CNC2022 – UV Light (3 Nights)

During the City Nature Challenge 2022 I ran the UV light and moth sheet over 3 full nights taking a total of 208 observations covering 71 species.

Light: 50W UV CFL 71460

Direction: Sheet facing South-East

Runtime: 3 full nights (29th/30th April & 1st May).

Observations: 208

Species: 71

Many observations are yet to receive IDs as identifiers are busy during and after the City Nature Challenge. A few interesting records so far:

A reasonably clear shot of a Gall/Forest Midge (Family Cecidomyiidae). Most records of these on iNaturalist are records of their effect on Plants, rather than the adults themselves. In part because they are easier to ID, but also the adults are only a couple of millimetres long. I’ve not found any evidence of galls on the property. This is my 2nd record of this Family.

Stenophyella macreta, a Seed Bug in the Family Pachygronthidae. My first record from this Family. Nymphs and adults of the Subfamily Pachygronthinae typically resemble the the shape and colour of the seeds they feed on.(1) This may be true of the Subfamily Teracriinae, which includes Stenophyella macreta. These feed on the seeds of a range of Grasses (Poaceae).(2) The property currently has Themeda triandra, Microlaena stipoides var. stipoides & Poa labillardieri. It could do with a few more patches of local Grass species.

A Typical Longhorn Beetle (Subfamily Cerambycinae) whose elytra pattern doesn’t match any I’ve seen on the property before. Closest match from the Australian Cerambycidae website is perhaps Atesta dorsalis. This would be the 3rd Atesta sp. on the property. I currently have 12 Cerambycinae species recorded on the property. This is yet another species that’s not currently counting toward the total for the property, at least until it receives a refined ID.

The first record of a Palpita Moth (Genus Palpita) on the property.

My first record of a Padded Diving Beetle (Eretes australis), and only my second from the Predaceous Diving Beetles Family (Dytiscidae). These are strong fliers and attracted to lights. I should have collected it and dropped it in the pond.

A well fed Striped Mosquito (Aedes notoscriptus). Given it was on the sheet I’d been standing at for 30min, odds are the blood was mine.

The first iNat record in SA of the Genus Hyperxena.

A Macadamia Flower Caterpillar (Homoeosoma vagella), the larva of which feed specifically on the flowers of Macadamia ternifolia, a tree native to Queensland. I couldn’t find any info to indicate the larva feed on any other species, so it suggests someone in the local area has planted a Macadamia ternifolia.

The 2nd record on iNaturalist in SA of a Redlegged Ham Beetle (Necrobia rufipes). Given this species is a well known pest of meat products, it’s not surprising there is ample information about this species online.

A Plant Bug (Family Miridae), potentially Coridromius chenopoderis. This is a good example the effect of planting particular species on the property. The host Plants of this species are Chenopods (Family Chenopodiaceae). There happens to be a well established Seaberry Saltbush (Rhagodia candolleana) less than 10 metres from where the UV light is set up. Coridromius chenopoderis have been collected from this Plant several times. I’ve no doubt this species wouldn’t have a home on the property if this cultivated Plant wasn’t present.

Potentially the first record on iNaturalist of the Ground Beetle Sarothrocrepis nitens. This is definitely one I’ll be looking to collect for closer inspection if I spot it again. The Subfamily Lebiinae has some species with quite interesting patterns. I’ve recorded at least 4 of these on the property.

(1) SCHUH, R. T., & SLATER, J. A. (1995). True bugs of the world (Hemiptera: Heteroptera): classification and natural history. Ithaca, Comstock Pub. Associates.

(2) MALIPATIL, M. B., GAO, C. Q., & EOW, L. X. (2020). Australian Lygaeoidea (Heteroptera) of Economic Importance: Identification of Families, Tribes and Representative Genera. The Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions, The State of Victoria.

Native Bee Nesting Sites

With 1,600 species of native Bee described and potentially another 1,000 yet to be described, the concept of the ‘Bee hotel’ only goes to demonstrate our collective ignorance of the Epifamily Anthophila, and in a broader sense, that of the Order Insects.

There are only 386 species of Mammal in Australia and it would seem foolish to create a ‘Mammal hotel’ in the hopes of attracting various Mammals. We recognise that each individual Mammal species has different needs and attempts to assist these species require a considerable knowledge of their needs, careful planning, application, maintenance and monitoring. Recognition of this with regard to Bird species has seen the traditional generic ‘bird boxes’ replaced with specialised boxes designed to meet the needs of individual species, and maintenance / monitoring services being made available.

