Hi!! I was wondering if you would have tips for bug sighting (catching?? Bug tourism??) That you could share? Like if there was a better time of day, places to check. I live in Singapore and I've only recently decided to be more open with my love of insects thanks to blogs like yours!!
Great question! First off, Singapore is a wonderful ecosystem and you are guaranteed to find some really good stuff out there. There are three strategies I use when I’m in a new, unfamiliar place and I want to find bugs.
Tips for Finding Bugs (and other good nature stuff)
1. Slow Down and Look Around
I know this seems obvious, but don’t underestimate this one. I lived in and around Seattle for 28 years before I moved to Texas. I don’t really remember Seattle as having any bugs, and I liked them and wanted to see them. Part of the reason I got into bugs after moving to Texas was the bugs here are SO LOUD and SO LARGE that you can’t ignore them. Fairly recently, I’ve gone through all my old photos looking for things I could upload to iNaturalist. And I found stuff like this from Washington state that I had absolutely no memory of seeing:
It turns out, wanting to see bugs isn’t good enough. Sometimes you’ll get lucky, like I occasionally did, but you need to be more deliberate to get satisfaction. Regardless of where you are in the world, slowing down and looking around you will help out a lot.
Above: Successes in staring at the ground in Paris, France (left, European Fire Bug) and in the middle of nowhere at a rest stop in Texas (right, Wall Crab Spider)
2. Learn Where and When to Look
But of course, not everything will be out in the open and awake when you are wandering around doing your daily business. Sometimes, you need to go looking for things, and where and when you look will depend on your location, time of the year, and what you want to see.
In general: learn the basic niches and habitats of the types of bugs you are the most interested in. Not sure what you like the most yet? Then try looking everywhere you can. And I mean, everywhere.
Above: At least five species of insects on one piece of scat
For the most part, bugs want to remain hidden. So look on the underside of leaves, under rocks, motionless on the ground, on the side of trees, etc. But, bugs also have to eat! So look in garbage cans, gardens, perched along a pond, in/on flowers, in/under rotting wood. You will likely find some areas are better than others where you are. In Texas, one of those places is inside cactus flowers:
When you go bug hunting, look for signs a bug is nearby. Nibbles taken out of leaves, poops on the ground, leaves curled up in strange shapes. When you see things like this, it means a bug was there recently, and may still be there! As you learn more about the types of bugs you’re interested in, you will also learn what they eat and where they lay their eggs, which means you will have a much easier time finding them! I’m not too skilled in identifying plants, but I have learned specific host plants, which means I don’t need to wander around aimlessly turning over leaves when I’m looking for something.
As you mention, time of day can also be important. I think you can generally find the same numbers of bugs regardless of the time of day in a favorable season, but they will be different kinds of bugs, and you have to use different methods to find them. At night, many of the bugs who were hiding away during the day will come out and do their thing, safely out of sight of all the birds who want to eat them. Some of these are attracted to lights, which means a productive place to look is by lights in otherwise dark areas. Check out a few of the things I found at a light in Kuchawe, Malawi:
If you are going to do some night searches, make sure you have a good headlamp. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to hold a flashlight and a camera, AND poke at a bug to get it to move.
3. Finding Bug Hot-Spots
Okay, so you know how to look for bugs, but how do you find the best places to see the best bugs? The easiest way is to just look for parks, gardens, and other natural areas. When I’m traveling, I will pull up a map of where I’m at, and I’ll look for “green” areas nearby. Usually these are nature parks, and I’ve found some of my favorite places just by doing this. Another method is to find out where other people have seen interesting things. iNaturalist is a great way to do this (and you can talk to other bug people in your area to get tips!). Here’s the map showing where over 600 people have seen over 24,000 bugs in Singapore [link]!
September 9, 2018