That’s what Dr. Anna Hill subtitles her “Aquatic Life” workshop, and getting to see “the little things” is always fun and informative. It’s kind of hard to believe how much is going on in water until you take a closer look.

Damselfly Naiad

Among my favorites are the damselfly and dragonfly naiads. At our workshop two weeks ago, we captured one of each. I was able to get this reasonably good photo in part because LMN-NE made a good investment in a fiber optic lamp to use with one of the simple microscopes at Black Bayou Lake NWR.

This little critter is maybe an inch long. Those three blades at the end of its abdomen are gills for its watery life only. They will be shed when the naiad crawls out of the water and onto a cypress knee or plant, where the exoskeleton will split down the back and an adult damselfly with wet, crumpled wings will emerge and sit to dry before flying off. Out at BBL you will see cypress knees sticking out of the water with several damselfly exoskeletons still stuck to them.

Our nets yielded a multitude of grass shrimp and water beetles, plus a few water mites, isopods, and other critters. Again with the help of the fiber optic light, I was able to get good enough photos of two of the beetles for them to be conclusively identified at species level on iNaturalist. Too cool! BTW, these full-macro photos are deceiving. These guys are tiny: black dots swimming around in your collecting bucket.

One specimen I pulled out of the water was spared the trip into the Environmental Learning Center for fear it would not survive. It was a large tadpole with fully developed hind legs but not yet front legs. We oo’d and ahh’d and put him right back in the lake. A tiny crawfish survived the trip indoors, but within seconds of being put in the fish tank, he became a large-mouth bass snack.

A good and educational time was had by all. Next up: Ecosystems and Restoration Ecology with Dr. Joydeep Bhattacharjeeee, May 13, 9-3, at Kiroli and Restorations Parks in West Monroe. Stay tuned for details.

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