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Aquatic Insects 

- Insects that live in freshwater -

Summary: Selected references for aquatic insect identification.

Jack DeAngelis, PhD
OSU Ext. Entomologist (ret.)

Aquatic entomology is the study insects that inhabit freshwater for at least part of their lives. Usually it is the larval (immature) or nymphal stage that inhabits freshwater streams or lakes.

Common freshwater insects are dragonflies & damselflies (Odonata), stoneflies (Plecoptera), caddisflies (Trichoptera) and mayflies (Ephemeroptera). Large larvae of these insects are sometimes used as bait by fishermen and replicas of the adult insects are used by "fly" fishermen as well.

Mayflies [pictures] are the most primitive of the aquatic insects. Larvae live in freshwater streams and ponds feeding on algae and detritus. Adults emerge, often in large numbers, but only live a short time.

Dragonfly and damselfly adults [pictures] are familiar to most people but the larvae may not be. Larvae live in freshwater while adults are generally found near water. Both larvae and adults are predators.

Stonefly adults [pictures] are medium-size, drab-colored insects with the wings folded flat across the back. Larvae live in freshwater where they are predatory but also feed on plant material.

Caddisfly adults [pictures] resemble moths and are the most advanced of the aquatic insects. Caddisfly larvae are caterpillar-like and often live within a case made of sand grains or plant material. Some larvae are free-living predators.

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Jack DeAngelis, Ph.D.

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