The concept of the ‘Bee hotel’ can go a long way toward educating the public that Bees, and Insects in general, are an important part of an ecosystem and worth dedicating time and effort to conserve. But as with Mammals and Birds, to have functional benefits artificial nesting sites need to be tailored to the specific needs of the target species. (Note, target species. Not target Genus or Family). Given that we are far from even having a description of all Australian Bee species, knowledge of the needs and preferences of each species is practically non-existent. So while we wait for the massively underfunded and underappreciated taxonomists and specialists to do their research, the best we can do for most species is a little trial and error.

As part of my efforts to discover the species that call my backyard home (or at least visit for a feed), I’ve worked towards artificially increasing the biodiversity, in particular Invertebrate biodiversity, above that which might have occurred on the land prior to its conversion to suburbia. The next step in this process is the introduction of artificial nesting sites for the Bees and their associated parasitoid Wasps.

First, I need to know which species actually occur locally. There’s very little value in establishing suitable nesting sites for species like the Green Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa aerata) given that it no longer exists on mainland South Australia. In three years of informal observations on the property, it seems I’ve neglected making observations during the warmer parts of the day. As such I only have 7 Bee records on the property, covering 5 species (excluding the introduced Honey Bee), with 4 Plant associations. Masked Bees (Hylaeus sp.) which nest in wood holes or pithy stems, Blue Banded Bees (Amegilla sp.), which nest in the ground in separate nests (often communally), and two Metallic Sweat Bees (Lasioglossum sp.), which nest in the ground, often with many females per nest.

Autumn is hardly the best time of year to attempt to expand this list. (Although this Metallic Sweat Bee seems to be enjoying the last of the Wahlenbergia stricta flowers). So my best option at this time is to take a broad approach, establishing numerous generic nesting sites over the cool months, targeting the Bee Genera present in this region rather than individual species. Come Spring & Summer some species may make use of these sites. From there I can refine the designs to meet the needs of those local species, and make the nesting sites a more permanent fixture on the property.

An early attempt has already been made by preparing an old Golden Wattle (Acacia pycnantha) trunk with drilled holes of various sizes for utilisation by those Bee species that nest in wood i.e. Resin, Leafcutter, Reed, and Masked Bees. The trunk measures 15cm in diameter, so drilled holes are 12cm to 14cm deep. Hole diameters run from 3mm to 10mm, ranging from a height from the ground of 750mm to 1070mm. Holes face roughly North-East and are in a full sun location.

Either by coincidence alone, or perhaps some ability to smell timber being damaged, a small wasp was observed to fly around the trunk and enter several of the drilled holes, during the drilling process. A promising sign that the holes may provide some benefit.

The site was prepared on 26/03/2022 and is checked regularly. Although it was expected that the site wouldn’t be utilised until Spring, the first hole was in use within 14 to 19 days. It was also expected that without actual observation of the adult, the exact species wouldn’t be known. As luck would have it the hole entrance was filled with a quite distinct cellophane-like material of design known to be associated with the Common Wasp-mimic Bee (Hyleoides concinna). The hole utilised was B1 (8mm diameter, 1050mm high).

During one check of the site, hole A1 (10mm diameter, 1070mm high) was found to contain a juvenile Huntsman Spider.

On the 23/04/2022 (Day 28), it was found that hole B2 (8mm diameter, 955mm high) had also been utilised by the Common Wasp-mimic Bee (Hyleoides concinna).

On the 28/04/2022 (Day 33), it was found that hole A1 (10mm diameter, 1070mm high) had been utilised, again by the Common Wasp-mimic Bee (Hyleoides concinna) with a spoke shaped entrance of cellophane-like material. The adult was currently occupying the nest, at rest with antennae protruding through the entrance material, and retreating deeper when disturbed, only to return to the original position within a few seconds.

In 3 years of casual observations on the property recording over 3,400 observations across 600 species, the Common Wasp-mimic Bee (Hyleoides concinna) had never been recorded. The quick uptake of the nesting site may indicate a demand for such sites in this suburban area.

The order of occupation starting with the higher two 8mm diameter holes (of the four drilled), then the highest 10mm diameter hole (of the four drilled), may suggest a preference for higher nesting sites even if the diameter is larger, i.e. ignoring the 8mm holes at 875mm and 790mm high, and taking the 10mm hole at 1070mm high.

