Waterbug Census

​Waterbugs let us know how healthy our water is, and you can, too. By monitoring waterbugs (macroinvertebrate) in your local rivers and creeks you’ll be helping us determine the health of our local waterways.​


Identify macroinvertebrates

A macroinvertebrate is an animal with no backbone that is large enough to see with the naked eye. For waterway health monitoring purposes, they are specifically animals that live in the water. The Waterbug Census trains citizen scientists to identify macroinvertebrates and monitor their local waterway.

Macroinvertebrate sensitivity

Macroinvertebrates are biological indicators. This means that they can help us to understand aquatic health.

There is a huge variety of macroinvertebrates living in our waterways, ranging from dragonfly larvae (often called ‘mudeye’) to caddisfly larvae, diving beetles and waterboatman. Different macroinvertebrates have different tolerance to pollution, indicating the health of the waterway:  

​Sensitivity to pollution ​Example macroinvertebrates Example waterway locations​
​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

 Learn more about macroinvertebrates

If you are interested in getting involved in the Waterbug Census, watch this short video to learn more about macroinvertebrates and see how monitoring is undertaken.

To get involved in monitoring in your local area, come along to a training session. These sessions help refine your identification skills and build your confidence to name that bug.

Contact us to find out about a training session in your local area.

Monitor macroinvertebrates

Macroinvertebrate monitoring occurs in autumn and spring at designated sites across Melbourne. 

Waterbug Census monitoring is a simple process that many people can get involved with:

  1. Collect a bug sample at your local creek.
  2. Pour macroinvertebrates into viewing trays and pick out all the different bugs present.
  3. Identify each different bug that is found and record it on the data sheet.

This data is collected using the Agreed Level Taxonomy (ALT) method to ensure data quality and to maintain consistency across sites.

Contact us to get involved in monitoring macroinvertebrates at your local waterway.

Waterbug Census on Scope

See the Waterbug Census on Channel 11’s science show Scope and learn more about waterbugs and what they can tell us about our waterways. Waterbugs are small animals such as insects, molluscs and crustaceans that are important indicators of aquatic health.  

How Waterbug Census information is used

The information collected through the Waterbug Census contributes to ongoing research and helps Melbourne Water to track the health of our waterways. This information can also be very useful to the community to help people to understand more about their local area.  
Waterbug Census information is also available to the Atlas of Living Australia, contributing to national biodiversity records.
Contact us for records from your local waterway.


​Contact us

For more information on any of our activities or programs:


Did you know?

Dragonfly nymphs suck water into their body and squirt it out their tail to propel themselves through the water.


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