Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Guess it's Cinygmula season: the Rapidan River

When I found this nymph Monday morning, I thought I had something new.  True, it was small (6 mm) like a Cinygmula nymph, but I did not see the maxillary palpi protruding from the sides of the head.  Another look...

I took my time keying it out when I returned home, but in the end, I was forced to conclude that it was Cinygmula subaequalis just like the nymph in Sugar Hollow on Sunday.  Digging around, I found the following comment in Unzicker and Carlson: "maxillary palp usually partially visible at sides of head in dorsal view."  (Aquatic Insects and Oligochaetes of North and South Carolina, 3.70)  So "usual" is the operative word.

In the end, it was the dorsal abdominal pattern that led me to my conclusion.  Though no key comments on this, there does seem to be a common pattern on these nymphs.  1) There are paired submedian dots on each of the segments, and 2) there are 3 light dots on tergite 10.

If we look back at the previous nymphs I have found, we can see the same thing.  Here's the nymph that I found on Sunday,

and it's also clear on this nymph from 2014.

You'll also note that on occasion, there are pale marks on segment 9.  I suspect keys omit these details because the maxillary palpi are sufficient to establish ID.  As you can see, the nymph that I found on Monday is fully mature.  It probably would have hatched out that night.  Perhaps this is why the maxillary palpi are no longer easy to see.

No shortage of insects in the Rapidan at this time of year.  I was not surprised to see an Isoperla orata, one on which the wingpads are starting to blacken,

and as expected, I saw numerous specimens of the nymph we're calling -- for the moment at least -- a "variant form" of Isoperla orata.

I also picked up some small nymphs which I couldn't ID on the spot.  But they turned out to be young Remenus bilobatus.  See more of those later on in the spring.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The flatheaded mayfly (Heptageniidae) "Cinygmula": East and West

One of those rare days when I actually found the nymph for which I was looking!  This is the flatheaded mayfly Cinygmula subaequalis.  It's only the third nymph that I've found.  The first one was in Entry Run up in Greene County, and this one, like number two, is from one of our small mountain streams in Sugar Hollow.

In their important book -- Mayflies: An Angler's Study of Trout Water Ephemeroptera -- Knopp and Cormier, speaking of the Cinygmula species note that they "are not considered important mayflies by many western fly fishers."  I suspect the same is true in the east.  The nymphs themselves are very small.  The one in the photo at the top of the page was only 6 mm, and you can see by the length of the wingpads that it's fairly mature.

Beaty describes C. subaequalis -- the only species that we find in the east -- in the following way: "Front of head incised medially; maxillary palpi protrude at side of head; all gills on segments 1-7 similar in size and shape...; three caudal filaments."  "In high quality mountain streams."  He adds that "Specimens of C. subaequalis may be reddish in color (especially early instars) or otherwise have variable color patterns." ("The Ephemeroptera of North Carolina," p. 17)  I've noted those features before in previous entries: 3/27/12 and 5/4/14.  Once again, here are the nymphs.  The maxillary palpi are quite distinctive.


But as we have seen, this is a genus we also find in the west.  In fact, according to Knopp and Cormier, "Entomologists have recorded ten Cinygmula species from western waters, and [only] one species, C. subaequalis, on eastern waters." (p. 171)  And as it turns out, one of the nymphs that I found in Montana was a Cinygumla.

This too was found in a "high quality mountain stream," Grant Creek, a small stream that comes into Missoula right across the street from the hotel in which I was staying.  It looks like this in the summer.

Now, I've done my best to ID this little nymph (8 mm) to the level of species, but to date I've not been successful.  I take it the abdominal color patterns are very distinctive, and as you can see, on this nymph segments 8, and 9 to a degree, are lighter than all of the rest.

Jacob Neuswanger on posts a photo of a nymph from the Chena River in Alaska that matches my nymph completely -- but he doesn't note the species.(  Knopp and Cormier, on the other hand, note the color patterns for three western species.  1) C. reticulata: "8mm -- Light reddish brown with light reddish to reddish brown gills."  2) C. ramaleyi: 7-8 mm -- "light to dark reddish brown with tergites 7 and 8 paler in color."  And 3) C. mimus: 9-10 mm -- "Mottled brown to black with tergites 8 and 9 paler in color and often white."  Using the "color," I'd say this is C. reticulata, but using the "pattern," I'd have to go with C. mimus. I can add that Neuswanger posts some photos of a C. ramaleyi (  that does not match our nymph.

