Most bugs are usually seen during the spring and summer months, not at the end of January. However, three local watershed advocacy groups — the Clinton River Watershed Council (CRWC), the Huron River Watershed Council (HRWC), and the Friends of the Rouge (FOTR) — will be searching their respective river watersheds for a particular insect this month.
According to Michele Arquette-Palermo, education and stewardship director at the CRWC, the winter stonefly has “very stringent water quality requirements, such as highly-oxygenated and clean water,” which makes them a good water quality indicator. The presence of stoneflies indicates good water quality, while their absence points to a potential problem.
Arquette-Palermo said the stoneflies provide the CRWC with a greater glimpse of the river’s water quality than chemical tests.
“Chemical tests for phosphates and nitrates in the water are capturing just that moment in time. Insects, especially in the nymph stage, live in the stream for months, which gives us a long-term picture of the water quality,” she said.
Winter stonefly nymphs develop in cold, clear running water. When they become adults, they climb out of the water and shed their skins. This normally occurs in late winter, which is why the area watershed groups conduct stonefly searches at this time of year.
“Winter stoneflies concentrate all their growth through the winter. They hibernate the rest of the year,” said Joan Martin, director of the HRWC’s Adopt a Stream Program. “We find them sometimes in streams where we don’t find such demanding insects for the rest of the year. This makes it even more interesting.”
The CRWC will hold its stonefly search on Saturday, Jan. 22 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Volunteers will meet up at Yates Park in Rochester Hills. Arquette-Palermo is asking people to register in advance by either e-mailing email@example.com, or calling at 248-601-0606. Hot beverages, snacks, and pizza will be provided to volunteers.
The HRWC needs volunteers for its 5-hour search on Saturday, Jan. 29. There are two start times to choose from: 10:15 a.m. or 11:45 a.m. Volunteers are asked to register for the search by today, Wednesday, Jan. 12 at www.hrwc.org/volunteer/stonefly, or by contacting Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 734-769-5123, ext. 600.
The FOTR will hold its stonefly search on Saturday, Jan. 22. Volunteers are asked to meet at the University of Michigan-Dearborn at 9 a.m. From there they will be venturing out to streams around the metropolitan area. Preregistration through the FOTR website at www.therouge.org or by calling 313-792-9621 is required by Friday, Jan. 14.
“We are pretty excited for this year’s event. Last year we found a stonefly on the main branch of the Rouge River in Detroit,” said Sally Petrella, the FOTR’s Volunteer Monitoring Program manager. “We are hoping to find more in that area this year. We have never found any on the main branch before.”