This early success provides an opportunity to utilise the knowledge of the Common Wasp-mimic Bee nesting preferences to establish more permanent sites for this species across the property after the cool season. But for other species, a season of trials will be needed. These will take the form of mud bricks for Blue Banded Bees and various drilled wood for any Resin, Leafcutter, Reed, and Masked Bees. As yet none of these have been observed on the property, but hopefully like the Wasp-mimic Bee these are present in the local environment. (For the time being, ground nesting bees will be neglected). Once local species and their nesting preferences are identified, plans can be made for more permanent and dedicated nesting sites on the property.

UV Light (16th Apr, 2022)

Another warm still night, perhaps one of the last before the cooler weather sets it.

Light: 50W UV CFL 71460

Direction: Sheet facing South-East

Runtime: 8:30pm – 11:10pm (2 hours 40 minutes).

Observations: 32

Species: 24

Interesting Records:

  • My 6th time recording an Australian Variable Lacewing (Drepanacra binocula). This particular one was a significantly lighter colour than the others. The adults and larvae feed on aphids, psyllids and whiteflies. As such to accommodate these in the yard, I should aim to have many herbaceous Plants as suitable food supply for its prey.
  • My 2nd record of a Rough Bollworm (Earias huegeliana), the last from Feb 2021. Its typical native food Plants are not local, so its presence here is likely the result of it also being a pest species on commercial Cotton.
  • A Mantidfly, potentially Austromantispa imbecilla. While I’ve seen a Campion sp. here previously, this one is quite different. The larvae of Austromantispa sp. attach themselves to female spiders, enter the egg sac as it is produced and mature inside.

Click here to see all iNaturalist records for the evening

Species PageIconBinomialCommon NameObservations
53505MiridaePlant Bugs2
33449Christinus marmoratusSouthern Marbled Gecko1
53237CicadellidaeTypical Leafhoppers1
124417ApocritaNarrow-waisted Wasps, Ants, and Bees1
125231Utetheisa pulchelloidesHeliotrope Moth1
126824Orthodera ministralisAustralian Garden Mantis1
134123Sphenarches anisodactylusFire-flag Plume Moth1
211192Micromus tasmaniaeTasmanian Brown Lacewing1
225223Monopis crocicapitellaBird Nest Moth1
341427Agrotis mundaBrown Cutworm1
355063Uraba lugensGum Leaf Skeletonizer1
355155Hoplostega ochroma1
388754Drepanacra binoculaAustralian Variable Lacewing1
417820Anestia ombrophanesClouded Footman1
489263Scopula optivataVaried Wave Moth1
490173Earias huegelianaRough Bollworm1
491168Proteuxoa tortisignaStreaked Rictonis1
494596Monopis meliorellaBlotched Monopis Moth1
559021Austromantispa imbecilla1
911279Chrysolarentia gypsomelaGypsum Carpet Moth1
1362710Ardices glatignyiblack-and-white tiger moth1

Backyard Biodiversity: 600+ Species


As of October 2020 just over 400 species had been recorded on this suburban property. As of the end of April 2021 this has risen to 500 species. As of March 2022, this has now risen to 604 species from 3,409 observations!

New Additions

Below are just a few of the 100 new species. Given that many are small Insects that are difficult or even impossible to identify down to species from photos alone, some of these new additions simply represent the first of a Genus recorded on the property, and occasionally the first of a Family. The easiest method for locating new species is still by using a UV light and sheet, as such most of the new species are represented by those nocturnal species attracted to the UV light.

24 new Moth species, including:

19 new Beetle species, including:

7 new Fly species, including:

6 new True Bugs species, including:

4 new Spider species, including:

General Update

Given that 2/3 of all species recorded to date have been those species attracted to the UV light after sunset, future focus needs to be directed toward other avenues to find additional species. There’s still significant scope for finding additional species during the daytime, particularly at warmer times of the day, as indicated by finding more than a dozen Lasioglossum Bees visiting heavily flowering Fire Daisies (Ixodia achillaeoides) during the mid-afternoon.

Plant/Animal associations continue to be recorded and tagged on iNaturalist, although this approach requires more attention. To date 8 species have been recorded in association with the Rhagodia candolleana, and 10 species with the Eremophila glabra ssp. Carnosa. Animal/Object associations are also recorded with a single Bird bath currently utilised by 19 species.

