Methow Restoration Council

Living With the Methow River

Monthly Activities and Learning Opportunities

August 2017Fish Eat Bugs!

Bug Surveys

If you see a fish biologist stop and scoop up a mayfly, you may wonder what that mayfly has to do with salmon. Due to the close relationship between fish and bugs, and the habitat needs of the bugs themselves, bug surveys actually tell us more about fish and their habitat than you might expect.

Much of a fish's diet consists of aquatic insects, including mayflies and caddisflies. A site with no bugs is not likely to attact or support fish populations. Biologists conduct bug surveys, observing and noting the insects present at a site, partially to determine what's available for fish to eat. Bugs, however, are more than just fish food.

Insects have their own habitat demands, and when those demands are not met, they go elsewhere. Some species are so sensitve that they are considerd bioindicators--like a canary in a coal mine, they feel the effects of environmental degradation first. Caddisfly pupae and mayfly nymphs are particularly vulnerable to water pollution, including sewage, acidification, and, of course, pesticides. This sensitivity means that a biologist counting mayflies and caddisflies is also gathering important data about a site's water quality. If the bugs are plentiful, then the water quality is generally good.

Because of this close relationship between fish and bugs, and the needs of the bugs themselves, a seemingly insignificant survey of insects may offer great insight into a potential fish habitat. By studying these relationships, and keeping an eye on insect populations as well as fish, we gain a greater understanding of the ecosystem we're working with, allowing us to more effectively help the endangered fish species of the Methow.


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2017 Calendar


This year’s MRC calendar connects to ADVENTURES, ACTIVITIES AND INFORMATION tailored to each month. If you haven't gotten your calendar yet, you can download an electronic version here.

Come back each month and find interactive activities, print outs, and suggested learning opportunities in our community.