Marking perhaps the beginning of insect season, last weekend the Lewisville Lake Environmental Learning Area (LLELA) held its first ever “bioblitz”.
In case you’ve never heard of a bioblitz, it’s a concentrated effort among volunteers, naturalists and professional biologists to go to the field and document as many species as possible over a certain time period (usually a day). This year’s LLELA bioblitz included trees, reptiles, birds and insects.
Our insect group consisted of myself and three other enthusiastic collectors/photographers (actually, mostly photographers–seems like only entomologists want to capture and euthanize insects these days). Starting out in the prairie area of the preserve, we migrated to the very productive pollinator garden on site. It was a lot of work, but a lot of fun too.
People often assume that professional entomologists must know a lot about the insects in the natural forests and habitats around where they live. Of course some professional entomologists do, but many of us (like myself) are only semi-competent when it comes to sight-identifying insects outdoors. Part of this is because there are just so many of the darned six-leggers out there, and no one can be an expert in all of them. Part of it is because most entomologists are involved in highly specific work that doesn’t always afford the time to be naturalists. For example, I and many of my extension colleagues usually focus on insect pests and how to control them. Many of us are easily stumped when it comes to free-range insect life.
One of the good things that came out of the bioblitz for me was learning more about the iNaturalist tool for making biological observations. Once you establish an account in iNaturalist, you can post sightings and pictures. The iNaturalist community will even help you identify insects. I also learned that by adding tags to your pictures, others can search for your postings and make comments.
I’m not always a huge fan of online social networking, but this is a very useful and entertaining tool. I found it a great way to spend some of the rainy day that followed our collecting day.
After getting home from bioblitz, the real work begins. Several hours were spent pinning insects, reviewing and culling photos, and learning how to post them online. By looking at my pictures and comparing them to iNaturalist images as well as submitting some to the more insect-oriented Bugguide.net community, I managed to identify a surprising number of insects to at least the genus level–not bad even for an entomologist. Some of my collecting teammates were even more productive than I, having dozens of new observations posted to the web within hours of heading home.
If you want to check out some of the postings of all the LLELA blitzers on iNaturalist, try clicking here. It might inspire you to sign up, get outside and start documenting the insect life in your own backyard.