Meet the Aquatic Insects of the Upper Pigeon, Thunder Bay Rivers

Staff members Amy Nowakowski, Josh Leisen and Samantha Nellis surveyed six road/stream crossing sites in the watersheds of the Thunder Bay and Pigeon rivers last month in search of Hungerford’s crawling water beetle, a federally endangered species.

This tiny beetle, about the size of a watermelon seed, occurs only in a handful of streams in Northern Michigan and Ontario. Surveys help find other populations in order to better understand its habitat and range while making sure their fragile numbers are not adversely affected by our road/stream crossing restoration projects.

While the team did not discover any beetles this time around, Leisen and Nellis did find and relocate a lone beetle prior to a culvert replacement project last summer on an upstream tributary of the Au Sable River.

“By doing this, we’re protecting a species that could be lost forever,” Leisen said. “In any ecosystem, every species has a role to play and one missing beetle would have an effect through the whole food web.”

As a consolation prize, the crew did capture and release a diverse assortment of macroinvertebrates, aquatic insects which are a good indicator of healthy streams. We hope you enjoy scrolling through a gallery of those bugs below:

Because Hungerford’s crawling water beetles are protected under the Endangered Species Act, Huron Pines staff had to complete survey training and obtain a special permit from the US Fish & Wildlife Service in order to complete these surveys. In other words, don’t try this at home. 


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