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Christmas beetle count project

Where have all the Christmas beetles gone?
Become a citizen scientist and help us find out why Christmas beetles seem to be on the decline, by using iNaturalist to track these beetles around Australia.

Christmas beetles (Anoplognathus spp) are a group of iconic Australian insects that emerge in early spring and are associated with Christmas. In the past, millions of these large, colourful beetles used to fly around in December and January.

Sadly, Christmas beetle sightings appear to be in decline. There is currently no formal monitoring program, so we don’t know how bad the decline really is, or if it is affecting all of the 35 Christmas beetle species. We need the public’s help to track the population of Christmas beetles so that we can identify species that may be at risk.

How you can help

You can become a citizen scientist and help us track Australia’s Christmas beetle population! Beetles should start emerging in November and will continue to fly until late January. If you see a suspected Christmas beetle, take a photo and upload to iNaturalist.

If you can, take a photo of the top, bottom, back and rear of the beetle as this will help with identification. Don’t worry if you’re not sure about identification: iNaturalist will use a machine learning algorithm to help you make an identification. Include the hashtag ‘#christmasbeetlecount’ in the comments field.

Christmas beetle fast facts

  • Christmas beetles are large scarab beetles in the Genus Anoplognathus
  • There are 35 Christmas beetle species found throughout Australia
  • Many species are brightly coloured or iridescent
  • The larvae of Christmas beetles feed primarily on the roots of native grasses

FAQ

Have a look at our iNaturalist project page to get familiar with what Christmas beetles usually look like. They are generally large beetles that range in colour from brown to iridescent green. Don’t worry about uploading an incorrect sighting: the iNaturalist algorithm will help you identify it. All sightings will also be checked by experts.

Anywhere! There are reports from both urban and bushland areas.

Since beetles often fly around at night, check around outdoor lights. Adults feed on gum leaves, so have a look in low hanging branches.

iNaturalist is a biodiversity database that collects biodiversity sightings collected by citizen scientists all over the world. It is an excellent repository of biological information and provides scientists with biodiversity data that would, in many cases, be too expensive to collect. It is available as a desktop and a mobile app.

When you upload a sighting, iNaturalist will run a machine learning algorithm that will attempt to identify your sighting. Once uploaded, scientists and members of the iNaturalist community can review and change the identification. When at least three people agree on an identification, the sighting is designated as ‘research grade’.

iNaturalist also uploads geographical information so that we know where and when sightings occurred: this is very important for scientific research.

Visit the iNaturalist website and click ‘sign up’ in the top right-hand corner to create an account for free.

There are instructions on how to use iNaturalist and make observations on their website too.

iNaturalist can be used on the web or via the iNaturalist app on your phone. The app is available from the app store for free (search ‘iNaturalist’).

It’s very important for us to know where and when a sighting was taken, as different Christmas beetles are found in different parts of the country. We want to know if their ranges have expanded or contracted and this requires geographical information.

However, you can ‘obscure’ your geographical location when you are uploading by selecting ‘Obscure’ in the geoprivacy section. If you do so, your sighting will be placed randomly within a set distance from the actual point. This retains the important geographic data but obscures your precise location.

We recommend using this option for sightings taken at your home. It is also possible to block your location entirely using the ‘Private’ option. We do not recommend this option as it eliminates all the geographic information.

Learn more

This project is a collaboration between the University of Sydney Associate Professor Tanya Latty and Invertebrates Australia, a conservation not-for-profit focused on the conservation of insects and other invertebrates.

Information about Tanya can be found here: www.tanyalatty.com

Information about Invertebrates Australia can be found here: https://invertebratesaustralia.org/