AHHHHH! There are bugs in the lake with me!
By Katie Paroschy
What are those things crawling below my feet when I’m swimming in the lake? Are those critters good or bad and what can they tell me about the health of my lake?
Muskoka has some of the cleanest lakes and rivers in the world, but like everything else, they are changing. Those bugs under your feet, or benthic macroinvertebrates, as the scientists say, are fantastic indicators of the health of a lake.
Benthic macroinvertebrates are bottom-dwelling, aquatic invertebrates and include a variety of animals such as snails, clams, crayfish, insect larvae and beetles. Many of these critters are great to have around and mean the area is healthy, but a dominance of one species or a lack of another may indicate that something negative is happening to the water and action needs to be taken.
For eight years The District of Municipality of Muskoka has been working with residents to study these bugs in the mud in order to monitor the health of our lakes. Many lakes, including Bella, Ada, Chub and Waseosa, have been participating in the program for many years and, as a result, the residents and cottagers have been able to gain a stronger understanding of their lakes.
The District of Muskoka supplies all equipment needed as well as technical assistance for a volunteer group to participate in the program. The bugs are sampled from a minimally impacted site on a lakeshore by the Biomonitoring Technician and brought back to the volunteer group where the bugs are sorted and identified.
The entire process takes about five hours to one day. The more volunteers there are, the quicker the sampling! The data gathered is entered into the Ontario Benthos Biomonitoring Network database and the results are reported back to the lake association. The data collected may also be used by the Muskoka Watershed Council in its Watershed Report Card.
If you are interested in joining this biomonitoring movement and want to get some friends and neighbours together to sample your lake or learn about those little animals below your feet, please contact the Biomonitoring Technician, Katie Paroschy, at [email protected] or call 705-645-2231 ext. 332.