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Wading for Bugs

Exploring Streams with the Experts

Judith L. Li, Michael T. Barbour

Publication Year: 2011

In Wading for Bugs, nearly two dozen aquatic biologists share their memorable encounters with stream insects.

The contributors, based primarily in North America, work in diverse environments—from arctic to desert, from mountain streams to river valleys. They represent a wide range of expertise as authors of standard field texts, leaders in biomonitoring and assessment programs, directors of major laboratories, and specialists in aquatic ecology and taxonomy.

The writings in Wading for Bugs allow readers to experience—through the eyes of the scientists—what it’s like to study stream insects and to make discoveries that could help develop biological indicators for stream health. General summaries introduce each insect order. Elegant insect drawings accompany each story, along with morphological, life history, and habitat information for each species or family.

Wading for Bugs will appeal to general readers as well as students, naturalists, and fisherfolk curious about streams and the insects that live in them.

Published by: Oregon State University Press


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pp. vi-x

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pp. xi

We are grateful for the advice provided by two anonymous reviewers of earlier drafts, and we are particularly appreciative of guidance by Mary Braun and Jo Alexander at the OSU Press and editor Joanna Conrad in the production of our book...

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pp. xii-xiv

Whether turning over stream rocks, chasing damselflies at stream’s edge, or watching the dance of mating mayflies, children and adults alike have long delighted in the diversity of stream insects. If you also like dabbling in creeks or poking around in...

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Part I: Mayflies in the Mist

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pp. 1-3

As the Latin name for this order of insects implies, mayflies are ephemeral as adults, when they dance in the air above streams seeking their mates. They spend most of their lives as nymphs molting through many stages, until they emerge, only to reproduce...

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1. The Ghost Mayfly

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pp. 4-10

Anglers and stream biologists know that flowing water and ever-changing rivers create experiences both rare and beautiful. Sometimes they present questions that may never be answered. I remember one foggy evening on July 27, 1969, when Jerry Parsons...

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2. Emergence of a Mayfly: Nuisance or Blessing?

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pp. 11-14

It was a full moon, and the summer night was hot and sticky. I listened to the night noises as we drove along the gravel road, the warm breeze coming in from the open window. My dad was humming a Gene Autry tune that was playing on the radio. The...

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3. Mayflies and Fly Fishing at the Forks of the Credit

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pp. 15-21

To catch fish, anglers use artificial lures that imitate insects. Most aquatic insects, stoneflies (Plecoptera), caddisflies (Trichoptera), and midges (Diptera) included, have lures fashioned after them, but imitations of mayflies (Ephemeroptera) are by far the most...

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Part II: Stonefly Recoveries

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pp. 22-24

Compared to other more numerous and diverse insect orders, Plecoptera has relatively few members; nevertheless, stoneflies are important in aquatic systems. Because they generally live in well-oxygenated, cool streams (and sometimes lakes in...

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4. A Cosmic Stonefly: Rediscovering Tallaperia

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pp. 25-28

Streams that drain the southern Appalachian Mountains in western North Carolina are an entomologist’s playground. Most are swiftly flowing, clear, cold streams that support trout, including the native brook trout. Lots of stoneflies live there...

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5. Returning Salmonflies to the Logan River

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pp. 29-33

Large, dark brown salmonfly nymphs make superb food for fish; those that survive to be winged adults may be eagerly snatched up by birds and bats in the riparian forest. Known to biologists as Pteronarcys californica (Plecoptera: Pteronarcyidae), they are...

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Part III: Sleuthing for Caddis

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pp. 34-36

The widespread, diverse caddisflies can be divided into three subgroups based on the kinds of cocoons and cases they build. All use silk, produced by silk glands, for at least part of their lives. They are closely related to moths; however, unlike aquatic...

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6. A Case that Glitters

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pp. 37-41

Long, long ago Aristotle spotted insects crawling in streams, lumbering around with cases created from bits of wood: he called them stick worms. Unbeknownst to him they were actually the larvae of insects now called caddisflies, the adults of which look...

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7. Life in a Cornucopia

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pp. 42-47

The first time I saw netspinning caddisflies, I was staring at a damp layer of moss covering the surface of a rock in my professor’s lab. It took me a while before I discovered little caterpillar-like beasties...

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8. Mystery of the Spine-Adorned Caddisfly

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pp. 48-51

Tucked into the arid Great Basin lands of eastern California and western Nevada, the desert springs I explored for my graduate research were full of surprises. Finding the springs proved to be only the first challenge. We knew scarcely anything about what...

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9. Dicos for Ducks

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pp. 52-56

Harlequin ducks are brightly colored birds that get their clownish name from their decorative white eye rings, white cheek spots, and burnt orange, white, and deep gray wing plumage. Our research team called them “harlys.” In the winter of 1996, Kris...

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10. Digging in a Ditch for Caddis

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pp. 57-60

When our children were young, my family and I spent many weekends camping or picnicking on the Oregon coast or in the Cascade Range. We always chose sites along streams or lakes, where we looked for bugs, fish, and tadpoles. As an aquatic...