The 13 year old Golden Wattle (Acacia pycnantha) has been replaced with with a seedling grown from one of its own seeds. The remaining trunk drilled as Bee nesting sites, facing North-East, at varying heights with varying diameters. These will be monitored for utilisation. During drilling a tiny parasitic wasp (2mm, black with orange on abdomen) visited several holes. The aim being to identify further local Bee and parasitic Wasp species (hopefully a Gasteruption sp).

Seasonal Plans

Over the cool season:

  • The shade house area has been kept damp throughout Summer with daily misting with the intent of aiding establishment of Mosses and Liverworts. The area will be monitored for new species.
  • Establish sand/clay nesting site for Blue Banded Bees.
  • Install multiple drilled hardwood sites for timber nesting bees, with varying heights, hole sizes & patterns.
  • Experimental wet sand/clay soil tray to function as water for Insects and mud source for Potter and Mason Wasps.

Still “Needs ID”
The current number species observed may in fact be higher, with many invertebrates having been only identified to Family or Genus, with some stuck at Order. If you have any expertise in the following areas, your assistance with IDs in the following groups would be appreciated. Many of the observations have macro-level photos from multiple angles.

Needs ID:
Everything Else

UV Light (19th Mar, 2022)

An almost ideal warm and still night resulting in a large number of species visiting the sheet, seven of which are new records on the property.

Light: 50W UV CFL 71460

Direction: Sheet facing South-East

Runtime: 8:30pm – 10:30pm (2 hours).

Observations: 59

Species: 47

Interesting Records:

Click here to see all iNaturalist records for the evening

Species PageIconBinomialCommon NameObservations
494596Monopis meliorellaBlotched Monopis Moth2
48200MelolonthinaeJune Beetles1
49567CarabidaeGround Beetles1
63187BraconidaeBraconid Wasps1
71220GryllotalpidaeMole Crickets1
82103ErotylidaePleasing Fungus Beetles1
85586AnthicidaeAnt-like Flower Beetles1
85862LeptoceridaeLong-horned Caddisflies1
124226EctropisEngrailed Moths1
125231Utetheisa pulchelloidesHeliotrope Moth1
155185AlticiniFlea Beetles1
172901SilvanidaeSilvanid Flat Bark Beetles1
210509Harmonia conformisLarge Spotted Ladybird1
211192Micromus tasmaniaeTasmanian Brown Lacewing1
212151ColydiinaeCylindrical Bark Beetles1
233683Xanthogaleruca luteolaElm Leaf Beetle1
244280Spectrotrota fimbrialis1
244284Nacoleia rhoeoalis1
244344Scopula rubrariaPlantain moth1
341941Idaea inversata1
342292XyloryctidaeTimber Moths1
342329Idaea philocosmaFlecked Wave Moth1
355063Uraba lugensGum Leaf Skeletonizer1
355077Tachystola hemisema1
355155Hoplostega ochroma1
425106Syringoseca rhodoxantha1
425199Scoparia exhibitalis1
527847Earias paralellaThree-barred Earis1
828976Isopedella leaiCinnamon Huntsman1
891985Mallada tripunctatus1
892310Clarana clarana1
1098124Phauloplana illuta1

UV Light (12th Mar, 2022)

Light: 50W UV CFL 71460

Direction: Sheet facing South-East

Runtime: 8pm – 10:30pm (2.5 hours).

Observations: 41

Species: 24

Interesting Records:

Having the sheet mounted to a shed wall means easy access to a feast for flightless predators. This Isopedella leai (Cinnamon Huntsman) made its way onto the sheet and partook in a Crane Fly meal. A young Christinus marmoratus (Southern Marbled Gecko) took advantage of any Insects dropping to the ground, but the adults which frequently visit were absent.

A couple of Conocephalus sp. (Lesser Meadow Katydids) turned up and climbed to the top of the sheet. A new species on the property. More commonly I find Elephantodeta sp.

A new Tineidae sp. (Fungus/Clothes Moths). Within this Family I frequently sight Monopis meliorella (Blotched Monopis Moth), and Monopis crocicapitella (Bird Nest Moth).

