Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Terrific Tuesday: Aquatic Bug Hunt

This is one of my favorite summer time Terrific Tuesdays from the past that I have to share again because it is so fun! 
 We are going on a fun adventure with Delia of Delia Creates today!

 I am so happy to be here for Dianna's Terrific Tuesdays. My grandmother's nickname for me is Dee Dee too, so I feel particular akin to her. :)

Today for Terrific Tuesday, we are going on a very special bug hunt.


My husband used to work at a bug lab at the university, and did his undergraduate research on the effects of Rotenone on aquatic insects. He's a fish biologist finishing up his graduate work right now and I am sure he is cringing at how unscientific and unspecific I made that all sound. :) I should put a disclaimer that this post is directed to parents who just want to get their kids out exploring and appreciating nature...please forgive any flaws in my scientific rhetoric.

Anyway, so when Owen was 3 years old, my husband started taking us all out for aquatic bug hunts. It has since become a yearly tradition and a kid favorite in our household.

He used to have the proper equipment: kick nets, preservation alcohol, vials, and tools back then. Here he is with 3 year old Owen in his waders going on our first bug hunt.

And here he is last Spring preserving some of the bugs we found with 5 year old Owen and 1 year old Reid. If you can find little glass vials and a mixture of ethanol and alcohol you can do the same. They make great souvenirs. My boys loved looking at them for weeks after {until they shook them to death}.

But you really don't need all that. As we proved this last Saturday.

All you need are some water shoes/sandals so you can get into the stream and some sturdy buckets. Owen also found this bug kit at the dollar store which came with a little net. Not necessary but useful.

Now, find some shallow, fast moving water. The key is to find white water.

White water means there is a lot of oxygen in it. There are all sorts of bugs you can find in other  types of water, but to find the kind of bugs we are going to find today, you want this kind of water.

We have had record rain/snow/flooding this year so most of the water looks what you see on the left, which is scary and not ideal. Look for waters more like what you see on the right. We had to travel higher in elevation to reach head waters. You may have to do the same especially if you live in Utah like us. Or you can wait until the end of July or into August when the flooding subsides.

Please be extra cautious around the water. I'm sure it goes without saying, but I'm going to say it just in case. Please, please watch your kids around water. Especially around fast moving streams like this.

Now dig around and grab a nice big rock. The uglier the better. 

We sent my husband out to do all the dirty work because we were being extra careful with our kids around the stream. We made them stay on land with me. 

Set it down and watch the rock come to life. All manner of bugs should start crawling out and about. I had to restrain myself from shouting "ewwww."

Can you spot some bugs? They're there. See the little casings that almost look like little hard tubes? Those house Caddisfly nymhs. Just wait and they'll slither out.

You can pick the bugs off and put them in the water 

or just stick the whole rock in a bucket full of stream water.

Then pick the bugs off and inspect.

Those are bugs coming off the rock! Eww...I mean oooh! :)

We also found some interesting bugs on this beaver chewed stick.

These bugs are in the nymph or adolescent cycle of their lives and actually breathe underwater with gills.

Here is a Caddisfly nymph:

A Mayfly:

A Stonefly:

For more detailed pictures go to the Utah State Bug Lab website by clicking here.

For a more kid-friendly bug guide that you can print out go here.
I highly recommend this guide. It gives the scientific names and drawings for each stage of life for many kinds of aquatic insects. It also lists where to find them {habitat}, and other fun facts.
It will  help you find and identify other types of insects found in stagnant water and ponds as well. 

I also recommend asking your local fly fishing shop for some information on the insects unique to your area. My husband warned that it's wise to ask and do your research beforehand, because some areas have bugs that bite. Good to know!

Be mindful that these insects don't make good pets. We brought ours home and within a few hours they met their demise. They need oxygenated water like the stream water you found them in. If you want to "keep" them look into preserving them as I mentioned at the beginning of the post.

The next time you go on a camping trip or on a hike near some water, consider spending some time bug hunting. Your kids will love you for it!

Thanks having me over today Dianna!

Hope you all are having a terrific day with your kids!


  1. I will definitely do this with my little ones.


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