From beetles to millipedes, worms to spiders, there are lots of bugs that live near us. Learn more about the critters that make leaf litter their home!

outdoor hazard iconhazard iconSafety: Ask an adult for permission to head outdoors, and make sure they know where you are. Check the weather forecast and dress for the conditions. Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a hat, shirt, sunglasses and sunscreen. There are bugs (including spiders, scorpions, centipedes and some insects) that can sting or bite. Make sure you wear gloves and avoid touching any bugs that you find.

You will need

What to do

  1. Find a place outside that has lots of leaves on the ground.
  2. Rake up a small pile of leaves.
  3. Put on the gloves and fill one of the containers with the leaves.

    Gloved hand picking up leaves and putting them into the container.

    Put the leaves into a plastic container. Leave in the sun for half an hour, then put on the lid and shake.

  4. Leave the container in the sun for half an hour.
  5. Put the lid on the container and shake.
  6. Open the container. Using the tongs, look through the leaf litter and see if you can find any bugs, such as insects, spiders or worms. Make sure you look closely, as some might be small.
  7. Write down all of the bugs you find. If you don’t know what type of bug it is, write down a description to investigate later. If you want, you can take pictures of any of your bugs. You can use CSIRO’s invertebrate key to help you identify them.
  8. When you think you’ve found all your bugs, return the leaf litter to where you found it.
  9. You can also try collecting leaf litter from different places and comparing the types of bugs you find there.

    Gloved hand using tongs to search through the leaves.

    Use the tongs to look through the leaf litter. Record any bugs that you find.

What’s happening?

Invertebrates are animals without a backbone. There are many thousands of species of invertebrates, and they live all over the Earth. Invertebrates that live on land include insects, worms, spiders and snails. Many invertebrates, such as crabs, sea urchins and shellfish, live in the ocean.

Leaf litter is an important habitat for many types of invertebrates. Leaves provide food for some species, while others use the leaves to hide from predators. Leaf litter can also keep the bugs cool and sheltered from the Sun.

Small brown spider.

What sort of bugs did you find?

The leaves that you have collected are only a sample and might not have captured all the species present in a location. When entomologists (scientists that study insects and other invertebrates) conduct surveys, they do them in such a way to make sure they take a representative sample.

Real-life science

Invertebrates are an important part of many ecosystems. They pollinate many species of plants. They can be an important food source for other animals, such as mammals, reptiles and birds. However, some species of invertebrates can become pests and cause damage to ecosystems.

Entomologists will often conduct invertebrate surveys in the field. The results of these surveys can be important: if some species are declining, it might indicate a problem with the health of the ecosystem.

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One response

  1. colinjgrace Avatar

    Reblogged this on colinjgrace and commented:
    I was looking for something like this recently and couldn’t find anything. Well done Double Helix, great to see the CSIRO is still on the ball and delivering terrific practical activities.

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