Species PageIconBinomialCommon NameObservations
33449Christinus marmoratusSouthern Marbled Gecko1
47404PterophoridaePlume Moths1
48736CurculionidaeTrue Weevils1
53248ElateridaeClick Beetles1
53275ChironomidaeNon-biting Midges1
61267HeteropteraTrue Bugs1
62163HydropsychidaeNet-spinning Caddisflies1
118890ConocephalusLesser Meadow Katydids1
208095Stathmopoda auriferella1
210509Harmonia conformisLarge Spotted Ladybird1
211192Micromus tasmaniaeTasmanian Brown Lacewing1
225223Monopis crocicapitellaBird Nest Moth1
233683Xanthogaleruca luteolaElm Leaf Beetle1
244282Endotricha pyrosalis1
244284Nacoleia rhoeoalis1
342329Idaea philocosmaFlecked Wave Moth1
494596Monopis meliorellaBlotched Monopis Moth1
542831Hypsopygia albidalis1
828976Isopedella leaiCinnamon Huntsman1
891985Mallada tripunctatus1

UV Light (5th Mar, 2022)

A cool, overcast, and a little windy evening wasn’t ideal for the moth sheet, but anecdotally these nights seem to bring in a different range of species.

Light: 50W UV CFL 71460

Direction: Sheet facing South-East

Runtime: 8pm – 9:30pm (1.5 hours). Stopped due to rain.

Observations: 19

Species: 15

Interesting Records:

A Pond Moth (Hygraula nitens). I’ve only sighted once before in April last year. 1,000 observations of these on iNat across AU and NZ, but no records of the aquatic larva. The larva are covered in ‘gills structures’ rather than hairs. Might be worth skimming my small pond to see what turns up.

A Leaf Blotch Miner Moth in the Genus Dialectica. The first Leaf Blotch Miner from my property. It could be a native species but is likely the intentionally introduced Echium Leaf Miner (Dialectica scalariella).

A Bark-louse I’ve not seen before. As yet unidentified. I’ll need to do some research to narrow this one down if possible.

Species PageIconBinomialCommon NameObservations
53505MiridaePlant Bugs1
55699CecidomyiidaeGall and Forest Midges1
83187PsocodeaBarklice, Booklice, and Parasitic Lice1
225223Monopis crocicapitellaBird Nest Moth1
244280Spectrotrota fimbrialis1
244284Nacoleia rhoeoalis1
341427Agrotis mundaBrown Cutworm1
341877Hygraula nitensPond moth1
355155Hoplostega ochroma1
494596Monopis meliorellaBlotched Monopis Moth1

Tips for Finding Species in Your Backyard

Exactly how many species can be found in a typical suburban backyard?

Consider your yard, and have a guess how many species you might be able to find in it. Don’t count any cultivated or captive species. Obviously yards will range from courtyard to acreage, so your estimates will differ. Unless you are someone who regularly looks for life in their yard, your estimate could be out by a factor of 5 to 10. For a more detailed consideration, check out the post How Many Species?. Below you can find some tips of how to locate these often elusive species on your property.

The Size of Life
Obviously the larger an organism the greater area of land is required to sustain a population of that species. You’re unlikely to find a Kangaroo in your yard unless there is a large natural area nearby. While you will encounter a few Vertebrate species in your yard, predominantly Birds with a few Reptiles and Amphibians, the majority of species are going to be small Invertebrates. So be prepared to look closely.

How Much Life
This will all come down to Plants. The more you have in your yard (and surrounding area), the more species you will find. They draw in the herbivorous Invertebrates to chew the leaves, suck the sap, drink the nectar, and eat the fruit and seeds. These in turn attract the predatory Invertebrates and both will attract the insectivorous Vertebrates. The Plant litter feeds the ground and soil dwelling Invertebrates and encourages a diverse range of Fungi, whose fruiting bodies are consumed by various Invertebrates.

Time of Year
Not all species that can be found in your yard will be present at the same time. Many species of Insects have flight times in the warmer months. Some are only present in their adult forms for one month of the year. Some species are active at different times of the day and during the night. Some will only ever visit your yard if there is a food source available, i.e. flowering or fruiting Plants. To get a full count of species in your backyard, you’ll need to be on the lookout throughout the year.

Time of Day
Different creatures are active different times of the day. If you investigate your yard at the same time on each day, you’ll only see a subset of what is actually there. Try to look around your yard at various times of the day, and after sunset. Turn on some outdoor lighting in the evening and see what is attracted. Keep an eye on birdbaths and any flowering Plants as these will have visiting Birds throughout the day, with some perhaps only visiting once per day. Take a powerful flashlight out after dark and search for nocturnal creatures. Don’t forget the many nocturnal Invertebrates. Keep an eye out for the Grey-headed Flying-Foxes (Pteropus poliocephalus). These head out from the colony in Adelaide each evening. Each year in April/May I find them feeding in a local Palm around 22km from the colony, often around 10pm.

