Category Archives: entomology

Where we debunk a couple centuries of Entomology with a single frame

I felt used.

… and if I’d had the trophy spouse whom I’d found in the sack with the local tennis pro, I’d have relived those feelings of intense pain and betrayal.


Instead, I can only curse those misspent hours memorizing LaFontaine, Sylvester Nemes, Swisher and Richards, and every other misguided, ersatz, scientist that espoused the then-prevailing theory of insect behavior ..

“ … and when water temps and ambient light get just right, it triggers a loosening of the nymphal shuck, causing the insect to rise through the water column and burst onto the surface to achieve the winged, sexual phase of the …”

Okay, Mister Rogers, if’n you say so …

To be safe we may want to nuke it from orbit

rotenone-pyrethrins I finished my read of the Yellowstone Lake plan the Park recently published for comment. In it they specify the need to remove invasive Lake Trout and restore the native Yellowstone Cutthroat.

Sure enough, our pal Rotenone coupled with gill netting will be the preferred fish killing method, gill nets deployed by a vendor in the lake proper, and follow-up chemical work for all the tributaries that lack some natural barrier to upstream migration.

I find it surprising that Fish & Game hatchery theory is predicated on us happy anglers killing our limit, but whenever they need to lay waste to a watershed – they never invite us to help ..

Rotenone effects both fish and invertebrates in largely the same way, especially prone are gill-bearing insects that derive oxygen from the water via beating of gills. Naturally that includes everything trout eat, so when the florescent green nasty finally is dissipated by a couple of sacks of Potassium Permanganate, it’ll leave a stream or lake mostly empty of life.

Despite Rotenone having been our chemical mainstay for fish killing for nearly 50 years, but very little science exists on the effects of rotenone on surrounding flora and fauna.

Some of that science is bubbling up unbidden given its linkage to Parkinson’s Disease. Likely making a lot of fellows at fish & game nervous and thinking of transfer from the chemical division back to enforcement …

While that topic is hotly debated, what papers we could find on Rotenone suggests that years are necessary before a stream returns to its historic insect populations, and some streams never return to their pre-poisoning levels.

Why is it so important? Because its use is on the rise given that we’re having to defend both shores and the interior from invasives. Running a multi-day slug of toxic killing agent through most of the tributaries and canals hosting an invasive critter is liable to intersect with drinking water and kids splashing merrily, and if they haven’t baked all that science thoroughly we all could be walking through Love Canal too – the Sequel.

The good news is that now that we no longer care about spotted owls, we can always park some Claymores around the last drizzle of water containing Tricorythodes … then camp in the fast water insisting we won’t budge in between fits of our teeth chattering.

Fly fishing responsible for Global Warming

As if we needed another reason not to drink the water You drive a Prius (or it drives you), you only use fur from renewable animals that aren’t clubbed to death, you release all your fish, police your candy bar wrappers, and field strip your cigarette butts so only the wind knows of your passing …

You wear rubber soles and sterile gear for fear of leaving anything behind, and crap a couple of miles from any trace of moisture – using handfuls of leaves or Poison Oak rather than man-made anything.

Yet all that toil and effort is for naught, because you’re still responsible for global warming.

Cow farts and pollution are the primary and secondary offenders, but as we slowly relinquish our grip on fossil fuels and feed bovines something other than their ground up cousin – and then only the parts we’re scared of –  fly fishermen will become poster children for selfishness and environmental genocide, as well as propagating all those noxious gases burrowing through the ozone layer …

Spin and bait fishermen have lived up to their end, and likely as not are armed with spoiled produce to heave in our direction. All those years of “purest form of fishing – nose in the air – snootiness” will come back as half eaten or half rotten fastballs.

Not because we’re creating the gases, although this post and most parking lot recitals add measurably to global warming, it’s because we venerate the Unclean Thing, never to grace our hook with That Which Lacks Legs

Studies of soil-dwelling earthworms had showed that the creepy crawlies emitted nitrous oxide because of the nitrogen-converting microbes they gobbled up into their guts with every mouthful of soil.

Peter Stief, of the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in Germany, and his colleagues noticed that no one had ever looked for similar nitrous oxide emission in aquatic animals, so that’s where they turned their attention.

