November 26, 2017

Myrtle rust reporter

Download the free app: iPhone, Android

Back in April NatureWatch NZ brought you the sad news that myrtle rust had been found in Northland and we asked the community to keep an eye out for it. We now have a new weapon in the fight against the plant disease myrtle rust, currently threatening a number of New Zealand’s native species, including pōhutukawa, ramarama, northern and southern rātā and manuka.

It's a smartphone app to help you report myrtle rust, developed by the Northland Regional Council, Scion, Envirolink, Te Tira Whakamātaki (Maori Biosecurity Network), Biological Heritage National Science Challenge, and MPI. The app works with NatureWatchNZ so that all NZ’ers can assist in a surveillance campaign to find myrtle rust.

The myrtle rust reporter app is freely available in the iPhone and Android app stores. We encourage you to give this new bilingual app a go and use it to record a dozen potential host plants in your community. You will become the kaitiaki (or guardian) of these specific plants. Check these plants regularly and look for telltale yellow spores on new growth. If you think you’ve found myrtle rust, remember not to touch the plant or the symptoms. Take a picture and submit your record using the app. Then immediately phone MPI on 0800 80 99 66. The investigator on the phone will use your app username to look up your record and discuss your photo with you.

It’s super important that you do record your host plants so that we all know what plants you are looking after. Myrtle rust has so far been found in Northland, Auckland, Waikato, Taranaki, and Te Puke, however New Zealand’s a big place and myrtle rust has tiny little spores so as a group we need to make sure we cover as much of New Zealand as possible. Check out where other people are helping by visiting the myrtle rust reporter project where we will update you with progress.

Posted on November 26, 2017 07:55 PM by jon_sullivan jon_sullivan | 3 comments | Leave a comment

April 11, 2017

If you see bright yellow powder on a plant – DON’T TOUCH IT!

Myrtle rust is a serious fungal disease of plants. Although it is not present on the New Zealand mainland it has recently been detected on Raoul Island. This fungus has a wide host range within the Myrtaceae, a family of plants that include many of New Zealand’s most iconic trees, e.g., pōhutukawa, rata, manuka, kanuka and important introduced species like Eucalyptus and one of our favourite autumn fruits, the feijoa.

Myrtle rust often attacks fresh new growth and early infestations are characterised by yellow powdery eruptions on the surface of leaves as well as flowers, fruits, buds, and shoots. The spores themselves are microscopic so you won’t see them. However, don’t touch the yellow powder as you will coat yourself and your clothes in spores — potentially spreading the disease further. Further information can be found in this MPI fact sheet.

What should you do if you see something suspicious?

  • Take a photo, log your observation on Naturewatch NZ.

  • Don’t touch it and if you accidently come in contact make sure you bag your clothing and wash clothes, bags and boots when you get home.

  • Immediately ring 0800 809966 and have your NatureWatch User ID or the observation ID on hand and MPI can quickly review your observation and provide additional advice.

This rust is a serious issue and the earlier we can detect an incursion the more chance there is that something can be done about it. So remember, take a photo, log your obs and give MPI a call as soon as you can.

Help protect New Zealand, get out there and keep looking.

Thanks from the NatureWatch NZ Team

Myrtle rust is easy to overlook at first. Be sure to report any orange rust fungus you find on an plant in the Myrtaceae family. Photos © Ministry for Primary Industries (used with permission).

Posted on April 11, 2017 09:18 AM by jon_sullivan jon_sullivan | 2 comments | Leave a comment

December 16, 2016

You can help promote Brown Marmorated Stink Bug biocontrol

Plant and Food Research are currently conducting research on the potential to use a parasitic wasp (Trissolcus japonicus) as a biocontrol option should a population of Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB) be detected in New Zealand. Brown Marmorated Stink Bug is an awful pest overseas and can have big impacts on crops like grapes. It's something we definitely do not want establishing in NZ, and yet border biosecurity officers have detected this species multiple times at NZ's borders. If we don't act, it's likely only a matter of time before it establishes here.

A population of the BMSB-specialist wasp would be released and seek out and parasitise BMSB eggs reducing population pressure. In combination with chemical control this would maximise the chances of eradicating BMSB before it became problematic.  To enable the import of T. japonicus it is important to understand its potential impact on New Zealand’s current shield bug populations. Plant & Food Research need a supply of shield bugs to test whether T. japonicus parasitises them as well as BMSB. You can help!

Please keep a close look out for either of the following bugs.

