How to run a waterbug session with kids

A short video with images and footage detailing how to run a waterbug activity with student groups, including what equipment you will need.

18 December 2018
Audio described version

Narrator – N1 (Priya Crawford-Wilson)

[Melbourne Water logo]
[music] [on-screen text: How to run a waterbug session with kids]

>> N1: Waterbugs can be found in our rivers, creeks and wetlands. Learning to identify bugs is a great way for kids to engage in their local environment. Today, we’re going to teach you how to collect a waterbug sample and run a session with your students. Plus, all the equipment you’ll need.

[music] [transition screen]

>> N1: Waterbug investigations can be used to investigate ecosystem health, water quality and what you can do to protect your local environment. 

At Melbourne Water, we use waterbug data to contribute to ongoing research and for our waterways management, to protect these tiny creates.

Before we get started today, let’s explore what ‘macroinvertebrates’, or waterbugs, really are.

[music] [transition screen] [image of waterbug and drawing of eye, with on-screen text: Waterbug, Water Boatmen, Class Insecta, Order Hemiptera, Family Corixidae, no backbone, size up to 12mm, body is flattened top to bottom, fine lines on the wings]

>> N1: Waterbugs are small animals that live in the water, have no backbone, and are big enough to see with the naked eye. They are fascinating to study, and are a really important part of the food chain.
[food chain image, on-screen text: important part of the food chain, waterbug, frog, brown snake]

>> N1: Some waterbugs eat plant materials, and some are predators that will eat other waterbugs. Many are eaten by much bigger animals, like platypus, birds and fish.
[food chain image, on-screen text: important part of the food chain, waterbug, platypus, fish, bird]

>> N1: Waterbugs can help us to learn about how healthy the waterway is, because not all waterbugs can live in dirty or polluted water.

[music] [transition screen] [image with on-screen text: Freshwater snail, Physa acuta]

>> N1: For example, lots of fresh water snails, like the introduced species Physa acuta, can often be found living in waterways with degraded or poor water quality.

[music] [transition screen] [image with on-screen text: Caddisfly larvae]

>> N1: Others, like Caddisfly larvae, are sensitive to pollution, so they are often found where there is good water quality.

[music] [transition screen]

>> N1: They’re also fascinating to observe up close, with many species making cases out of plant materials or silk. If you see a crawling stick, you’ve probably found one.

[music] [transition screen]

>> N1: Now that you know more about them, let’s learn how you can collect and identify them.

[music] [transition screen] [on-screen text: Preparation]

>> N1: Firstly, we need to find a site to collect bugs. Wetlands are a great place to collect bugs, especially in places where there are lots of aquatic plants around the edges. Spring and Autumn are the best times to collect waterbugs. 
Look for a nice, safe site to sample from, or even a boardwalk with good access to the water. Make sure you always take someone out with you, so you’re never sampling alone.
Once you get to your site, always do a site safety assessment to make sure that it’s safe. And never sample in bad weather and avoid getting in the water.

[music] [transition screen] [on-screen text: fine mesh net, 5L or 10L bucket, white trays, ice cube trays, spoons, pipettes, magnifying glasses]

>> N1: To collect your waterbugs, you will need a fine mesh net, and about a five litre bucket. We are using a net similar to a swimming pool cleaner, but you can also use handheld nets, as long as they have fine mesh. 
For sorting bugs, you will need white trays, ice cube trays, spoons, pipettes, and magnifying glasses. 
To identify and record bugs, you can use Waterwatch identification charts, waterbug keys, and data sheets.

[music] [transition screen] [on-screen text: Sampling in the field]

>> N1: When collecting bugs on site, use your net to sweep through the water and aquatic plants. Make sure you sample all habitats present at your site.
Try to avoid getting too many leaves and twigs and algae in your sample, as it will make it difficult for you to see your bugs.
Once you’ve collected your sample, put it into a bucket with water from the site. Now you’re ready for the kids to identify the bugs we’ve caught.

[music] [transition screen] [on-screen text: Sorting and ID]

>> N1: Set up your trays and equipment, and divide your sample between the sorting trays.
Have your students look for as many different bugs as possible. They should put water in the ice cube trays, and then use spoons or pipettes to put different bugs in different sections of the tray.
Spend up to 20 minutes looking for bugs. Aim to get as many different animals as possible. 
Students should work together using the identification charts and keys to find their bugs and then record them on their data sheets.
Magnifying glasses can be used to look closely at the animals to help identify them.
At the end of your session, return your bugs to the waterway you collected them from.
Make sure you clean your equipment and wash your hands before returning to the classroom.
Back in the classroom, you can use your macroinvertebrate data to learn more about the bugs you collected and then health of your local waterway.
A healthy waterway will have a wide diversity and abundance of waterbugs. You may even want to track the changes that occur in your waterway, especially if there have been positive improvements, like tree planting in the area.
Getting involved in protecting Melbourne’s waterways and teaching others is a great way to contribute to the health of all of Melbourne’s waterways now and into the future.

[Melbourne Water logo] [On-screen text:]

>> N1: To learn more about waterbugs, and to access teaching guides, please visit the Melbourne Water website.