KINGSTON TWP. — Aquatic bugs that turn their gills into propulsive water jets to shoot after prey are one thing. If they have lower jaws that extend out to snag little morsels that’s a bit ickier. But freeloader caddisflies, and dragonflies with 2-foot wingspans?
“Back in the age of dinosaurs, that’s how big they were,” Environmental Science Professor Dale Bruns said as high school students still deep in wader boots scrutinized their various catches freshly swooped from Abraham’s Creek.
For the record, dragonflies are no longer 2 feet from tip to tip — at least not here — and “freeloader” insects are typically ones that hitch steadfast to another larger critter, usually for a lengthy feeding.
If you wanted to know the wacky world of miniature aquatic life, you could hardly do better than sit in on the Wilkes University professor’s chats with high school students this week at various outdoor watery venues. The students, grades 9-12, were participating in the school’s annual Environmental Science Summer Day Camp, which ran through Thursday.
Participants got to test water quality, volume flow, and biota, as well as conduct experiments in seismology with a sledge hammer and a string of detection instruments plugged into the ground every few feet. For the record, Abrahams Creek near the intersection of Green and Mt. Olivet roads was flowing at about 5 cubic feet per second, which is pretty puny compared to bigger waterways. When engorged with ruinous floodwaters, the Susquehanna River can flow at 365,000 cubic feet per second, considerably more than Niagara Falls.
After about 30 minutes wading through the creek with nets, they got to scrutinize, identify and catalog a wide array of tiny catches, including a wee catfish, a few crayfish, and three species that generally indicate a healthy stream thanks to their low tolerance of pollution — mayflies, caddisflies and stoneflies.
That last one really couldn’t pass for a stone, anymore than the water-penny could pass for a copper coin, though the flat little beetle could be dismissed as a tiny pebble if you didn’t know what you were looking for.
For several of the teens, it was their first time in wading boots, and Jacob Falls paused to move his feet a bit between insect observations.
“Mine still have water in them,” he said. “You can hear it.”
Here’s hoping no freeloaders swam in through the apparent leak.
Reach Mark Guydish at 570-991-6112 or on Twitter @TLMarkGuydish