Kakanui life revealed

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Creepy-crawlies from the Kakanui River created a weekend of work for more than 60 people at the University of Otago.
Department of Zoology staff and students went on a “bioblitz” to sort the insects and invertebrates trapped at nine sites during nine weeks from December to early February. The bugs were caught after being attracted by jars filled with antifreeze that both killed and preserved them.
The ecological monitoring project, part of the New Zealand Landcare Trust’s Kakanui Community Catchment Project, was overseen by Tauranga retired scientist Bob Cooper. He was present to supervise the sorting and answer questions that arose during the weekend.
The zoology crew volunteered their time to work in collaboration with the trust, giving students practical involvement in a project relevant to their studies.
“It’s been a great opportunity for students to sort the wide range of insects into their various categories including beetles, bees, wasps, moths, true bugs, spiders and more,” Department of Zoology Professional Practice Fellow and second-year zoology co-ordinator Sheena Townsend said.
“Seeing the huge variety of species collected from just one site over a week-long period was a real eye-opener.
“The opportunity to volunteer has been valued by the students to assist with a community project and increase their learning, as well,” Dr Townsend said.
Dr Cooper will make the final identifications.
“The focus of the monitoring project is to identify insect species that are most beneficial and will enhance sustainable farming in the Kakanui catchment. For example, the search is on for a long-legged fly (Ostenia robusta), and bristle flies which parasitise grass grub beetles that cause significant pasture damage and lower production,” he said.
The Kakanui initiative, now in its third and final year, aims to improve water quality, reduce soil erosion and enhance biodiversity. It is being funded by the Ministry for the Environment’s Community Environment Fund, the North Otago Irrigation Company, Ravensdown, Beef + Lamb New Zealand, and the New Zealand Landcare Trust.