Go Pond Dipping This Spring!

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Ah – it’s going to be spring soon, I can feel it! This year, use a small pond to learn about aquatic insects, and use pond invertebrates to learn about the health of a backyard pond. Whether you have a pond in your garden or you like to visit one in a local park, here are some tips that will help you explore this coming spring.
Dancing dragonflies and speedy beetles – are they a reason to squeal in horror, or are they an important part of the pond ecosystem? Well, some might dislike them, but aquatic invertebrates are hugely important to the backyard pond.

Why are aquatic insects important to a pond? Dragonflies, damselflies, and diving beetles act as predators, keeping the ecological balance in the pond. Whirligig beetles are just plain fun to watch as they spin around, and they are another predator insect. Caddisflies are long, thin insects who make camouflaged homes where they hide and search the pond for algae. Pond insects are a sign that the pond is becoming a thriving ecosystem, and they also act as food for larger animals, such as frogs, fish, and herons. Observing these animals gives the pond gardener a deeper understanding of the ecology of the water garden.

As you embark on your pond explorations this spring, get yourself a field guide or two! Identify pond insects using field guides specific to the area. Choose a guide book with ink drawings and photos, if possible. Photos can help identify insects because they look closer to the real thing. However, tricks of the light and the color of the background can also make pond animals look very different than they do in real life. Pen and ink drawings are an excellent way to identify the body parts and the specific characteristics of each pond animal. For those looking for a guide that is easy to find, the Petersen First Guides are a good place to start. For those who would like a more advanced look into the lives of aquatic insects, Gilbert Waldbauer’s A Walk around the Pond: Insects in and over the Water (Harvard University Press, 2006) is a much more in depth examination of insect behavior.

Image Credit: [sk849]

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