Waterbug census

Waterbugs let us know how healthy our water is, and you can too. By joining the Waterbug Census and monitoring your local macroinvertebrates, you’ll help us check the health of our rivers and creeks.

About macroinvertebrates

Macroinvertebrates are small animals without backbones that can be seen with the naked eye. A huge variety of macroinvertebrates live in our waterways, from dragonfly larvae (often called ‘mudeye’) to caddisfly larvae, diving beetles and waterboatman.

Because different macroinvertebrates have can withstand different levels of pollution, they are useful biological indicators for understanding waterway health.

Pollution sensitivity ​Macroinvertebrate examples Waterway type and location examples
​Very tolerant ​Snails, flatworms, leechs, mosquito larvae ​Highly disturbed streams, inner city, industrial areas
​Tolerant ​Freshwater shrimp, amphipod, dragonfly ​Disturbed streams, suburban streams
​Sensitive ​Caddisfly, mayfly, diving beetle  ​Streams with little disturbance, well vegetated streams in farmland or low density housing
​Very sensitive ​Stonefly nymphs, dobsonfly larvae ​Streams with good water quality and habitat, forested areas

Join the Waterbug Census

Waterbug monitoring takes place in autumn and spring at specific sites across Melbourne. To take part in the Waterbug Census, you’ll first attend training to refine your identification skills — contact us to find a session in your area and get involved.

The monitoring process is simple:

  1. Collect a sample of waterbugs from your local creek.
  2. Pour them into viewing trays and sort the different bugs.
  3. Identify each bug type and record it on your data sheet.

Data collection and use

Waterbug data is collected using the Agreed Level Taxonomy method, which ensures data quality and consistency across monitoring sites.

The information supports ongoing research and helps us track waterway health — as well contributing to national biodiversity records through the Atlas of Living Australia.

The census was featured on Channel 11’s science show, Scope. Follow one of our Waterwatch Coordinators to Darebin Creek and find out just how much life is lurking beneath the surface!

Waterbug Census on Scope TV - transcript

Colouring sheets

Bring our wonderful waterbugs to life! Our colouring sheets are a challenge for all ages - just like identifying real waterbugs.


Contact us

For more information on any of our activities or programs:

Last updated:
7 May 2018