Still, best to move slowly with the issue of species ID.  I'll keep looking around for additional information, and who knows, maybe I'll find more nymphs next year!

Additional pix from this morning.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Fairly common -- but what a beautiful photo: Maccaffertium modestum

I'm still struck by Steven Beaty's comment on this flatheaded species -- "Most common [Maccaffertium] species in NC." ("The Ephemeroptera of North Carolina," version 3.3, p. 20)  This is only the third M. modestum nymph that I've seen, and one of the others was in the same stream as this one-- Buck Mt. Creek.  Of course, Beaty is talking about the whole state --I work in a much smaller area.

I won't review the ID details for this species.  However, the ventral pattern is one of the keys --

the pair of dark, oblique, lateral stripes on segment 9, the two large anteromedial dark spots on segment 8, and the pairs of small anteromedial dark spots on the preceding segments.  This matches the ventral pattern of Maccaffertium modestum in Fig. 68 in McCafferty and Bednarik's "Biosystematic Revision of the Genus Stenonema (Ephemeroptera: Heptageniidae), p. 68. Their detailed description of the M. modestum nymph can be found on p. 30 of the same monograph.

The only other insect of interest that I picked up this morning was one of the variant forms of Isoperla orata.  More on that species when I report on insects up at the Rapidan River.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Skwala: Large Springfly (Bitterroot River, Montana)

And this is why I was fishing in Montana last week.  The "Skwala hatch" was on.  It's a well-known hatch in the Missoula area, and the Bitterroot River is the place where most people go to fish it, and I had wonderful fishing there on the last day of March.  The scenery wasn't bad either!

The nymph in the photo at the top of the page is a female, the males are much smaller, and I regret not taking a photo of a male as well.  We saw some, but I had already put my camera equipment away.  The nymph in this photo measured 24 mm.

The most thorough description of the Skwala nymph is once again to be found in Stewart and Stark (Nymphs of North American Stonefly Genera, pp. 448-451).  The key features are these:

1. "Head dark with lighter M mark forward of anterior ocellus and incomplete mesal bar; 2 oval, light occipital spots inside eyes, broken with reticulate dark lines and bordered behind by narrow band of stout spinules."  These features are easy to see on our nymph, as are some "erect white, silky hairs behind [the] ecdysial suture of [the] head."

2. "Lacinia bidentate with tuft of setae on a low knob below subapical tooth and continuous inner row of marginal setae...terminal tooth about 0.4 times total outer lacinial length and subapical tooth about 0.6 times length of terminal tooth."  The "knob" below the subapical tooth is very distinctive, almost forming a shelf.  (Note that in my photo the tip of the apical tooth seems to be broken.)

3. "Long submental gills, projecting portion about 2.5-3.0 times as long as their basal diameter."  Yes.

4. "Pronotum dark with light lateral margins, light mesal band and light reticulate interior markings; complete row of short marginal spinules."

5. "Y-arms of mesosternum reach anterior corners of furcal pits."

6. "Abdominal terga brown with mesal and lateral pairs of small light spots; densely covered with intercalary setae and margined posteriorly with a closely set row of short, stout setae."  We can see all of those features in this photo.

Don't think we need anymore evidence to verify the genus ID.  It's a Skwala.

Regular readers might recall that I've found small Skwalas before, both in Montana and Oregon. The photo below was taken in Oregon in October, 2013.

There are two species of Skwala found in Montana -- S. americana and S. curvata.  Can we tell which one this is?  The answer is "No".  To distinguish the species, to begin with, we need a male nymph -- which is not what we have.  And, the males are distinguished by the relative size of the lobes on the terminalia.  We have no way to proceed, so we are left with our genus ID.  Good enough for me!


