Entomological field surveys in New Zealand

Overview (1992-present)

1992 to 2001, our first 10 years in New Zealand

We conducted a general survey of the country for ground-beetles (Coleoptera: Carabidae) and true bugs (Hemiptera: Heteroptera). We had three 

Our main goals were: to learn the fauna and to gain a working understanding of the New Zealand environment and its history as quickly as possible, as well as increase knowledge of the North Island fauna which had been undersurveyed until then.

During these years of general survey we used all types of collecting techniques (e.g., hand collecting, turning logs and stones, sweeping & beating the vegetation, etc.). We also used pitfall trapping and collected leaf litter for insect extractions in Burlese funnels whenever appropriate.The idea appears ludicrous now but it was a somewhat scary concept at the time of our arrival in the country, that most local entomologists and indeed much of the literature and collection holdings seemed to suggest that New Zealand had a highly depauperate or almost disseminated fauna. We had passing thoughts of the impossibility to conduct fulfilling careers in this country and of having to move on to greener pastures offering a more interesting situation for aspiring faunal taxonomists and faunisticians. Fortunately this was not the case as our work has shown so far. The fauna of New Zealand is very rich and diverse, is thriving quite well in general, and has a lot of unique undescribed taxa (about 30% undescribed).

From 1992 to 1995 we typically spent about 3 months in the field each year, making short visits in as many regions as possible. From 1996 to 2000, we spent about 1.5 months in the field each year,  making 5-7 days visits to more targeted areas; setting pitfall traps at the beginning of each trip, collecting by hand each day using different  techniques, and on the last day gathering pitfal trap contents and collecting bags of leaf litter to be processed in Burlese funnels in the laboratory. 

2001-present

In 2001, we restricted our field work to 4 localities in the northern Auckland-southern Northland region where we collected leaf litter & pitfall trap samples once a month over a period of 6 months in the spring & summer. For more details on our general survey see section A (below).

In 2002 we felt that sufficient emphasis had been put on the general survey of New Zealand main islands and we decided that much would be gained in our understanding of the fauna by focusing survey work on lesser known groups and microhabitats (see section B below).


Map of New Zealand's two main islands with areas and codes


New Zealand area codes. For more information about this geographic notation system see any of our Fauna of New Zealand series contributions.


North Island. AK, Auckland. BP, Bay of Plenty. CL, Coromandel. GB, Gisborne. HB, Hawke's Bay. ND, Northland. RI, Rangitikei. TK, Taranaki. TO, Taupo. WA, Wairarapa. WI, Wanganui. WN, Wellington. WO, Waikato.


South Island. BR, Buller. CO, Central Otago. DN, Dunedin. FD, Fiordland. KA, Kaikoura. MB, Marlborough. MC, Mid Canterbury. MK, Mackenzie. NC, North Canterbury. NN, Nelson. OL, Otago Lakes. SC, South Canterbury. SD, Marlborough Sounds. SL, Southland. WD, Westland.


SI, Stewart Island.


A. General survey of Carabidae (Coleoptera) and Hemiptera: over 500 localities throughout the North and South Islands from 1992 to 2001

1992 BP (East Cape, 34 localities), GB (Hicks Bay Area, 6 localities), ND (24 localities), AK (4 localities, pitfall trapping),

1993 CL (8 localities), AK (10 localities), BP (Kaimai Ranges, 10 localities), CL (31 localities), NN (13 localities), BR (7 localities), WD (6 localities), OL (13 localities)

1994 CL (6 localities), GB (Urewera National Park, 16 localities), RI (21 localities, including Ruahine Ranges), WI (1 locality), WA (Tararua Ranges, 5 locs), WN (Tararua Ranges, 2 localities), BP (Kaimai Ranges, 26 localities)

1995 ND (22 localities), BP (25 localities), TO (Pureora Forest Park, 7 localities), TK (7 localities, excluding Mount Taranaki summit)

1996 TO (Pureora Forest Park, 3 localities), WN (9 localities), TO (Kaimanawa Forest Park, 12 localities), HB (Kaweka Forest Park, 7 localities), RI (Ruahine Forest Park, 4 localities), WO (Pirongia Forest Park, 5 localities)

