Aquatic Lives

This is an attempt to make something that looks like a quilt. Each photo was carefully hand stitched into place, in a manner of speaking; the weaving on top of and behind the photos is also handmade, after a fashion. I don't know how to sew, so the handmade stitches around the photos are what I imagine it would look like if I were to get a hold of a needle and thread.

The photos from the top and roughly clockwise are four mayfly nymphs from the genus Nixe (species unknown, collected on Four Mile Creek, Butler County, May 2009); an adult Flag-tailed Spinylegs that was caught, photographed, and released in Hamilton County, July 2009; an adult female Swift River Cruiser, caught, photographed and released on Four Mile Creek, Butler County, August 2009; a Flag-tailed Spinylegs nymph collected on Four Mile Creek, Butler County, July 2009 (this is a first county record of a species that is likely rather common in the county in appropriate habitat); and a subimago Stenonema femoratum mayfly collected on Gregory Creek, Butler County in May 2009. Mayflies are peculiar among insects in that after they hatch, they undergo a complete molt, including their wings, before becoming fully "adult." The wing molt is the unusual aspect of this change.

After the egg, the three stages of a mayfly's life are the water-living nymphal stage, after which the nymphs hatch into subimagoes, which then molt into sexually mature imagos. The molt from subimago to imago occurs within minutes, hours, or sometimes a day or more of hatching.

Fly fisherman call the hatched subimagos "duns," and the imagos "spinners." Serious fly fishermen and women know their insects, and there are a lot of good books about aquatic insects written by and for fly fisher-persons. Ernest G. Schwiebert is a really good first start. Volume I of Schwiebert's Nymphs, which was published in a revised two-volume edition after he died, is, for some reason, regularly found at Half Price book stores. That's where I bought my copy last spring. I'm not a fly fisher, but I read a lot of fly fishing material in books and online these days, and even occasionally check out fly fishing t.v. programs. Sometimes they talk about insects and fly tying. Usually, they just show dudes catching fish, which just isn't as interesting to me, but I appreciate how much they love fishing and being in the water.


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