But I'm now back in Virginia, and I hope to head up to the Rapidan River tomorrow.  Lots going on here at the moment.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

An Isogenoides Perlodid: but is it "colubrinus" (Blackfoot Springfly) or "elongatus" (Elongate Springfly)

I knew as soon as I saw it that I had not seen this stonefly before.  And it was BIG -- 25-26 mm.  But I was clueless about the ID, even the genus.  I had to key it out.  And for that I turned to our major source of information -- Kenneth W. Stewart & Bill P. Stark, Nymphs of North American Stonefly Genera (Plecoptera), pp. 403-406.

(Note: the "Key to Mature Nymphs of Perlodidae" in Stewart and Stark -- pp. 361-364 -- won't get you to Isogenoides.  The ID follows from couplets 19 to 20 to 22 to 23.  But none of the preceding dichotomous choices takes you to item 19.  I decided where to begin by matching my nymph with the anatomical features of Isogenoides illustrated on p. 405 (Fig. 14.28).)

1. "Body light brown or yellow with brown markings: intersegmental membranes cream to light yellow; antennae and legs yellow, cerci brown."  Stewart and Stark are using an I. zionensis nymph as their model.  Since that species doesn't occur in Montana, we can't be locked in by the colors.  Still, the intersegmental membranes on our nymph are, indeed, "cream to light yellow." (See the photo below.)

2. "Head with yellow M mark forward of anterior ocellus; ocellar triangle enclosing a brown spot; occiput with large yellow spots, enclosed by brown, well-developed row of occipital spinules, interrupted mesally."  All true.

3. "Lacinia triangular, bidentate with a distinct knob below subapical tooth."  Yes, and in their illustration of this, they show three, stout setae on that knob, just as we see in my photo below.

4. "Prominent submental gills, projecting portion about 3 times their basal diameter."  They're really big.

5. "Pronotum light brown with faint lighter reticulate pattern; a narrow anterior transverse dark band, posterior brown margin and light lateral margins."  Yes, pointed out in the photo above.

6. "Y-arms of mesosternum meet posterior corners of furcal pits; a distinctive median, longitudinal ridge connects fork of Y with a transverse ridge."  Here that is.  Note that the median ridge is very light.

7.  "Meso-metanota with pairs of large round anteromesal light spots and faint pattern."  Let's look at our diagnostic photo again.  I've pointed to those light spots with the four, short yellow lines, showing the four on the mesonotum.

8. "Abdominal terga light brown, somewhat darker anteriorly."  Those colors show up really well on the terga of a second, younger, nymph that I found.

Stewart and Stark also describe the setae on the legs and the cerci, but I don't think we need anymore.  It is an Isogenoides Perlodid nymph for sure.

But can we go further?  Can we determine the species ID.  I think that we can, and I'll show you on what that is based.

To begin with, according to Stewart and Stark, there are only two species that occur in Montana: elongatus -- the Elongate Springfly -- and colubrinus  -- the Blackfoot Springfly.   John Sandberg suggested to me that for the stoneflies we find in Montana, I might take a look at the follow monograph: Richard W. Baumann, Arden R. Gaufin, and Rebecca F. Surdick, "The Stoneflies (Plecoptera) of the Rocky Mountains," Memoirs of the American Entomological Society, 31 (1977), pp. 1-208.  On p. 126, the authors provide us with a "Key to the Species of Isogenoides," and they provide the following couplets when it comes to the nymphs.

1. Conspicuous denticles present along margins on ventral cusps of both mandibles....2
    Denticles present along margin on ventral cusp of right mandible only....colubrinus

2. Body color dark brown ... elongatus
    Body color very light, almost yellow...zionensis

Since I. zionensis is out of the running, all that we have to do is look for denticles on ventral cusps of the mandibles.  As it turns out, denticles are present on both.

right mandible

left mandible

So, I'd say this little beauty was Isogenoides elongatus -- the Elongate Springfly.  One more thing in favor of this conclusion.  Among the places where this nymph has been found in Montana is Missoula County, and that's where I was, on the Clark Fork River.  I. colubrinus, on the other hand has not been found there, but it has been found in Lincoln County, home of the Blackfoot River.  Hence, the Blackfoot Springfly!


Note: John Sandberg tells me that the key in Baumann, isn't the greatest.  Best to call this one Isogenoides sp. (elongatus/colubrinus).

