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  • Citizen scientists of Aotearoa, can you help track New Zealand’s native and introduced waeroa (mosquito) species to help get a better understanding of which species live where and how they are spreading? All you have to do is catch it, freeze it and send it.

    Rights: Lek Khauv, CC BY-NC 4.0. Image sourced from iNaturalistNZ.

    Saltpool mosquito

    Opifex fuscus, known commonly as the saltpool mosquito or by its Māori name naeroa, is an endemic mosquito that is widespread along the coast of New Zealand.


    Reach: New Zealand

    Nature of science focus: Online citizen science (OCS) projects can be used to develop any of the Nature of Science (NoS) substrands. Identify aspects of NoS that your students need to get better at or understand more fully, and then frame your unit to be very clear about these things when you do them.

    Science capability focus: Gather and interpret data, Engage with science

    Science focus: Classification, biodiversity, ecology, biosecurity

    Some suggested science concepts:

    • Importance of tracking the health of insect populations.
    • Impact of introduced species on the native species of Aotearoa.
    • Living organisms are interconnected.
    • Role of mosquitoes in the ecosystem.

    Many concepts could be learned – focusing on a few can often be more powerful. Develop your learning outcomes and success criteria from these concepts as well as the Nature of Science strand and the science capabilities.

    Some examples of learning outcomes:

    Students can:

    • accurately gather and log data and insects
    • explore the ethical issues around why some living things need to be euthanised (killed) for science research
    • discuss why and how we rank the animals we are working to conserve – mosquitoes are not a glamorous species, but our native species still need protecting
    • consider and discuss why Aotearoa has such strong biosecurity rules.

    About New Zealand Mosquito Census

    Aotearoa New Zealand has 13 native mosquito species and three known introduced species. Did you know that mosquitoes are incredibly important to the health of New Zealand’s ecosystem? By helping to map our country’s mosquito species, citizen scientists can play a significant role in protecting our whenua.

    Rights: Steve Kerr, CC BY 4.0. Image sourced from iNaturalistNZ.

    Striped mosquito Aedes notoscriptus

    This mosquito was introduced to Aotearoa in 1920s and is currently widespread in the North Island and down to Lyttleton in the South Island. The females like to feed via biting of both humans and animals, with their preferred feeding times evening and early morning.

    Mosquitoes are generally hated, but they are incredibly important to keep New Zealand’s ecosystem healthy. They are part of the food chain, and male mosquitoes are also important pollinators.

    Most of our native mosquitoes in New Zealand mainly bite birds. It is only the saltpool mosquito Opifex fuscus, found on coastlines, that can bite humans as they are accustomed to mammals such as seals. All 13 native mosquitoe species have very specific habitats and living conditions, which means they are quite vulnerable to environmental changes compared to adaptable introduced species.

    The three introduced mosquito species that have made their home in Aotearoa are:

    • striped or ankle biting mosquito (Aedes notoscriptus)
    • southern house or brown mosquito (Culex quinquefasciatus)
    • saltwater mosquito (Aedes australis).
    Rights: The University of Waikato Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato

    Introduced mosquito species

    New Zealand has three introduced mosquito species: striped or ankle biting mosquito (Aedes notoscriptus), southern house or brown mosquito (Culex quinquefasciatus) and the saltwater mosquito (Aedes australis). These all have a taste for human blood, particularly the striped and southern house mosquitos.

    Striped mosquito, Tony Wills, CC BY-SA 4.0, sourced from iNaturalistNZ. Southern House mosquito, Zoologist123, CC BY-NC 4.0, sourced from iNaturalist. Saltwater mosquito, Aedes australis courtesy of Rachel Cane.

    These are the main human biters in Aotearoa, and they are now spread out and well established throughout the motu. In contrast, it is thought that our native species are possibly in decline. The lack of data means that there is not enough conclusive information about the population health of our native mosquito species.

    The limited data currently available mostly comes from the biosecurity measures in place at our international airports and seaports. Mosquitoes are closely monitored at these locations so exotic mosquitoes can be detected quickly and eradicated before they can establish themselves.

    New Zealand citizen scientists are being asked to send in mosquito specimens to help provide more data and so help create a clearer picture of how our native mosquito species are doing and where the introduced species have spread.

    How to participate

    On the Te Papa website, there is a video and simple step-by-step instructions on how to take part.

    There are guidelines on:

    • catching mosquitoes, including in a range of environments – from your home to larvae in water
    • freezing mosquitoes or immersing mosquito larva in spirits
    • completing the mosquito census form
    • packaging and posting your mosquito specimen.

    After you have sent in your specimen, Te Papa will reply to tell you what species you found.

    Rights: Te Papa

    Mosquito specimen

    Carefully place your prepared mosquito specimen in a container and post to Te Papa’s mosquito census.

    Why participate

    With more data, information can be gathered on whether our native species are in decline and where the introduced mosquitoes have spread. This information will also help form a clearer picture of the impact of factors such as changes in land use and climate change.

    There is a chance your students could even discover a new exotic species that has slipped into New Zealand undetected!

    Related content

    Use the Connected article Animal X factor to consider the role of ethics in science conservation. The author Sophie Fern is exploring what we like and what we don’t about native species and what that might mean for conservation efforts.

    Find out more how to use the iNaturalist citizen science project in your teaching.

    Explore the article What’s so special about insects? and why we should care about these creepy crawlies. This article is a very handy curation of our insect content, sorted under various subtopics.

    Learn about bringing insects into your classroom in our recorded webinar All about insects featuring entomologists Dr Chrissie Painting and Tom Saunders.

    Visit our We love bugs! Pinterest board for links to more resources and community activities.

    Read about the eradication of the southern saltmarsh mosquito (Ochlerotatus camptorhyncus) from New Zealand.

    Here are some planning tips for when you intend to use a citizen science project with your students. See these helpful webinars: Getting started with citizen science and Online citizen science.

    Useful links

    Te Papa has four articles that give more information about mosquitoes, which could be used to create a fun quiz to test your students’ knowledge:

    View New Zealand Mosquito Census on iNaturalist NZ.

    iNaturalist provides a teacher’s guide that outlines things to think about and plan for. Seek is its species identification app.

    New users can see the helpful pamphlet from iNaturalist NZ | Mātaki Taiao.

    Read about how an incursion of the exotic mosquito species Culex sitiens was reported to MPI in 2018 but had been reported as eradicated by 2020.

    If you are interested in insects, visit the Entomological Society of New Zealand website.

      Published 6 December 2023 Referencing Hub articles
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