To put it lightly, this has been the weirdest February ever. We have had record breaking highs one day and then snow the next. I am certainly not complaining about all of the outside time I have been able to have, but you have to admit – it’s FEBRUARY and it is not supposed to be 75 degrees. It’s just not normal. The poor daffodils are not going to be sure what to do – I think that in this warm spell they grew 5 inches!
On some of the warmer days we had last week I was able to head outside and explore a bit. It was nice to be able to get into the stream without worrying about multi-flora rose snagging my pants and jacket or dodging the poison ivy plants. We have a small stream that runs through the property and in the summer months it is small enough that it almost dries up. I am always optimistic that I will find some salamanders or other interesting macro invertebrates, but I usually end up empty handed. Luckily today this was not the case. I spent some time walking along the stream bed and looking for “the good rocks” that will protect some of the tiny little organisms that live in the water. I found some leeches, some snail eggs and then I found this guy.
He doesn’t look like much, but I will admit I was taken aback when I flipped the rock. There were 3-4 of them hidden under the protection of the rock and I was able to snap a few quick pics before they burrowed into the soft silty soil. They were about a half an inch long so I was impressed by their quickness and all of their little tiny legs. I sent the picture off to a coworker that knows more about stream ecology than I will ever know and her reply was “That is an aquatic sow bug and it is HUGE”.
After heading inside it was time to learn a bit more about these little things. I love the fact that macro invertebrates (critters you can see with your eye, with no backbone) are also pollution indicators. Some macros can live in very polluted water and some like my favorites – dragonfly nymph and caddisfly larva – can only live in super clean water. Some like the Aquatic Sow Bug are somewhere in the middle.
The Aquatic Sow Bug is a crustacean and is in the same class as shrimp and crayfish. They have a hard outer exoskeleton and will eat just about any organic material they come upon. They are fairly common in small streams and springs. They shed their skin as they grow and absorb oxygen using gills located on the underside of the abdomen.
Not a bad find for a weird February day!