Urban Wildlife App: Beneficial Insects

Insects are interesting, valuable and aesthetically pleasing components of urban biodiversity. Through their capacity to pollinate flowers, transform biomass, regulate pest populations, recycle nutrients, disperse seeds, and provide food for humans and other animals, insects are arguably planet Earth’s most important contributors of biodiversity delivered ecosystem services. We would like to understand the plant and habitat resources that enable beneficial insects to survive and thrive in urban environments so that we can ensure urban spaces are healthy and liveable places for both people and beneficial insects.

The CAUL Urban Wildlife app lets you help to monitor and conserve native wildlife in Australian cities. You can record sightings of beneficial insects, including bees, butterflies, beetles, bugs and other important insect groups. The app also allows you to view all of your previous records in a map.

Australian cities are built in areas with high biodiversity, and the construction and expansion of urban areas can lead to a loss of native species and ecological communities. Conserving these into the future means finding better ways for humans to share the urban habitat with other species. In order to do this, we need more information on where certain animals such as beneficial insects are found and with which plant species they are interacting. The data you record about plant-insects interactions will help us to better understand how we can manage beneficial insects so that their populations can persist and co-exist with humans.

How you can help

  1. Download the CAUL Urban Wildlife app. Available on Google Play or Apple Store
  2. Start recording opportunistic plant-insect interactions in your area using the ‘Observe’ module of the ‘Beneficial Insects’ app. No training required. OR
  3. Start recording research-oriented plant-insect interactions in your area using the timed ‘Survey’ module of the ‘Beneficial Insects’ app. You will need to first become a certified ‘Beneficial Insects’ citizen scientists by completing a training module. Information about the training module can be found here. The timed surveys will provide us with key information on the presence and absence of our targeted insect species, and on the structure of urban plant-insect ecological networks.

Why are we collecting this data?

We are trying to ensure that the ecological interactions linking plants and beneficial insects are sustained in urban environments, and that plant and insect populations and communities can persist and co-exist with people. We are also interested in understanding how non-native insect species such as European honeybees, African carderbees and large earth bumblebees are interacting with the Australian native flora.

This is where you as citizen scientists step in: by having as many eyes as possible reporting where these plant-insect interactions currently occur, we can identify the places and conditions that allow beneficial insects to survive. Equally, we hope our citizen scientists will also report on which plant species they don’t find beneficial insects, as this information is also very important for informing management strategies and actions.

Data collected using the ‘Beneficial Insects’ app will be uploaded to the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA) and the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF).

More information on the Shared Urban Habitat research project can be found here.

Banner image: Spotted amber ladybird. Credit: Luis Mata