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Identifying aquatic insects

Insect anatomy

Adaptations for Aquatic Habitats


Aquatic insects cope by having waterproofed skin so large

amounts of fresh water do not diffuse into the body. Many are covered with a water-repellent waxy layer. They also usually have hairy or waxy legs, which repel water so they don't get trapped by the water surface tension. Many of these insects are strong swimmers or crawlers as nymphs or larvae and as adults can also fly, although the degree to which they use their ability to fly varies quite a bit. Water Boatmen are the only aquatic beetles that can take off from the water - without having to crawl out of the water first.

There are three types of life cycles in a temperate stream:


Slow season life cycle. This may occur in cooler streams. The insects

grow during fall and winter while feeding on leaf detritus. Pupae and adults will emerge from late winter to early summer. Examples of slow season life cycle insects include some mayflies, stoneflies, and caddisflies.
Fast season life cycle. A fast season life cycle is where the growth of

the immature is fast after a long egg or larval diapause. They may stay in the egg stage from August to March, the larvae stage from March to May/June, and become an adult in June or July. An example of a fast season life cycle insect includes some caddisflies.
Nonseasonal life cycle. These are individuals where several stage or

sizes are present in all seasons. An example would be hellgrammites.

Life cycles
Insects either go through complete metamorphosis or

incomplete metamorphosis.
Incomplete metamorphosis Complete metamorphosis

-Ephemeroptera -Odonata -Plecoptera -Hemiptera

-Megaloptera -Neuroptera -Coleoptera -Trichoptera -Lepidoptera -Diptera

Incomplete metamorphosis
Incomplete metamorphosis has three main stages: egg,

nymph, and adult. Egg - A female insect lays eggs. These eggs are often covered by an egg case, which protects the eggs and holds them together.

Nymph - The eggs hatch into nymphs. Nymphs looks like small adults, but usually don't have wings. Nymphs shed or molt their exoskeletons (outer casings made up of a hard substance called chitin) and replace them with larger ones several times as they grow. Most nymphs molt 4-8 times.
Adult - The insects stop molting when they reach their adult size. By this time, they have also grown wings.

Mayflies (Order: Ephemeroptera)

Mayfly (Order: Ephemeroptera)


Habitat of Nymph: Fresh running water of ponds and streams. Habitat of Adult: Short lived flying insect that mates and then dies.

Characteristics:
Distinguished from other nymphs by seven pairs of gills along the

abdomen. Oxygen is absorbed from water (Diffusion across abdominal gills). Nymphs generally have three tails attached to the end of the abdomen. Wing pads are visible on the nymph. Nymphs feed on live and decaying vegetation. Nymphs are a common food source for trout and otherfish. Mayfly nymphs require 4 to 10 ppm of dissolved oxygen for survival. Nymphs are up to 2.5 cm long. They have three pairs of segmented legs with one claw at the end of each leg.

Damselflies (Order: Odonata)

Damselflies (Order: Odonata)


Habitat of Nymph: Ponds, marshes, and slow moving streams. Habitat of Adult: Fast flying insect.

Characteristics:
In the same order as dragonflies and similar to dragonflies but generally smaller and

more delicate. Distinguished by large compound eyes with nearly 360-degree vision in both the nymph and adult stage. Nymphs have "lips" hinged in two places with grasping pincers on the end for catching prey. Brown and green bodies tend to provide camouflage and allow the nymph to blend in with the aquatic habitat of plants and pond bottoms. Three leaf-like gills at the base of the abdomen obtain oxygen. Damselfly nymphs can be distinguished from dragonfly nymphs by a narrow body with three gills extending in a tripod formation at the end of body. The three pairs of legs are long and spindly. Nymphs are predators and feed on mollusks, other insects, crustaceans, worms, and small fish. Nymphs are a food source for some fish.

Dragonflies (Order: Odonata)

Dragonflies (Order: Odonata)


Habitat of Nymph: Ponds marshes and slow moving streams. Habitat of Adult: Fast flying insect.

Characteristics:
Distinguished by large compound eyes with nearly 360-degree vision in both

the nymph and adult stage. Nymphs have "lips" hinged in two places with grasping pincers on the end for catching prey. Brown and green bodies tend to provide camouflage and allow the nymph to blend in with the aquatic habitat of plants and pond bottoms. Gills inside the abdomen obtain oxygen. Water drawn into the abdomen and through the gills is expelled to propel the nymph through the water. Nymphs have three pairs of segmented legs on upper part (thorax) of body. Dragonfly nymph can be distinguished from damselfly one by a wide to oval abdomen that may end in wedge shaped extensions. Nymphs are predators and feed on mollusks, other insects, crustaceans, worms, and small fish. Nymphs are a food source for some fish (Positive impact on water populations).

Stoneflies (Order: Plecoptera)

Stoneflies (Order: Plecoptera)


Habitat of Nymph: Cold lakes or fast moving streams. Habitat of Adult: Flying insect.

Characteristics:
Distinguished by obvious wing pads on nymph and two tails that remain on the adult. They also do not have leaf like gills along both sides of the abdomen as the mayfly does. Oxygen is obtained by single gills under the legs or through the skin surface (diffusion across general body surface). They have two long antennae much longer than the head. They have three pairs of segmented legs that end in small hooks. The nymph appears to be flattened in shape for crawling along and under stones. Nymphs feed on decaying plants and animals or other small macroinvertebrates. Nymphs are a food source for some fish.

