Understanding Water Quality by Identifying Stream Bugs

Photos by Joel Preston Smith.

As part of our volunteer water quality monitoring program, WV Rivers and Trout Unlimited teamed up with WV Department of Environmental Protection to offer citizens scientists a workshop on identifying benthic macro invertebrates, commonly referred to as “stream bugs”, through the WVDEP’s Save Our Streams program.   

Benthic (found on the stream bottom) Macro (visible with the naked eye) Invertebrate (no backbone) populations in the stream are good indicators of the stream’s water quality. Benthics can be considered ‘the canary in the coal mine’ for streams. An abundant and diverse population of stream bugs indicates exceptional water quality and provides plenty of food for the larger fish species that inhabit the stream. 

On a nice Spring day in April, 14 volunteers from across the state, met at Kanawha State Forest to learn how to sample and identify benthic macro invertebrates in Davis Creek from DEP’s Save Our Streams Coordinator, Glenn NelsonVolunteers learned how to sample the stream with a kick net to collect the bugs. Then we took the bucket of bugs back to the picnic shelter to sort through and identify the specific critters inhabiting the stream.

Volunteers identified stoneflies, mayflies, caddisflies, crane flies, dragon flies, black flies, and fishflies. We even found a few salamanders! The populations were numerous and diverse showing that Davis Creek is a very healthy stream. 

To learn more view the Save Our Streams webpage or sign up for our mailing list to get announcements about future workshops.

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