Brown Shield Bug (Dictyotus caenosus) (Observed by lek November 23, 2016)

Schellenberg's Soldier Bug (Oechalia schellenbergii) (Observed by epitree October 9, 2015)

They might be confused with the brown soldier bug (also called the glossy shield bug), which we don’t need. If you can’t tell the difference then we’re happy to add them to our colony.

Brown Soldier Bug (Cermatulus nasalis) (Observed by epitree February 14, 2015)

If any are found can you please contact Sophie at She'd be very grateful for your help.

If you do find any Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (we really hope you don’t!), be sure to report them ASAP.

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (Halyomorpha halys) (Observed by claggy September 23, 2016 in USA)

Please, catch it, snap it, report it – call the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) at 0800 80 9966, put it in a snap lock bag pop it in the freezer. If you're not sure, please call MPI anyway and you can add a photo to NatureWatch NZ to check the ID.

Posted on December 16, 2016 09:12 AM by jon_sullivan jon_sullivan | 4 comments | Leave a comment

September 06, 2016

Join us for this year's Great Kererū Count, 16–25 September 2016

The Great Kererū Count is the largest national citizen science project to help gather information on the abundance and distribution of the New Zealand Pigeon — also known as kererū, kūkū or kūkupa. The Great Kererū Count will take place over 10 full days from 16 to 25 September 2016. It's the time for all New Zealanders to get together and do a population health check for these amazing birds. So get ready to get out and about and make your kererū count.

NatureWatch NZ is the place for your kererū counts and you've got three ways to get your counts loaded in. Like everything on NatureWatch NZ, they're all free.

You can enter your counts directly into the Great Kererū Count 2016 project on the NatureWatch NZ website at This option is best if you're already hooked on NatureWatch NZ or are keen to become part of New Zealand's largest online community of nature watchers. Use NatureWatch NZ if you've got photos of your counted kererū to share.

NatureWatch NZ users can also count on the go by logging into NatureWatch NZ from the iNaturalist app (Android, iOS). This is a great way to quickly upload kererū photos taken on your smart phone.

If you're in a rush or don't want to deal with the hassle of signing up for NatureWatch NZ, you can add your observations to the web form on the Great Kererū Count website at Their web form loads your counts into NatureWatch NZ too, but it does so anonymously and without the ability to add photos. It's built for you flyby kererū counters out there who are keen to quickly share a kererū count then get back to your busy lives until next year's count.


The Great Kereru Count people have put together some nice detailed instructions for each of those options if you're a first time kererū counter or in case you run into any problems getting started. The NatureWatch NZ team will also be available, as we always are, at

Our colleagues at Victoria University in Wellington have been busy analysing the results of last year's mighty kererū count. You can read about their findings in their report here (although, caution, it's not light bedtime reading). The more people get involved, and the more years the kererū count runs, the more we'll learn.

Posted on September 06, 2016 02:36 AM by jon_sullivan jon_sullivan | 0 comments | Leave a comment

July 01, 2016

Changes on NatureWatch NZ

If you're a long-time user of NatureWatch NZ, you will have noticed some changes to the site recently. Along with the rest of the iNaturalist network, we've been gradually updating the site to (hopefully) make it easier to use for new users and more efficient for everyone else. The iNaturalist developers in San Francisco has been working hard on this for a while now.

One of the biggest recent changes was to our ID Please page. It's now the Identify page and it's geared up to help you to help others to identify their photos and sounds. You can now search on the taxon (e.g., starfish, or sharks, or daisies) you have some expertise in and then flick through all the observations waiting for ID. Once you get the hang of it, it's quite a bit quicker than our old page.

More recently, we've just flicked the switch to take you straight to your Dashboard if you're signed in. And that Dashboard has had facelift to (hopefully) make it more intuitive for new comers. To see the old NatureWatch NZ front page, you need to be signed out. It's now what people new to the site see (and we'll be reworking it soon to make it more inviting for new users).

The other big change is a brand new Add Observation page. It's currently available at but will soon replace our old add an observation page which was been widely regarded as intimidatingly complicated by new users when we've been out in the community running tutorials. You can do all the same things with the new page, but it's hidden away some of the complexity. The minimum you need to do now is just drag a photo onto the webpage and pushing the Submit button.

We hope you like some of the changes. We also appreciate your patience. We know that any change is disruptive. Together with our iNaturalist partners, we're trying to make NatureWatch NZ as inviting and intuitive for new users as we can, while still containing all of the wonderful flexibility and rich features that our long-time users have come to rely on.


The NatureWatch NZ team (

Posted on July 01, 2016 01:37 AM by jon_sullivan jon_sullivan | 3 comments | Leave a comment