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Catching bugs with a helicopter!


Kerry Mazzotti

A car cannot go to over seventy percent of Charnley River Station where we are based. The land is so inaccessible due to creeks, rocks, gorges, dense vegetation and the landscape in general. So bring on the helicopters!

This BushBlitz, more than any other is very reliable on the use of helicopter to access the sites the scientists have selected to go to find the samples they are after for their research. Each night a helicopter schedule is drawn up for the next day and the teams going in the helicopter are assigned. While the teachers are here, we have the opportunity to go on a field trip in the helicopter with them when there is room. Today was my turn to go with the, “Bug Team.”

Sam the helicopter pilot has trained everyone at BushBlitz in helicopter safety and rules so as a team we already knew how to get on the helicopter as quickly as possible as soon as it landed at base camp.

We flew twenty minutes away and covered the distance that would take a car nearly two hours to do. We were travelling at approximately 200km an hour! But- a helicopter feels so much slower. It was a great experience seeing the Kimberly region from the air. We landed on top of a waterfall ready to start the field work.

The team of scientists I was with were Zoe from Adelaide who was looking for Heteroptera, (True Bugs,) Erinn was looking for Microhymenopetera, (parasitoid wasps,) and Nick from the Western Australian Museum was looking for Heterotera samples to add to his preserved collection.

My highlight was being able to help Nick look inside the very spikey Pandanas as I had packed my leather farm gloves, so I was able to hold the leaves for him as he peeled them away to reveal the bugs inside the plant. Some bugs only live inside a Pandanas plant and never, ever leave the plant. It was truly fascinating and we twice saw a bug that Nick has seen only once before and does not have in his collection. It did not want us to catch it though and scurried to the very bottom of the plant.

It was very hot in the field and the team saved searching for Aquatic Bugs until the end of the day. We were able to all clamber down the rocks and sit under a waterfall and cool off, before the helicopter came back to pick us and all the bugs we had found up and take back to camp in time for dinner!! What a special day.

bugs we had found up and take back to camp in time for dinner