“We were looking for an analogy in the aquatic system,” Stief said.

The researchers found that in a variety of aquatic environments, animals that dug in the dirt for their food did indeed emit nitrous oxide, thanks to the bacteria in the soil they ate, which “survive surprisingly well in the gut environment,” Stief told LiveScience.

via Fox News / Live Science

It’s bad enough that the aquatic worm views a Whirling Disease microbe like a T-Bone, and adds insult to injury by becoming a host and farting uncontrollably …

Nitrogen rich fertilizers seeping into the watershed from evil ranchers and farmers – causing hideous, sustained mayfly and caddis flatulence – and all the Hex nymphs eaten despite their deep burrow as truly selective trout can spot the bubbles forty yards distant …

Scratch a third of the mayfly genus’s and anything else that burrows.

Tags: Nitrous Oxide, Ozone, Global Worming, Worm farts, mayfly flatulence, fly fishermen, fossil fuels, hexagenia limbata

Dissolved oxygen responsible for aquatic upheaval

Stonefly nymph Confirmation of what we’ve always suspected, that with the climb in water temperature due to summer’s heat, and corresponding decline in dissolved oxygen, that stoneflies migrate to the faster flows where the oxygen is again plentiful.

Anyone who’s held a stonefly in still water has seen the gyrations it goes through to force oxygen over its gills, but what is less well known is how nearly everything else changes its behavior in light of warming water and less oxygen.

The probability of the stonefly presence increased significantly with current velocity in summer, but not in winter. Because current influences oxygen renewal rates, our results suggest that the distribution of the insect could be restricted by oxygen.

It’s thought to be one of the triggers for benthic drift, wherein an aquatic population lets loose of their former haunts and drifts to find better water (more food, more oxygen, different temperatures) often during the cooler evening hours where they’re less vulnerable to predators.

Therefore, mayfly nymphs must restrict themselves to a narrow range of habitats where behavioral regulation of oxygen consumption is never required, or they may utilize
less than ideal habitats, changing positions when
necessary during periods of lower oxygen availability.

… and as a response to diminishing oxygen, both mayflies and caddis will crawl out from under to perch on top of the rock – exposing their gills to the full force of the current, versus the lesser currents under the rock.

Experimental investigations in a small artificial stream showed that the positioning of mayfly nymphs (Ephemeroptera) on stones varied with dissolved oxygen concentration (DO). At low DO levels nymphs moved to current-exposed positions, presumably to increase the renewal rate of oxygen at respiratory exchange surfaces.

Making them readily available to foraging fish, and more apt to become dislodged and tumble around, something we love to exploit.

While the nuggets abound poring through the scientific papers, trout season precludes exploiting all of them:

Recorded as a percentage of the total number of items recovered per month, stoneflies account for 47% (December), 82% (January), 70% (February), and 57% (March) of the items consumed. These findings demonstrate the importance of stoneflies in the diet of eastern populations of trout during the winter months.

January appears to be the month for the “fattened calf” as the bigger stoneflies appear to be markedly favored by trout. Perhaps the turbidity associated with winter storms makes all but the larger bugs less visible, but 82% is a mighty compelling number.

Tags: Stonefly nymphs, benthic drift, mayfly, caddis, dissolved oxygen, trout fishing, fly fishing

Billions upon Billions served

McHexvia the Toledo Blade / Andy Morrison

I warned you about all of those untreated wastewater byproducts that burble out of the sewage treatment plant unfiltered. Rather than clean up our collective act – we were content with all-female fish and estrogen enriched Wonderbread …

… now the all them Hex’s share your yen for high fat, high sugar meals, and will be shambling out of the darkness to chase your daughter next …

Tags: Hexagenia Limbata, Mayfly, McDonald’s serves billions, wastewater treatment, your daughter’s next

The Bug died screaming, make sure you imitate that

carpenter_ant If fly tying wasn’t such a mood based hobby your flies would be twice as good. A big order of tiny, upthrust, and gossamer locks the poor tyer into a mayfly mindset and when a big black ant is up next – being a “slab” of protein completely out of place on water, the result is tiny, gossamer, and neat …

… which has no parallel when imitating a drowning Chuck Roast.

