Discovering the truth about true bugs

Nicole Gunter from CSIRO, Canberra, collecting beetles from the light sheet at night.

Bugs, beetles, moths, crickets, katydids and more have been attracted to the light of the night-trapping sheet at Fish River’s Bush Blitz - fluttering, crawling and hopping around the light, over the light sheet and all over us too!

The light sheet, set up just before dusk, is a very good collection method, especially in the tropics on a warm humid night. Insects descend in their thousands! During the day we have been collecting true bugs, including stink bugs, plant bugs, and assassin bugs, on plants and on the ground in the leaf litter.

The diversity of insects on a good light trapping night can be astounding. All kinds of different insects are attracted to the light from crickets, katydids, bugs, beetles, water bugs and beetles too, moths, wasps, earwigs and more!

Often missing out on a mention are the suitably named tiny lace bugs, found measuring no more than 2.5 mm on the flowers of a grevillea. Working with botanists from the Northern Territory Herbarium and Botanic Gardens we make very detailed collection records, including a sample of the host plants, to be identified later and placed in the herbarium collection for future reference.

When in flower, this plant species grevillea decurrens plays host to species of lace bug.

True bugs are distinguished by their folded forewings which overlap the upper surface of the body and in most cases are hardened at the front and membranous in the hind half. Their name ‘heteroptera’ is derived from the Greek meaning ‘different wings’.

Now our field work is over and it’s time to get back to the lab to have a look down the microscope at what we’ve found – more than likely some fascinating new species.

Celia Symonds, Cassis laboratory at the University of New South Wales

Bush Blitz is a biodiversity discovery program between the Australian Government, BHP Billiton and Earthwatch Australia which aims to document the plants and animals across Australia’s National Reserve System.

Fish River Station is a new addition to the National Reserve System, having been bought for conservation last year by the Indigenous Land Corporation, The Nature Conservancy and the Pew Environment Group with funding assistance from the Australian Government and support from Greening Australia.