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11. A Criminal "Case" Made with Caddisflies

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pp. 61-64

Approximately twenty years ago, I was crawling around a small stream on South Mountain near Shippensburg University in south central Pennsylvania with my master’s advisor Fred Howard, studying the life history of caddisflies. Little did I know that what...

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Part IV: Truly Flies

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pp. 65-67

True flies are a group with which everyone is familiar, in one way or another. Mosquitoes, black flies, crane flies, and midges (sometimes called gnats) are among the best known aquatic Diptera because they are sometimes irritating to humans, often...

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12. Encounter with Arctic Black Flies

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pp. 68-73

It was a beautiful evening in early July north of the Arctic Circle, with the sun dipping low but not quite reaching below the northwest horizon. Still adjusting to the wonder of the region’s late-night sunshine, I surveyed my crew’s heaps of field and...

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13. Hanging on in the Alpine Tundra

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pp. 74-78

It was late July, but nearly freezing cold, the morning that my friend Kristy and I hiked to Chasm Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. The lake occupies a deep glacial cirque that captures meltwater from Mills...

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14. Making the Case for an Aquatic Insect and Its Habitat

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pp. 79-82

I teach a course called “Aquatic Insects” at Michigan State University. The course consists of both lecture and laboratory, with a collection required by students in the class as part of their laboratory grade. They examine specimens from our teaching...

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15. Way Cool Mountain Midges

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pp. 83-88

“Deuterophlebiids (du-ter-o-fle-bee-ids) are set up as a demonstration at the front table,” read an announcement from Dr. Norm Anderson in our aquatic entomology lab at Oregon State. “These are rare flies, so be very careful when you handle the...

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16. Marine Sea Stars, Nudibranchs, and Midges

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pp. 89-93

I am a freshwater-insect specialist, and my favorite group is the small but abundant group of Dipterans (true flies) called Chironomidae. In the early 1980s I was invited by the Shoals Marine Laboratory (SML) to join a group of...

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17. The Phantom Midges of Silver Lake

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pp. 94-99

It was mid May, and everyone was returning for the summer season at Silver Lake. I’d been sewing nets in preparation for sampling when I saw the twins, Sue and Mark, running down the dock toward me. The Franklin family had the...

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Part V: Dragonfly Detectives

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pp. 100-102

Dragonflies and damselflies (Odonata) have an ancient lineage on earth, going back over two hundred fifty million years. Their colorful adult markings, large size, and conspicuous behaviors often afford them a charismatic megafauna status among aquatic...

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18. Hanging from a Leaf

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pp. 103-107

I grew up along the Okanagan River in Penticton, British Columbia, and, when I return to my hometown, I walk its dikes, watching the mergansers on the river and listening to the catbirds and orioles in the dogwoods and cottonwood trees. I’m an entomologist...

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19. Tracking the River Cruiser

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pp. 108-111

It was coming straight at me. I stood there, in the middle of the field, bracing for it, getting ready. “Keep breathing,” I thought to myself, “swing quickly, follow through . . . this might be the only chance you get.” I could see the sunlight glinting in its eyes as...

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Part VI: Bugs and Beetles on Their Best Behavior

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pp. 112-116

Beetle species (about three hundred and fifty thousand) make up the largest order of life on earth. Aristotle gave them their name from the Greek words coleo meaning shield, and ptera meaning wing. About five thousand species are aquatic and occupy just...

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20. In Defense of Whirligig Beetles

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pp. 117-122

When I began graduate study, I was interested in developmental biology and planned to pursue a PhD in botany at Virginia Tech (then known as Virginia Polytechnic Institute). I had been teaching at a junior college in Georgia for a couple of years and...

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21. The Bugs Famously Known as Ferocious Water Bugs, Giant Water Bugs, and Toe Biters

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pp. 123-126

Who would expect to find the largest of all aquatic insects in the smallest of all streams? When desert streams in Arizona and Sonora, Mexico, dry down to knee-deep puddles of water in the summertime, these isolated, condensed pools are filled...

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22. Riding the Current for the Riverine Backswimmer

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pp. 127-131

Our raft was gliding nearly silently over the roiling, chocolate-brown water, when I noticed a slight disruption on the left side of the boat. We were on the third day of an eight-day rafting trip down one hundred and twenty miles of wild river in a roadless...

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23. Secrets of an Infrequent Flyer

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pp. 132-136

Streams of the Arizona White Mountains have marvelous aquatic insect assemblages. This high-elevation (5,000 feet), heavily forested region in a remote section of eastern Arizona is an aquatic entomologist’s dream. Textbook representatives...

Anatomy of a Mayfly

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pp. 137

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Biological Assessment: Using Biological Indicators to Evaluate the Health of a Waterbody

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pp. 138-141

Because aquatic organisms are adapted to the environments in which they live, their long-term exposure to what is happening in their individual habitats can give telltale signs of waterbody health. For instance, sensitive organisms will not withstand slugs...


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pp. 142-144

Useful References

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pp. 145-146

About the Contributors

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pp. 147-154


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pp. 155-160

E-ISBN-13: 9780870716430
E-ISBN-10: 0870716433
Print-ISBN-13: 9780870716089
Print-ISBN-10: 0870716085

Page Count: 176
Publication Year: 2011