Knowing my coworkers will be demanding ants by lunch hour, and armed with a half dozen photos from yesterday – whose details are still fresh, I eyeballed a couple of the larger catalogs and noticed every ant was an upright aquatic insect … none were tied as a dead bug, and fewer yet were tied screaming in terror.

The Gods had smiled ever so briefly, and while it may be five or six seasons before I need them again, I learned my lesson.

First of all terrestrial insects don’t ride the surface upright like mayflies. Most of them are dead, the rest are struggling to free a big terrestrial wing from the water’s surface and will expire on their back or curled on their side, and there’s nothing neat and orderly about it.

Wings aren’t gossamer as they’d get in the way. They’re stubby thick affairs that once dampened lose most of their aerodynamic qualities, trapping the insect in whatever position was first contact.

Fish (bless them) are entirely unsophisticated when the equivalent of a Virginia Ham is struggling on the surface, and it’s likely that color and size is all that’s needed.

… and something that allows you to see that flush-in-the-film imitation so you’ll know when to strike.

Not pretty, nor is it meant to be

I dubbed the traditional ant profile using black deer hair, which left fibers poking in every direction looking like big black legs. I slapped some brown and black permanent marker on the lettuce bag from the trash, posted some closed cell foam upright and wound a brown-dyed grizzly hackle around it to add a bit more brownish tint to the overall fly.

Those wings will flop onto the surface and stick as the saran is so light it won’t hold its tied-in shape.

Curled and dead

Contrast the dead ants with the live picture at the top. Orderly and shipshape versus cold and curled – wings splayed. This was the look of the wet insect we fished over Sunday.

Surely, if a large Adams was all it took to fool the fish we’re splitting hairs, yet if you’re taking the trouble to imitate something lose the live bug bias and get disjoint and nasty.

Coifed and combed is for that sweet smelling fellow with the droopy backcast, and was never meant for the bait …

Why Iowa has never been mentioned in the same breath as trophy trout

Now with Natural Insecticides Ask any kid old enough, and he’ll be the first to tell you that eggplant sucks, along with most leafy greens, tubers, and anything else Ma insists he eat before the dessert course …

… and as all them vegetable-hating kids grew up to be us, we won’t have any compulsion about boycotting genetically engineered eggplant if it means saving a Caddis or two …

(Remember, the Cook doesn’t appreciate tantrums from adults, so if you’re going to insist that pie comes before you eat them veggies, make sure all the impressionable youth is out of earshot.)

India blinked and banned Monsanto eggplant – and now the insecticide equipped “purple tomato” is languishing dockside while everyone else eyeballs the similarly equipped Monsanto GE Corn.

“Bowing to pressure from Monsanto and the other biotech companies, our federal agencies approved Bt corn and cotton without requiring any mandatory testing for environmental impacts. And the expected happened: a few years later, independent university researchers — again not the government — discovered that this Bt pesticide was potentially fatal to Monarch butterflies and other pollinators. After a public outcry, that particular version was taken off the market. But just recently new independent research showed that Bt was also potentially devastating to caddis flies, a major food source for our freshwater fish. Without mandatory government testing, we’re clueless about the universe of keystone pollinators and other species that are being decimated as the Bt plants continue to proliferate in our fields.”

– via the Huffington Post

Which may explain why Iowa is never mentioned as a trophy trout fishery … and why Trout Unlimited is going after your Fritos and Corn Dogs next.

Tags: Trout Unlimited, Fritos, Caddis, genetically engineered, Monsanto, India ban on Bt Eggplant, Huffington Post, Tofu, guide lunch, fly fishing

Millions of pebble gathering minions slaving on your behalf

Brachycentrus boots with taped legging Fishermen have always put catching far above creature comforts as it makes the story twice worthy of the retelling.

Breathable waders will be jettisoned in favor of the new “mummified” look – a return to leggings and the garb of yesteryear.

Why? Because you’ll have the scent of a million smashed caddis tucked in the glove box – and at the first hint of dampness, you’ll skip gleefully back to the car to swathe yourself in “Sedge” tape, which you’ve been buying at Costco by the gross.

