What are Bugs in the Mud?
Aquatic ecosystems like lakes and rivers are home to countless species of aquatic bugs known as benthic macroinvertebrates. Benthic macroinvertebrates may sound like a complicated term to understand, but it’s actually quite straightforward once you understand some terms! Benthic refers to the bottom of aquatic systems such as lakes and streams while invertebrates are animals that lack a spine and instead have an exoskeleton made from calcium. So the term benthic invertebrates really just refers to a group of bugs that live in the mud of our lakes!
With that in mind, you probably already know of a few bugs that live in the lake mud all across the region such as dragonflies (Anisoptera), mayflies (Ephemeroptera), or crane flies (Tipulidae).
Benthic macroinvertebrates, or bugs in the mud, are important for a number of different reasons. They are an important food source and different species have different tolerances to things like water quality, availability of habitat and more, making them an “indicator species” just like macrophytes and minnows!
An Important Energy Transfer
One thing that makes benthic invertebrates particularly important is the fact that they live both in the water and on the land! Most benthic macroinvertebrates break through the surface tension of the water out of their exoskeletons and emerge as adults where they will live inland or around aquatic systems and act as an important food source for many different species of birds and bats. Aquatic systems are very productive systems that produce lots of energy which is inaccessible to most animals on land. So, one of the ways that energy moves from aquatic systems to terrestrial systems is through this movement of benthic invertebrates from water to land!
About Bugs in the Mud
Bugs in the Mud is an interactive and engaging way to learn about the benthic invertebrates in your lake. Through this program, you will sample and monitor benthic invertebrates after you’ve learned how to identify the different kinds of species and techniques for data collection.
Bugs in the Mud is completely self-guided, so you can go at your own pace, however the Blue Lakes Program's founding charity, The Land Between, also hosts in person, guided Bugs in the Mud sessions throughout the summer season. Stay tuned to The Land Between's event page for 2023 Bugs in the Mud in-person session dates!