Wigglers and squigglers – the lesser known pond life

Flanders Moss NNR

A closer look at our ponds may reveal much more life than we originally thought were residing in these little pools. If you’ve visited Flanders recently, along with plenty of the familiar whirligig beetles and pond-skaters, you may have noticed small exuviae (cast-off outer skins) floating on the surface of the ponds. These have come from Chironomidae (non-biting midges) which have gone through metamorphosis, leaving their larval stage and emerging as adults.

I managed to capture this happening a few weeks ago:

“What on earth IS that..?”
The wiggler eventually floated to the surface. This was a lucky capture – a chironomid (non-biting midge) emerging from it’s larval exuvia.

A weird but interesting experience!

It really sparked my curiosity to find out what other beasties are wriggling around in the water. So, here are some more videos of various squigglers we’ve been finding in the new pond we popped into our wildlife garden in Ashfield…

The little pale swimmers above are Ostracods (similar to water fleas) from the Crustacean family (see here), and we have hundreds in the pond! Also, can you spot the tiny worm-like creature contorting across the video? You’ll have a very keen eye if you do!

A diving beetle coming up for air before carrying on with its swim. Do excuse the creepy reflection.

We’ve seen 2 or 3 of these diving beetles (Dytiscidae) and they are probably the largest of the pond invertebrates we have so far (other than Brian, the pond snail, who doesn’t show himself very often). Diving beetles are often pioneer species in new water bodies, which is quite fitting here! There are 120 different species in the UK, so I think I’ll leave identifying that one to the experts…

“If one could conclude as to the nature of the Creator from a study of creation it would appear that He has an inordinate fondness for stars and beetles.” – J. B. S. Haldane

Did you manage to spot the tiny ‘worm’ in the video before? Don’t worry, if not… I managed to pot one along with one of the Ostracods – you can see them both in the video below. I’ve not nailed down what the ‘worm’ is. Whether it is another non-biting midge larvae or perhaps an aquatic worm, I don’t know. All I know is they seem to spend their entire day squirming through the water like that. If you have any idea, feel free to comment!

Another of the crustacean family – and similar to the Ostracods – is the water flea (Daphnia). These are quite entertaining to watch and, although we haven’t seen any in Ashfield, I potted one from my tiny dish-bowl pond in the garden (see the video below). It just goes to show you don’t need a big patch of water to attract more life into the garden!

Water flea…you can see where it gets it’s name!

From above, they look like small brown blobs flitting about, so I was pleased to get a much more detailed view in the pot – you can even see it’s carrying eggs!

These little creatures may seem insignificant, but they are a valuable source of food for larger invertebrates, amphibians and even birds. We’ll be keeping an eye out for larger creatures visiting our pond as the weather warms up (fingers crossed!).

There are LOADS more little creatures to see in ponds, a lot are documented here with some really good descriptions and photographs (makes me want to get a microscope!). If you have a pond at home, have a close look (a magnifying glass can help) and see if you can spot any teeny tiny pond life of your own!

About Ellie Lawson, NNR Placement

Practical Placement on Stirling's NNRs. Enthusiastic about birds, butterflies, bogs, brochs... and the rest!
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2 Responses to Wigglers and squigglers – the lesser known pond life

  1. Anne says:

    I have enjoyed seeing these videos – thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. iangpark says:

    Super handy for us over at Loch Leven! That chironomid larva hatching is spectacular! The YouTube channel ‘Life in Jars?’ could come in handy for any future ID 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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