Aquatic insects are important components of local swamps, ponds, and wetlands, and demonstrate a variety of adaptations for aquatic life. At Maryland Day, the Lamp Lab provides an opportunity for visitors to sample a micro-swamp with small nets and pans. By observing what is caught, visitors learn about the morphological and behavioral adaptations for living underwater, such as swimming, breathing, and eating. In particular, we view live insects such as giant water bugs, predaceous diving beetles, backswimmers, skinny water scorpions, case-building caddisfly larvae, and dragonfly larvae. Aquatic insects are important in the trophic structure of aquatic systems, and serve major roles in the ecosystem services provided by wetlands.
We are pleased to report that our 22nd year of “Discover a Swamp” at Maryland Day 2023 was a success! Organized by the lab manager, Helen Craig, graduate students (Ali Shokoohi, Amanda Brucchieri, and Robert Salerno), lab technicians (Shane Windsor and Jenna Kraemer) and undergraduate students (Shannon Hu, Yasmine Helbling, and Felicia Schectman) assisted at the event sharing their knowledge of these special creatures.
Over the weekend, on Saturday April 29th, 2023, students, parents, and children huddled around the tables looking at an array of aquatic insects. This year we had a few special guests stop by including previous Freshwater Biology (BSCI467) students and a camera crew of students looking to film the event.
As for the insects, megalopteran larvae were a huge hit, as always, causing some spectators’ mouths to drop. We even pulled out some pinned adults to show the comparison between larva and adult morphology. This year, we were excited to collect a male belostomatid (commonly called the giant water bug or toe biter) with eggs covering its back. Many children took interest in the eggs and many adults were intrigued by the paternal care represented. This goes to show that every year provides new opportunities for new learning experiences with aquatic macroinvertebrates. The life from the “swamp” will return next year for Maryland Day 2024.