Water-bugs (Order: Hemiptera)

Water-bugs (Order: Hemiptera)


Habitat of Nymph: Ponds and slow moving streams. Habitat of Adult: Ponds and slow moving streams.

Characteristics
The Giant Water Bug gets oxygen through a snorkel like breathing tube

that extends to the water surface. They have three pairs of jointed legs. The front pair has a modified hook for catching and holding prey. (toothless grasping leg). Catch the prey and suck its blood alive. Giant Water Bugs may be up to 8 cm in size. True predators in the aquatic environment, Giant Water Bugs will attack prey that are 20 times larger in size.

Complete metamorphosis
Most insects go through complete metamorphosis.

Complete metamorphosis has 4 stages: Egg - A female insects lays eggs. Larva - Larvae hatch from the eggs. They do not look like adult insects. They usually have a worm-like shape, but many have legs in the larval form. Caterpillars, maggots, and grubs are all just the larval stages of insects. Larvae molt their skin several times as they grow slightly larger. Pupa - Larvae make cocoons around themselves. Larvae don't eat while they're inside their cocoons. Their bodies develop into an adult shape with wings, legs, internal organs, etc. This change takes anywhere from 4 days to many months. Adult - Inside the cocoon, the larvae change into adults. After a period of time, the adult breaks out of the cocoon.

Fishflies (Megaloptera)

Spongillaflies (Order: Neuroptera)

Water beetles (Order: Coleoptera)

Water beetles (Order: Coleoptera)


Habitat of Larvae: Slow moving waters. Habitat of Adult: Slow moving waters.

Characteristics:
Larvae have six jointed legs. The body is segmented with a narrow collar behind the head. Abdomen may have filaments but not hooks. The head has large crescent shaped mandibles or mouthparts.

Caddisflies (Order: Trichoptera)

Caddisflies (Order: Trichoptera)


Habitat of Larvae: Streams and ponds. Habitat of Adult: Land dwelling flies.

Characteristics:
Many caddisfly larvae can be recognized by soft bodies which are covered by tube

like cases that the larvae build from twigs, leaves, grasses, pebbles and sand grains. They have three pairs of segmented legs on the upper - middle part of the body and two small fleshy extensions at the end of the abdomen that end in a small hook. Filamentous gills may be present on the underside or the end of the abdomen. They have a characteristic motion know as the "Caddisfly Dance" of wiggling back and forth and up and down. Different species have different feeding habits. Some live on dead leaves and decaying matter, others feed on plants, and some prey on other organisms. Oxygen is absorbed through the body surface. Larvae and the pupae are common food sources for trout and other fish.

Gnats and flies (Order: Diptera)

Gnats and flies (Order: Diptera)


Habitat of Larvae: Generally ponds, marshes, lakes and slow moving

steams some species have adapted to fast moving streams. Habitat of Adult: Small flying insect.

Characteristics:
Larvae have a small siphon or snorkel tube to acquire oxygen from the air.

They can tolerate waters with very low levels of dissolved oxygen.
Larvae are a food source for fish.

Insects as bio-indicators
Bioindication:
Bioindication or biomonitoring can be considered a type of applied ecology. Its primary goal is to use organisms living within natural communities to

monitor the impact of disturbance and to use this knowledge in the management of the ecological system. Bioindication can also be used in urban settings and in agricultural communities.

Indicator taxa
An indicator taxon is one that is of narrow amplitude with respect to one or

more environmental factors. When the species is present, it indicates the presence of certain environmental parameters.

Factors governing aquatic insect distribution:


Oxygen availability Temperature Sediment and substrate type Presence of pollutants such as pesticides, acidic materials and heavy metals

Typical responses to aquatic insect communities following disturbance:


As particulate material including sediment increases, certain species of

mayflies with protected abdominal gills, and caddisflies like the filter-feeding increase in relative abundance. When dissolved oxygen is reduced, haemoglobin-possessing bloodworms (Chironomidae) increase in number. Stonefly nymphs decline as temperature increases.

Q.1. a. Order. b. Common name c. Type of metamorphosis

Q.2. a. Comment on adaptation(s) for aquatic habitat.

b. Habitat of adult and immature stages.

Q.3 a. Identify both a&b, mentioning order.

b. two differences. C. two characters in common.

Q.4. a. Order. b. Type of larva. c. Location of gills and way of respiration. d. They have a characteristic motion know as .

Q.5.
a. Common name.
b. Way of

respiration. c. Habitat d. Comment on adaptation(s) for predaceous habit.

Q.6 Identify each of the following:


a. Indicator taxon.

b. Fast seasonal life cycle.

Q.7
a. Identify both stages.

b. Comment on the

way of respiration.
c. Impact on aquatic

life.

Q.8
a. Order. b. Common name:
c. Type of metamorphosis: d. Location of gill(s):

Q.9
a. Factors governing aquatic insect distribution.
b. When dissolved oxygen is ,

haemoglobin-possessing bloodworms (Family: ) ..in number.

Q. 10
a. Order: b. Common name:
c. Type of

metamorphosis.