Semper Fidelis - Semper Discentes


In Aquatic macroinvertebrates, Odonata, Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring on April 2, 2013 at 2:04 pm

Okay.  I KNOW that 95% of the folks who’ve found this post had been on a Google search and were hoping to find pictures of naked young women.  Sorry, gang.

Yesterday, I made a 150-mile roundtrip drive from my home deep in an Ozark holler, up to Camdenton, Missouri.  I’d heard that Brett Landwer, an employee of the Missouri Department of Conservation and one of the nation’s top experts on the larval (or “nymph“) stages of odonates (dragonflies and damselflies) was gonna be giving a three-hour class on “The Ecology of a Fishless Pond”.

I’d never met Brett before, but had corresponded with him fairly frequently, usually bombarding him with dopey questions about bugs, and looked forward to the chance to meet him at last.

The presentation was given alongside a tiny woodland pond, located on the property of “Box Turtle Ranch”, tucked away in the forest up in Camden County.  A couple of dozen folks were in attendance, part of the Missouri Master Naturalist State Conference, which was just beginning.

I’ve belonged to the Master Naturalists for four years now.  Some folks, including a regional outdoor writer, take exception to the “master naturalist” title, and I’m afraid I tend to agree.  We are, by no means, “masters” of anything; rather, we are, I suppose, “enthusiasts”.  Grizzled old outdoor writers certainly know far more about “natural Missouri” than any of us, but I guess that the folks in charge of the program felt that “Old Farts Who Like to Learn About the Outdoors” probably wouldn’t attract many members.

Be that as it may, we were an enthusiastic group who assembled to hear Brett’s presentation.

Following the brief talk, the participants were invited to wade into the mucky pond, armed with nets, soup strainers, and other accoutrements, to sample the leafy detritus in search of whatever macroinvertebrates (“bug larva”) we might find.

Most of the Missourians chose to piddle about at the water’s edge, while Brett, nattily clad in his Official Department of Conservation Waders, and I, clad in a pair of $3 Louisiana Swamp Mucker watershoes, headed off for the depths.

During the course of the afternoon, the group found some cool stuff, including leeches, beetles, tadpoles and frogs, while I managed to dredge up a nice quantity of dragonfly nymphs.  I imagine EVERYONE reading this post knows what an adult dragonfly looks like.  (By the way, prior to the demonstration, I caught three VERY neat male adult Blue-faced Meadowhawks [Sympetrum ambiguum].  They are really cool-looking bugs, with red abdomens and blue-faces [as you might surmise, given their common names], and I’d never seen them before.  The specimens I captured, incidentally, were county records, the first recorded in Camden County, although they are NOT particularly uncommon in the area.)

A dragonfly. But you already knew that, didn’t you? This is NOT, by the way, the Blue-faced meadowhawk.

The nymphs, on the other hand, live their lives underwater, going through a series of changes (or “instars”) over a period of time before emerging into the dry world and changing into the adult form.  They don’t look anything like the adult forms.At the pond, I caught a half-dozen or so of these things, holding them up to Brett, who’d immediately identify them from twenty feet away.  I wasn’t sure if he was shining me on or not, but he spoke with great confidence.  He is, after all, the author of the definitive identification key to the odonate larva of Missouri (Landwer, Brett H. P. and Robert W. Sites, The Larval Odonata of Ponds in the Prairie Region of Missouri, Transactions of the American Entomological Society, Volume 136, Number 1+2, pp. 1-105, 2010).

After the presentation was over, and the other participants had drifted away, Brett invited me to accompany him on a collecting trip to Wet Glaize Creek in the Toronto Springs Conservation Area.  We drove out, and waded downstream a significant distance, particularly considering that I’d gone out and done my thrice-weekly exercising, including a five-mile walk, before making the drive up to Camdenton, capturing adult Hetaerina americana and an Argia sp. (A. translata, I think).  Brett dug out a couple more nymphs with his aquatic net, and we retired for the afternoon.

Basiaeschna janata.
Ophiogomphus westfalli.


Pachydiplax longipennis.
Plathemis lydia.

I’ve got tentative ID on all his nymphs, but plan to spend awhile with his key, and practice my taxonomic skills (such as they are!).

It’s always fun to get to meet the Big Bug Guys–folks with whom I’ve corresponded, and who’ve been so kind and helpful during the course of  my three-year-old entomological hobby.  Even though Brett’s two decades younger than I am (I’ve got UNDERWEAR older than he is!!!), he is a good teacher, and a lot of fun to wade the river with.

Okay.  Now you can go back to your search for nekkid women.

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