“I picture it as sort of a wet Band-Aid, maybe used internally in surgery, like using a piece of tape to close an incision as opposed to sutures,” said Stewart, an associate professor of bioengineering, in a news statement. “Gluing things together underwater is not easy. Have you ever tried to put a Band-Aid on in the shower? This insect has been doing this for 150 million to 200 million years.”

via the Salt Lake Tribune

Our pal the Caddis has been spinning a hot commodity all these years, and is liable to put a dent in sales of duct tape.

Plumbers will have to hew through Gordian knots of Sedge tape enroute to leaking faucets and cracked toilets, as decades of plumbing “honey-do’s” were neutralized by petulant husbands and their ever expanding application of Brachycentrus.

…and it may solve the invasive issue completely. We can jettison those slippery rubber soles in favor of “Spider-man” brogues; able to walk straight up a damp boulder or waterfall – and anything living that hitches a ride can’t get off, so “clean, dry, inspect” becomes “inspect, laugh, use putty knife.”

Tags: brachycentrus, caddis silk, underwater adhesive, wading boots, puttees, Gordian knot, spider man, breathable waders

Eat The Fly , a balanced and nutritious tour of the important finned food groups

Alex Cerveniak of 40 Rivers to Freedom and the Hatch’s Blog network is creating yet another endeavor documenting all possible fish foods and the flies to represent them.

Entitled, “Eat the Fly” it’s an ambitious undertaking that will contain the common food items and insects available to fish, offset by some of the fly patterns used to represent them.

It’s a hellish undertaking to be sure, but the rest of us have the easy part – admiring the photographs and remarking, “so that’s what a Black Nosed Dace looks like…”

He’s got species, phases, links to additional resources, flies that represent the food depicted, and where possible, seasons and emergence dates, coupled with locale information.


Horny Headed Chub, Alex Cerveniak Photo

It’ll take some time before he’s scratched the surface – but there’s a great deal of work (and effort) already available, and he could use an assist on compiling all that information, you may want to drop him a note if you’ve got some compelling photographs of known food items.

Tags:, Alex Cerveniak, Hatch’s Blog Network, angling resource, baitfish, aquatic insects

and The Pale Morning Dun is the tastiest of all

The Golden Stone, terror of the cobble Most of us anglers are oblivious to what goes on in all those streambed nooks and crannies. We’re content so long as it emerges at dusk and exists in enough numbers to keep fish fat and healthy.

Like the dinosaur – scientists assumed that the biggest were at the top of the food chain and everything smaller ran in fear … until they found a Tyrannosaurus Rex and figured a mid-sized predator with a mean streak may be worse than all those enormous herbivores.

So it is with invertebrates, the Giant Stoneflies of our fast water are benevolent – and the mid-size Golden Stone is the T-Rex of the substrate, driving mayflies to flee in terror as it snacks its way through the elderly and infirm …

… and the Pale Morning Dun is either slow as molasses – or tastier than the rest, as more of them were eaten than any other invertebrate.

Which is oddly consistent with my past haunts. All the rivers famous for PMD hatches like Fall River and Hat Creek were absent significant fast water – and where it existed we’d walk past in favor of a slower stretch downstream.

Naturally I’m using the most rudimentary sampling, the widely recognized “fast water = heavily oxygenated = stoneflies” theory of angling. Which gives us something to ponder. Do we mash stoneflies knowing were saving countless smaller bugs – or do we stay out of the fight?

I’d characterize myself as an indiscriminate masher, as once your wading shoes break the Size 12 or 13 barrier – even the Stoneflies flee screaming.

Interesting to note the document suggests that mayflies can distinguish between the Acroneuria (T-Rex) and Pteronarcys (benevolent Giant Fatty Stonefly), and flee from one yet not from the other.

… and the real question becomes, “ was it the current that caused your feet to slip, or was it a million Infrequens with ropes and pullies – getting you to mash invading stoneflies?”

… the little bastards could well be sentient …

Tags: Ephemerella Infrequens, Acroneuria, Pteronarcys, stonefly, mayfly, cobble warfare, tyrannosaurus rex, dinosaurs, fly fishing humor, Hat Creek, Fall River, wading shoes