1997 WN (Tararua Forest Park, 6 localities; Rimutaka Forest Park, 5 localities), WA (Haurangi Forest Park, 3 localities), HB (Waioeka Gorge to Whinray Scenic Reserve, 7 localities), TO (Pureora Forest Park, 4 localities)

1998 GB (14 localities), HB (15 localities), WA (2 localities), TO (Tongariro National Park, 7 localities), TK (Taranaki/Mount Egmont National Park, 6 localities)

1999 SL (60 localities), TK (Mount Messenger Area, 13 localities), ND (Mangamuka Gorge Walkway, pitfall trapping)

2000 OL (Mavora Lakes, 10 localities; Snowdon Forest and vicinity, 17 localities), WO (south, 20 localities)

2001 AK, ND (4 localities, litter & pitfall trapping over 6 months)


B. Specialised surveys, 2002 to present

  • Coastal and inland riparian habitats, Bembidion (Carabidae) & Saldidae (Hemiptera), 2002-2007, 2010-2013: 265 localities, 21 regions

2002 WN (4 localities), TK (1 locality), WI (6 localities)

2003 NN (25 localities), BR (16 localities), WD (10 localities)

2004 TO (16 localities)

2005 RI (16 localities), NC (10 localities), MC (4 localities), KA (15 localities), DN (9 localities), CO (4 localities),

SC (2 localities)

2006 WA (15 localities), MK (13 localities), OL (22 localities), CO (12 localities)

2007 BR (19 localities), NN (1 locality), WD (18 localities).


2010 RI (1 locality), CO (2 localities), OL (6 localities)

2010 SL (4 localities)

2012 MB, SD (5 localities)

2013 AK (3 localities), WO (6 localities).

2014 FD, SL, DN, NN (28 localities)


  • Forest leaf-litter, rotten wood, and moss fauna, 2007-2012, 2015-present: 172 localities, 15 regions

For example: Aradidae, Ceratocombidae, Enicocephalidae, Targaremini (Rhyparochromidae) (Hemiptera); Anillina, Zolini, Moriomorphini (Carabidae)

2007, early December: WN, Rimutaka Range (11 localities)

2008, early March: WD, Southern Westland (15 localities)

2008, early December: BP, Kaimai Range (7 localities)

2009, early March: NC-WD, Arthur's Pass National Park; MC, Craigieburn Forest Park (18 localities)

2009, early December: TK, Mount Taranaki/Egmont (11 localities)

2010, early March: CO, Waikaia Forest and vicinity (10 localities); OL, Mavora Lakes and vicinity (4 localities)

2010, early December: RI, Ruahine Ranges (11 localities)

2011, early March: DN, Hills around Dunedin (19 localities)

2011, early December: TO, Pureora Forest Park (7 localities).

2012, late February-mid March: MB-SD, Pelorus and Kenepuru Sounds areas (15 localities).

2012, early December: AK, Hunua Ranges (6 localities) and Waitakere Ranges (7 localities).

2015, mid February-early March: BR, Lewis Pass area, Nina Valley to Rahu Saddle (18 localities)

2015, mid November-early December: ND, Puketi-Omahuta Forests, Mangamuka Hills, Herekino Forest (13 localities) 

2016, late March-early April: ND, Puketi-Omahuta Forests, Mangamuka Hills (11 localities)

2016, mid November-early December: ND, Russell Forest

2017, early March: OL, Mount Aspiring National Park (Makarora to Haast)


C. General information

  • Best habitats (native forests, tussock grasslands, riverbanks)

  • Best collecting season (early spring [October-early December] and late summer [late-February & March])

  • Field survey: 1-3 months of collecting every year, usually in spring and summer, sometimes in winter

  • Notes on collecting localities and natural history (ecology, biology, behaviour) recorded in field notebooks; every specimen mounted with a natural history label

  • Material deposited in NZAC (New Zealand Arthropod Collection, Auckland, NZ - previously DSIR collection).


D. Assessment on New Zealand Entomological surveys

Carabidae: 500-600 species are known for the country; it is predicted that 700-800 taxa will turn out with specialised techniques (e.g. pit trapping and leaf siting in the field) and surveys, and also taxonomic revisions. 

Hemiptera: Heteroptera about 350 species known, Auchenorrhyncha about 200 species known; a 33% faunal increase is predicted once the fauna is revised and inventoried using specialised techniques or in undersurveyed microhabitats.