Project Fishbugs, night survey

Fishbugs night time survey

June 25th, 2011

As planned, young people from all three participating groups gathered at 8:30PM near the confluence of Wilson Creek and the New River for a look at the adult forms of our aquatic invertebrate study subjects. Aaron Floyd and Scott Jackson-Ricketts prepared stretched sheets and lights for attracting the hatch, with special guest helper Justine Jackson-Ricketts. Inspection tables were set up with viewing boxes, Petri dishes, tweezers, flashlights, and drawing tools. Keying out the many insects flying around our faces took up most of the 2 ½ hours of our survey.

Buddy Halsey was accompanied by three Boy Scouts: Danny DeBord, and bothers Smith and Isaiah Hart. Todd Shaw brought his son, Jason, and Thomas Hart his daughter, Angela, with friend, Nikki Schultz (not home-schooled) representing the Southwest Virginia Home Educators ( From the Eco Club, we had Mica Paluzzi and Allison Herrington, and along with Carolyn Spencer’s daughter, Raya, this group completed the Grayson County High School crowd.

Project Fishbugs is a program initially designed as a year-long survey of Wilson Creek’s macroinvertebrates intended to include these three groups of young folks in hands on science based inquiry. Familiarizing these individuals with what lives in our streams and rivers drives our purpose, but having fun while creating valuable documentation drives the interest. Blue Ridge Discover Center was gifted by a generous grant through the Harris and Frances Block Foundation: to support this project.

Before last light, a few of us went running through the riparian field, sweeping insect nets in hopes of catching, well, anything. Lots of lightning bugs, grasshoppers and various other insects were snagged, but the objects of our survey eluded us until dark. Then, as the lighted sheets began to work their intended magic, a few stoneflies arrived, soon followed by mayflies and midges galore. At times, we were literally breathing bugs. The ‘artists’ among us got busy sketching while the rest of us netted and examined our hatch catch. In total we keyed out adult forms of mayflies, stoneflies, caddis flies, alder flies, midges, crane flies, damsel flies and a plethora of moths.

After breaking down our work site, we stopped by the old post office in Mouth of Wilson to see what the street light brought in. There we found a giant mayfly as well as the much feared Dobson fly, or hellgrammite. In fact, there were two, who in their confusion, flew into an unprepared fellow, causing great excitement. These critters can bite.

For the exception of the scouts, Nikki and Raya, all the rest of our group had already examined the larval stages of what we discovered on our night survey. Ahead of us is one more specific day survey, with the scouts, and another full group oriented December study. We look forward to growing this program with greater inclusion and study habitats. (Look for more Fishbugs reports soon to be posted.)