Not only will inclement weather keep us inside, it will do the same for many creatures. Many Insects will be most active in the calmer and warmer parts of the day, however they can also be harder to photograph when most active. If the weather is poor, try again another time. The difference the weather can make can be dramatic.

Resident, Visitor or Fly-By
Species seen in your yard fall into a few categories. ‘Residents’ that have their homes in your yard and spend most of their time there, ‘Visitors’ with homes elsewhere that come to your yard for food and other resources, and ‘Fly-By’ species that are passing through the physical space of your yard, but are not specifically interested in it. The number of Resident species will be determined by the size of your property and the available resources on it. The number of Visitors is dependent on the resources present in your yard and the homes available in the area surrounding your property. Fly-Bys are mostly chance encounters, but are higher when local surroundings are more diverse.

Surrounding Landscape
Most of the species observed in our yards won’t be residents. They will be passing through, visiting and feeding. So the environment surrounding your property will have a large impact on the number of species you observe. If you have nearby natural areas and abundant food sources in your yard, you will get many visiting species. Newer suburbs with smaller backyards and less established vegetation will see less overall species.

Evidence of Organism
Sometimes you might be able to find evidence of a species. Consider recording Frogs and Birds if you can hear them but can’t locate them, or if they are too far away for your camera. You can also look for other signs, such as Bird feathers.

Finding Organisms – Observing
It is not difficult to find Rainbow Lorikeets in your yard. In fact it is hard to miss them. However keep an eye on established trees and shrubs, particularly if they are flowering, and you may spot some quieter species of Bird that have gone unnoticed. If the flowers are closer to the ground, keep an eye on them for visiting Insects. The longer you observe, the more species you’ll likely spot. If you have a birdbath, keep an eye on it throughout the day. Some Birds may visit briefly only once every day or so.

Smaller creatures including Invertebrates tend to be rather more elusive. Evolved to avoid predation, they also avoid being seen by us as well. To find them you’ll need to move slowly and look closely. Many Insects are at least partially camouflaged and are easily missed unless looking with intent. Some can see a surprising distance, will see us coming and hide on the underside of a leaf. Some species of Beetle will release their grip and drop to the ground if disturbed, often just as you get the camera in focus to take a shot. A quick method of finding Invertebrates in Plants is to place a sheet below a tree or shrub, shake the branches and record what falls out.

Finding Organisms – Searching
If you have rocks or logs in the yard, don’t forget to look under them. Have your camera ready as many species will try to hide when disturbed. Avoid lifting anything with your hands as Snakes/Spiders/Scorpions aren’t going to be happy having their homes disturbed. Return the rocks and logs to their original positions when finished.

If you have a pond, have you considered what might be living in it, aside from Mosquito wrigglers? Sweep a fine mesh net through the water or collect some pond water in a jar and see what aquatic Invertebrates you can find.

Many Invertebrates can be found in leaf litter and soil. Consider collecting leaf litter and sifting through it on a white sheet to see what falls out. Soil can be dug from the ground to a spade depth and dropped into a bucket of water, where the Invertebrates will float to the surface and can be collected.

Finding Organisms – Attracting
Offering food sources can draw out resident species and attract additional visitors to your yard. Suitable vegetation can ensure food is available year round. A birdbath or seed dish will attract a range of Birds, but will work best if established so its availability is known to local Birds. Add a few large stones to the birdbath to give flying Insects a surface to land on before taking a drink.

Different Invertebrate species can be attracted using various substances from our fridges and cupboards. Try placing a range of substances in jar lids or bottle caps at locations around your yard, ideally in sheltered locations out of the rain. It may take a few hours or few days to be found. Leave them out for the four challenge days and move them around the yard. Keep them away from the house to avoid attracting pests. Sticky substances can also be applied to tree trunks and branches. Ant species will find sugary foods (i.e. honey, jam, sugar water) and fatty foods (i.e. bacon pieces, cheese, peanut butter). Other substances that can attract various Beetles, Flies, Moths and Plant Bugs include terpenes, alcohol and methanol, fermented fruits and rotting meat.

Finding Organisms – Attracting: Moths
Turning on some outdoor lighting, and setting up a white sheet will attract some species. The greatest number of species will be attracted with a bright UV light source and a white sheet hung nearby. However any outdoor lighting will attract some species and the sheet can be placed on a flat surface. i.e. table below the lighting if there is no option to hang the sheet. Consider temporarily replacing an outdoor light with a UV Blacklight. This will increase the number of species attracted significantly. The light will not only attract Moths, but also some Beetles, winged Ants, Katydids, Lacewings and various other taxa. You may also get some visiting predators such as Mantises attracted by the abundant food. Many more species will be out if the evening is warm and calm.

