Let's explore the beneficial, beautiful, and bemusing world of bugs!
Bugs form the backbone of a healthy ecosystem, all without possessing one themselves. Most bugs you are likely to encounter on a spring evening in Central PA live most of their lives in the water as macroinvertebrates (creatures without a spine that you can see with your naked eye). These adorable little “macros” perform a variety of functions for a healthy stream.
Types of macros:
Macroinvertebrates can be broken down into categories on what they eat, and how. Grazers generally collect loose material on the bottom of a stream and are not discerning, eating most anything smaller than their mouths or processing algae and other microorganisms. Filter feeders collect almost exactly the same types of foods as the grazers, but tend to collect their food using filtering mouth parts. Predators, as you would expect, hunt their food and feed on most other things smaller than they are. Another group, shredders, process larger material into finer parts, often times they make homes out of this detritus, and are key in decomposition of almost everything that falls into a stream (unfortunately they do not travel the streams on skateboards and snowboards as their name suggests).
There are members in all of theses groups who are only in the water for portions of their life-cycle. These stages can be one of several steps as they progress into adulthood, sometimes changing into another semi-aquatic critter before fully transitioning. Aquatic oddities aside, most people experience these friends in their adult stages as they frantically search for their true love.
Where to look:
There are several key areas for observing the above-mentioned flying fancies. If you have a stream or flowing body of water nearby, they can often host hatches. The confluences at Millbrook Marsh offer perfect habitat for almost every variety described above, and a good warm evening can be punctuated by a particularly large hatch. The two trails at Spring Creek Canyon and the Lower Trail are both alongside streams known for their impressive emergences. In a kind-of reverse emergence, if you see lots of people putting on waders at trail heads and parking areas near the stream then there is a good chance you are about to witness a hatch!
What to Bring:
- A refillable water bottle
- Sturdy and water-resistant footwear capable of walking on a forested pat
- Long pants and high socks may be preferred for additional protection from insects and ticks
- Child carrier/backpack is recommended for very young children
- Binoculars for bird and wildlife watchers
- Flashlight or headlamp if out near dark
- Pack out whatever you bring in
- Follow local rules and guidance
- Be considerate of others
- Stay local
- If parking lot is full, consider entering the site from a different location