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Isoperla roguensis?: Let's take a step back

In the entry I put up yesterday, I made the case for identifying this nymph as Isoperla roguensis.  Since then, I've been in touch with John Sandberg who has reminded me of how difficult species identification can be.   To wit, in this case, species identification depends on exacting examination of the lacinia using a compound microscope -- something I just cannot do.  It is not enough to go by pigmentation and pattern.  Moreover, provenance of this nymph has not been established in the state of Montana.  To date, it has only been found for sure in California and Oregon.

So, the nymph in the photo at the top of the page may or may not be I. roguensis.  It looks a lot like the nymph that Sandberg has identified in that way, but the jury is out.  If I have further word on this matter, I'll let you know.

Ameletus subnotatus: the "Brown Dun" (Montana, Bitterroot River)

Two weeks ago, as I anticipated my fly fishing trip to Montana, our guide sent me the following photo of a mayfly dun that had landed on his oar.

                                     (photo by John Herzer, Blackfoot River Outfitters)

He asked if I knew what it was.  I didn't, but I dug around and found an exact match on ( Ameletus oregonensis, the Brown Dun.

I hoped that I might find A. oregonensis nymphs when I got to Montana, so I was pretty sure what I had when I found these critters in the Blackfoot and Bitterroot Rivers.

As it turns out, I was wrong -- but let's see how I arrived at that conclusion.  I found the answer in an article by Jacek Zloty and Gordon Pritchard, "Larvae and Adults of Ameletus Mayflies (Ephemeroptera: Ameletidae): From Alberta", The Canadian Entomologist (129), pp. 251-289.  Larvae are keyed out on pp. 256-257, with important illustrations of critical features in Figures 17, 18, 20, 23 and 28.
Zloty and Pritchard, pp. 256-257

"1.  Ganglionic markings present on abdominal sternites 2-8 (Fig. 18E).....2
       Ganglionic markings absent (Occasionally visible on sternites 7-8 or on sternite 8...3"

I had no idea what "ganglionic markings" looked like until I looked at that illustration (p. 279).  It's hard to explain.  There's a dark pod-shaped dot on the anteromedial edge of the sternites, with parenthetical marks -- ( )to each of its sides.  Here's a look at the sterna on our nymph.

No anteromedial dark spots, just a pair of light, anterolateral spots on each of the segments.   So, on to number 3.

"3. Posterior margin of abdominal sternites 6-8 with numerous spines (Fig. 28A, B) .... 4
      Posterior margin of abdominal sternites 6-8 without such spines.....6

There are spines on the posterior margins, but let me show you my photo later.

"4. Basal two-thirds or middle one-third of caudal filaments with alternating dark and light rings every two or three segments; mesal gill extension of middle gills about 50% of gill blade width (Fig. 23F); colour pattern of abdominal tergites 8 and 9 as in Figures 19C and 20B; final-instar larvae occur early in the season (April to June)....5
     Caudal filaments without alternating dark and light rings....6"

Here's a look at the caudal filaments, and yes, the middle one-third of the caudal filaments do have alternating dark and light rings,

and the colour pattern matches what we see in Figures 19C and 20B.  Terga 8 and 9 are light, as are terga 1-5: 6 and 7 are dark.

On the "mesal gill extensions of the middle gills...

I'm not sure what is intended.  Still, the gills on our nymph are an exact match for the gill pictures in Fig. 23F, so I guess we're good to go.  On to item 5.

"5.  Posterior margin of abdominal sternites 6-8 with numerous large spines at the middle (Fig.        28A)... oregonensis
     Posterior margin of abdominal sternites 6-8 without large spines at the middle but with numerous small spines laterally (Fig. 28B) ....subnotatus"

We find the latter on on our nymph.  I couldn't get a very good photo of this, but I hope you can make out the tiny lateral spines.


Ameletus subnotatus.  At 13-14 mm, it's a pretty big nymph.

This is a mayfly that is found from East to West in Canada, but in the U.S., it's only been found in CA, CO, MT, UT, and WY.   Oh, and with the similar dorsal pattern of A. subnotatus and A. oregonensis, I'm not surprised that the duns look exactly the same.

P.S.  Donald Chandler has posted a photo of Ameletus subnotatus at:  On his nymph, the dark bands on the caudal filaments are basal, not in the middle