The visitors can be photographed in place. Many Moth species can be IDed to species with a top down photo, but some may need profile and underside views. Don’t forget the many smaller species 5mm long or less. With the camera as close as possible the flash may only illuminate one side of the specimen, so consider using a torch to light up the opposing side. This additional light will help to increase the shutter speed to ensure your photo is clear.

Finding Organisms – Temporary Homes
Cardboard or metal sheets can be placed on the ground around your yard. Place some in cool and damp protected areas, some in exposed sunny areas. Various Invertebrate species will seek shelter under these and if lucky they will attract predators, in particular Lizard species. The sheets in cool damp areas may attract Frogs. The longer they are left in place, the more established the homes become.

Finding Organisms – Traps
There are many simple methods for trapping Invertebrates with varying degrees of success. A Pitfall Trap is a container or jar buried flush with the surface of the soil that Invertebrates crawl into but cannot get out. A simple Funnel Trap and Side-Door Trap can be made from empty soft drink bottles (See Traps section HERE for construction details).

Collecting & Photographing
Specimens can be photographed in situ, but this doesn’t always allow for photos sufficiently clear or from the necessary angles for identification purposes. Consider having available a container to temporarily detain any Invertebrates found. These specimens can then be photographed on a white sheet or similar in more controlled lighting. For the more active specimens, place the container in the fridge for a while to slow them down. They will recover quickly as they warm up and can then be released after suitable photos have been taken.

How many species?
Try each of the tips above to see how many species you can discover on your property. See a full list of the more than 580 species I have found on mine in my Backyard Species List.

UV Light (25th Feb, 2022)

A cool Summer evening with a slight breeze made for reasonable conditions to setup the the UV lamp and sheet.

Light: 50W UV CFL 71460

Direction: Sheet facing South-East

Runtime: 8pm – 11:30pm (3.5 hours)

Observations: 26

Species: 21

Interesting Record: First Hednota longipalpella (Pasture Webworm) of the year. Previous records were all in March and April, so this is an early sighting

Species PageIconBinomialCommon NameObservations
48200MelolonthinaeJune Beetles1
52425ChrysopidaeGreen Lacewings1
53505MiridaePlant Bugs1
211192Micromus tasmaniaeTasmanian Brown Lacewing1
244280Spectrotrota fimbrialis1
244282Endotricha pyrosalis1
244284Nacoleia rhoeoalis1
244344Scopula rubrariaPlantain moth1
330517Crocidosema plebejanaCotton Tipworm Moth1
342329Idaea philocosmaFlecked Wave Moth1
355077Tachystola hemisema1
384827Achyra affinitalisCotton Web Spinner1
471450Hednota longipalpellaPasture Webworm1
471460Monopis icterogastraWool Moth1
471504Persectania ewingiiSouthern Armyworm1
602535Sigilliclystis insigillataInsigillated Pug1

How Many Species?

How many species would you expect can be found it a typical suburban backyard? Maybe 50? Or perhaps 100? More? The question is a little vague, so lets try to narrow it down.

There are going to be quite a few factors that affect exactly how many species you are likely to find on a suburban property.

Let’s start with property size. How large is a typical suburban property? Let’s consider the lower end to be multi-story townhouse on 150m2. At the upper end an older style property with perhaps 2,000m2.

We must consider how much of this property is utilised for human needs, i.e. house, patio, driveway, garage, pool, paved areas, etc. These areas typically exclude the majority of species. A townhouse property is likely to be 80% utilised, leaving approximately 30m2 ‘undeveloped’. An older style property may only utilise 10% of the land, leaving up to 1,800m2. The difference between these two will have a significant effect on the number of species likely to be present.

Now consider the form of that ‘undeveloped’ land. Is it a heavily manicured garden consisting of a large patch of lawn with interspersed garden beds filled with exotic plants, a vegie patch and some fruit trees. To our eyes, such a garden may seem to be filled with life. The Honey Bees always pollinating, the vegie patch constantly under attack by various Invertebrate herbivores, the Birds flitting about the trees. But our eyes alone are a poor judge of biodiversity. So much goes unnoticed, either too small to be spotted, camouflaged, or occurring after dark or out of sight.

