information of what currently present, the insects were collected by scientific (therefore repeatable) techniques, enabling comparisons to be made in the future. Insects were trapped on the Scrub edges, under its canopy, and in and around the dam on the property next door.
Insect variety is a very good indicator of the overall health of an environment. We can hope that with future nurturing of Franke Scrub we might see improvements and increases in the variety of insects, because this would tell us that the ecology is in robust good health. There is also the possibility, of course, that future environmental stresses and will be reflected in our favourite patch of scrub by decline in the insect variety. Let’s hope not!
Community members joined in the activities, and were helped by Christine Lambkin, curator of insects at the Queensland Museum, to use six different methods of trapping. Another four methods were demonstrated by members of the Queensland Entomological Society, who were collecting for the purposes of their own studies, and several other methods were used by students from the Queensland University.
Collecting methods ranged from the simple use of dishes filled with water and detergent - four different colours of dish, to attract different kinds of insects - to the use of light sheets at night.
The afternoon was spend identifying (to order level), sorting and counting the insects caught by community members. The results were analysed for statistical richness and evenness, and results from two sites within the scrub were compared.
A few points of interest were:
Insects (such as mayflies) which occur in Franke Scrub as a result of the proximity of the dam were also found during the day’s activities. These demonstrate what an important contribution to Franke Scrub’s environment is made by the presence of permanent water.
A butterfly which we have not recorded before – the satin azure Ogyris amaryllis – was found. This adds to Franke Scrub’s list of the butterflies which breed on its mistletoes, demonstrating that Franke Scrub is making a contribution to a healthy local butterfly population.

Various insects which breed on our local native plant species were found. We live in a time of progressive clearance of the local vegetation, and the rate is stepping up with our growing population. Reserves like Franke Scrub are of ever-increasing importance as refuges for all the fauna which depend on the plants native to our part of Australia.

Oct 2, 2013

Backyard Explorer Workshop & Bug Catch

We are having a workshop and bug catch at Franke Scrub, Highfields on Saturday 12 October, from 9.30am till 5.30pm.
There is no cost.
BYO lunch and refreshments.
We commence at Franke Scrub and the adjoining property, from 9.30am to 12.30 then move to St Anne’s Church Hall, cnr Highfields and Kuhls Roads, Highfields from1.30 to approximately 5.30pm.
Those who wish to continue, will return to Franke Scrub in the evening.
 “Backyard Explorer” local attendees can include any community members interested in monitoring the environment using insects. This would include private individuals, members of local wildlife organisations, teachers, council representatives, property owners, etc
No specialist qualifications or knowledge are needed. Members of the public will be given some simple instructions on how to complete a biodiversity assessment by collecting insects using various scientific methods, and how to sort them into their orders.
This is an activity for adults, though older school students with a particular interest in insects will be considered, provided they are prepared to continue helping to sort the insect catch till 5.30pm.
“BugCatch” attendees will include members of the Entomological Society of Queensland, Students from the University of Queensland, and Representatives of DEHP.
NUMBERS ARE LIMITED. Register soon to be sure of a place
TO REGISTER Contact  toowoombaplants@gmail.com
The “Bug-Catch” program is a series of collecting trips run by the Entomological Society of Queensland, in conjunction with the Queensland Environmental Protection Agency, to compile lists of invertebrates in various areas of value. This one will assist the Friends of Franke Scrub with their project to record wildlife at the Scrub, as a benchmark for future monitoring of environmental changes and as an indicator of the insects found in our local natural environments.
The Backyard Explorer workshop run by the Queensland Museum will provide the Friends of Franke Scrub with baseline information on insects in the scrub, and skills for future monitoring of environmental changes.
Morning:  9.30 am. Sign on.
Malaise traps, pitfall traps, and coloured pans will be set up beforehand in two sites, and those and sweep netting and beating samples will be collected by Backyard Explorer participants during the morning. Sweep netting, beating, bark spraying, hand searching, flight intercept traps, and baited pitfall traps will also be used. BugCatch participants will continue to collect insects throughout the day.
Afternoon: 1.30pm. A Powerpoint talk will teach Backyard Explorer participants some interesting insect facts, including how to sort insects into their various orders. We will then work in pairs or small groups to sort the morning’s catch. Plenty of expert help will be available during the process, so there is no need to be concerned that the tasks will be beyond the scope of the interested amateur.
Evening: Light sheets for night flying insects set up at dusk.
Sensible clothing. Covered shoes or boots are essential. Consider sun safety and protection from insects, scratches, trips and falls. (Ticks are possible, mosquitoes are definite.)
You are responsible for all your own food and drink (except for free tea and coffee, to be provided by the Friends of Franke Scrub in the hall in the afternoon. Cold soft drinks will also be sold at the hall, and tap water is available). There is no drinkable water at Franke Scrub. There are takeaway venues (Macdonald's, Pizza, Subway etc.), bakery and supermarket at a nearby shopping centre, and various coffee shops and restaurants at Highfields (4 km away). 
Peacehaven Botanic Park at 56 Kuhls Road Highfields (between Franke Scrub and the hall) is close and good for BYO picnics for lunch and tea. It has a public barbecue. You might like to pack a folding chair or picnic rug, as there's limited seating at Peacehaven.
Peacehaven Botanic Park, Kuhl’s Road (2km away from Franke Scrub) and at the hall.