Welcome to our first edition of Bug Blogs, celebrating Science Odyssey by showcasing benthic macroinvertebrates (bugs!) that we often find during our local stream studies program, Changing Currents.
Have you ever wondered about the little bugs that live in your local waterways, why they’re there, and what they tell us about the water quality? If you have, you are in the right place! Bug Blog is EcoSpark’s blog series in celebration of Science Odyssey, a ten-day campaign celebrating Canadian achievements in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) with hundreds of science-based outreach events across Canada for all ages. Each day of Science Odyssey (May 12-21), we will be exploring a different Benthic Macroinvertebrate (BMI), small spineless organisms that live at the bottom of waterways. These are creatures we come across all the time in EcoSpark’s Changing Currents program, where we carry out stream studies with schools around the GTA by collecting BMIs to learn about local water quality. Today we will be putting the spotlight on the stonefly!
What are Stoneflies Like?
You might be wondering how a fly, usually found buzzing around on land, could live in water. Stoneflies have three life stages: eggs, nymphs and adults. Stoneflies spend most of their 1-3 years of life in the nymph stage. Imagine spending most of your life as a baby! It is in this nymph form that these critters are found at the bottom of fresh water habitats. The most distinctive features of a stonefly nymph are its two tails and armour-like, plated body seen in the picture below.
Stonefly nymphs like to crawl along the bottom of waterways, moving very quickly, and are quite hard to catch. Watch these speedy little guys in action in the video below! Now that you know a little bit about how stoneflies look and move, let’s talk about what they tell us about water quality.
Stoneflies and Water Quality
Stonefly nymphs are adapted to very specific environments and can tell us about how healthy our water bodies are. Stoneflies need plenty of oxygen in their habitat because they breathe using small gills or entirely through their outer body. Rocky areas in fresh water bodies are perfect places for stoneflies because of better water flow and easy access to oxygen. Stonefly nymphs like clean, clear and cold water, living in temperatures as low as 0°C. In Changing Currents studies, we are more likely to find stoneflies in areas further from the city, where there is less pollution and better water quality. Of all the benthics we study in Changing Currents, stoneflies are the most particular about their environment and the most sensitive to pollution. Students are always excited to see stoneflies because that means their local water is doing well and healthy enough for a stonefly to live in - that’s pretty healthy!
Check us out tomorrow for the next installment of Bug Blogs where we’ll explore the life of leeches!
You can learn more about stoneflies and other BMIs at the EcoSpark booth at Science Rendezvous on May 13, 2017 at Yonge-Dundas Square, part of Science Odyssey, a ten-day campaign celebrating Canadian achievements in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) through hundreds of outreach events across the nation aimed at delivering engaging and inspiring science based activities for all ages!
EcoSpark's Bug Blogs would not be possible without the support from our generous sponsor, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) PromoScience Program.