Sunday, July 17, 2011

Flying Ants, Dragonfly Niads, and Stoneflies


Today we rode our bikes from the botanical gardens in Grand Junction to the entrance to Corn Lake on 32 Road; we saw a lot of creatures along the way. We found a stonefly, some tiny tadpoles, and an assortment of frogs and toads. In one little pond we found a dragonfly nymph (or naiad), hundreds of water boatmen, a few water striders, snails, and some kind of aquatic insect that stays underwater and looks like a fat, spherical tick. A bit farther along the trail we found an ant nest whose winged members were preparing to participate in a mating flight.

Update: What I have always thought were water boatmen were not. They are actually backswimmers. I had no idea that the two were any different. It turns out that water boatmen surface upright and backswimmers surface on their backs. Other than that, they look very similar to one another. So what I saw were backswimmers and not water boatmen. I'm not sure that I've ever actually seen a water boatman.  Here is an article that describes backswimmers and another that describes water boatmen.

You don't want to see this if you are a small insect or crustacean.

A view for scale.

The dragonfly naiad is a decent-sized little critter.

I don't normally post pictures of dead insects, but I had never seen one of these before. It is a stonefly. We found it on the bike trail between a stagnant, receding pond and the swiftly flowing Colorado river. Look at this picture for a better idea of what the living version actually looks like. Another insect that I have yet to see is a dobsonfly. I've heard that they can be found around Grand Junction. I'm looking forward to finding one.

The stonefly is a medium-sized insect belonging to the order plecoptera. A plecopteran sighting is a good thing, as they can not handle water pollution. If you spot one, it means that the water source is healthy. When I first saw this one, I thought that it might be a female dobsonfly or caddisfly (two other species I've never actually seen) but a quick look online revealed that it must be a stonefly. 

In the process of trying to identify the stonefly, I discovered another insect I had spotted in Georgia way back in 2005 and had never been able to identify. An owlfly. The way that it rests on plant stalks is very distinctive, with its wings folded back and down in a very unusual manner.

 These tadpoles are quite a bit smaller than a pencil eraser.

A short video showing the tiny tadpoles we found. 
When they reach adulthood, we'll release them.
They are in the smallest critter keeper you can buy. 

Update: Another tadpole that started out just like these critters a month or so ago has become an adult. Check this link to see what Frida became. ~