Or is the garden in a more natural state with some of the original native trees and shrubs. Or some planted local native species. Or even a small patch of degraded remnant vegetation. So many species are critically dependent on specific vegetation and environmental conditions that even a few planted local species can dramatically alter the number of species in the yard.

How ‘structured’ or ‘ordered’ are the garden areas. Does the garden consist of only a few species, perhaps arranged into neat repeating rows. Our attraction to patterns and geometric forms may result in a garden we find appealing, however this doesn’t necessarily correlate with biodiversity. Even where this setup uses native vegetation, the arrangement and limited number of species is likely going to limit the utility for native species.

Are the fallen leaves swept up. Lawns raked. Plants pruned. How about removal of debris like fallen branches, logs and rocks from the yard. While these maintenance activates are considered desirable to keep the garden orderly, these materials are frequently used by native species for food, shelter, nesting material, etc. Removing them also removes the dependent species.

Does the garden consist of one large area, or is it broken up into separate sections. Front yard, backyard, driveway border. Are these areas separated by inhospitable environments. A simple paved garden path isn’t going to deter the Birds in your yard, but to ground dwelling Invertebrates it may represent an impassable barrier. Or at least, a barrier than significantly increases risk.

Do the plants in the garden sprout, grow, mature and seed quickly. How dynamic is the garden. How much maintenance does the garden ‘need’. A slow growing, static garden has limited resources available for species to utilise. The plants are the source of chemical potential energy that animal life requires, and are there to be consumed. More plant growth results in more food to be consumed and a greater number and variety of species present.

A property doesn’t exist in isolation. Many of the species found are likely to reside elsewhere and only visit the garden. As such, the surrounding environment is going to have a significant effect on what type and how many species found. Is the property part of a new housing development where all the local land was recently cleared. Does the property back onto an area of native vegetation, or a creek.

Obviously the local climate is going to be a significant factor in the number of species found. Semi-arid, Mediterranean, wet forest. The more warmth and water, the greater the biodiversity.

How much ‘work’ is put into the garden. In this instance we are considering ‘work’ to be the additional time, energy and resources used to maintain the garden in a state suitable for maximising biodiversity. This may take the form of extra watering in dry weather and feeding the soil with additional nutrients. In urban cultivated environments plants don’t often seed and produce seedlings, or if they do the location isn’t suitable. Extra work is required to replant new seedlings each season. Additional work put into the garden can boost the biodiversity significantly. Such a garden has the potential to maintain biodiversity exceeding that of natural areas.

Exactly what scale of life is considered will also determine the total number of species found. The ability to see and identify the species is key. While a spade full of soil may contain hundred of species of bacteria, these are somewhat beyond identification without dedicated equipment and specialist knowledge. However, they are still present and should be considered as part of the biodiversity.

These 11 factors all come into play when trying to determine how many species you could potentially find on your property. However, not all factors are equal. Some will have a dramatic effect and others may be less critical. The local climate and type of surroundings are likely to be the most significant and unfortunately there often isn’t much that can be done to change these. The size of the property is important, but it’s not something easily changed. To aid in increasing biodiversity within your yard, the best option is to aim for a natural, unstructured, debris filled, connected and dynamic garden.

Now to consider the actual number of species. I have been casually recording species I have located on my property for the past three years. You can see on the chart below how my property aligns with each of the 11 factors. I continue to find new species every week with minimal effort. I have still yet to do thorough investigations of the leaflitter and soil. As of Feb 2022, I have recorded at least 582 species, and uploaded them into my Backyard Biodiversity project on the iNaturalist platform.

These 582 species include 212 Moths, 77 Beetles, 50 Flies, 43 Wasps, 35 Bugs, 32 Spiders, 28 Birds, 20 Introduced weeds, 13 Ants, 8 Butterflies, 8 Cockroaches, 7 Hoppers, 7 Fungi, and many more taxa. This list excludes the 100+ species of cultivated Plants. The full list is presented here. There are still quite a few species I’ve recorded but have yet to identify that will boost this total further. While the rate of additional species discovery has slowed significantly, I expect that 800 to 1000 species is a reasonable estimate for the total number of species to be found.

So consider your property with regard to the 11 factors above, and make an estimate as to how many species are utilising it for food and shelter. Think twice before sweeping, raking, pruning or otherwise altering the garden. Then get out there and start discovering. Don’t forget to upload your sightings to iNaturalist to keep track.