About the Field Guide

Our goals

This website aims to be a window revealing the wonderful diversity of the insect species in Australia’s Island State.

– to be of use to the scientific, educational and general community
– to have a focus on Tasmanian insects but be useful Australia wide
– to be accessible on any computer platform and also mobile devices
– to be accessible at all levels, and differentiate for different ages and stages
– to be a resource that highlights the overwhelming diversity of our local insects, and their complex lifestyles
– to display quality photographs and (often dubious quality) video of mostly-live insects in, to a large extent, their natural habitat
– to increase awareness, and hopefully engender a respect for our six legged cohabiters

We hope you find it useful!

Doratifera oxleyi

There are many, many insects…

Most Tasmanians know a little about the local insects. They are our constant companions during summer camping trips, and every so often insects move into homes or onto our pets. Unluckily, 1% of the Tasmanian population have to carry epipens just in case they have a stinging encounter with our bounding jack jumper ant.

If you ask most people there would be about 20 types of insects:

  • Beetles: ladybirds and Christmas beetles, then described as size and colour.
  • Flies: blowies, house flies, mosquitoes, march flies (killing them at the beach – especially slapping your unsuspecting friends- is a Tasmanian pastime)
  • Bugs: Stink bugs – Harlequins (the ones that walk around joined together as they mate. Which Tassie kid has not pulled them apart?)
  • Butterflies: White ones and brown ones.
  • Moths: described by colour, and big and small. Emperor Gum is known to most (and we don’t actually have it 🙂 )
  • Wasps: bees (honeybees) and European Wasps,
  • Grasshoppers (all are called “grasshopper”, but you might specify a colour or pattern)
  • Dragonflies
  • Ants: “Pissants”, jack jumpers and inchmen
  • Spiders, scorpions, slaters, centipedes (which aren’t insects at all!)

When you start to take a little more interest, you begin to notice more variety in the creepy crawlies you see….there are definitely more than 20… The more attention you pay, the more overwhelmed and unsettled you become (100s?). There are an awesome number of insects sharing this state with us (10, 000 +). While some of them bite or sting, the vast majority are completely harmless, or wrongly accused of being nasty or garden pests. Nasty or not to Humans, they play a vital role in the health of our environment. Why be interested in insects?

Learning more about insects can be a very satisfying pastime. You may be interested to see why your garden plants are ailing, you may have just found something that looks weird and you want to know what it is and does. For parents it is a fantastic “treasure hunt” for children to learn to identify wildlife, without having to travel at all. Gardens, parks, under a rock offers wealth of insect hunting opportunities. If you have the inspiration to make new discoveries, you still can! Many Tasmanian insect groups have been poorly researched and there are many new species to be found.


What’s so special about Tasmania?

Tasmania is Australia’s Island state. It has an area of just over 64,400 km2 and takes up less than one percent of Australia’s total land mass. Tasmania’s cool temperate climate is controlled by the prevailing westerly winds (the Roaring 40’s) and the oceans around protect the state from temperature extremes.

Tasmania has a wide diversity of habitats. The Western half of Tasmania is largely World Heritage Area covered with cool temperate rainforest and wet sclerophyll forest. The eastern half is drier, and was once covered in dry sclerophyll forests. It is more populated by people and has lost a higher percentage of its native forest to farmland and urbanisation.

Tasmania has been isolated from mainland Australia for around 10, 000 years. The isolation has enabled some unique fauna to evolve or survive. Many species you can find are endemic to the state. Most children can immediately tell you about Tasmanian Devils and the extinct Tasmanian Tiger, but few would know of all the unique invertebrates.

Sclerorinus bubalus

Why this website?

The move from film to digital cameras opened up opportunities to take multiple photos of very uncooperative subjects. Most Tasmanians take some interest in our insect co-habitors, whether it be with irritation or fascination, but it has been difficult for everyday people to access information about them.

In 2007 doors were opened to the non-scientific community with the publication of Elizabeth Daley’s book “Wings: an introduction to Tasmania’s winged insects” .  Suddenly locals could grab a Tasmanian- specific field guide from their bookshelf or local library to narrow down what they’d found in the backyard. It is no coincidence that many of the earliest photos in this website are dated 2008.  A book has some natural limitations, however. It can only give a sample of the insect species. Websites can grow, show video of behaviours and show multiple angles and colour diversity that could not be achieved in an affordable volume.

From 2008 until 2021 this site was hosted on Google’s free “Classic Sites” services. It was cobbled together with  more than 20 free sites linked together.  As a result many functions, notably the search, didn’t work.  As of late 2020, with structural changes to the platform, the site was ported by Yoav Bar-Ness  (Tasmanian Geographic/ Outreach Ecology ) onto a more sustainable and extensible website system. Many of the 2,600 page and 37,000 photos were automagically transferred and you may find a few funny line breaks, weird alignments, and broken links as you explore our field guide. We’ll fix these as we proceed into the future, but we’re pretty sure the underlying structure of the site has transferred properly. Let us know if you find any major issues!

We hope you enjoy meeting our amazing, overlooked and often maligned fauna.


► Find an Insect