(Benthic Macroinvertebrate Monitoring)
What is a Bug Hunt?
Do you ever wonder about what lives in the river besides fish and turtles? Come to one of our Rouge River Bug Hunts and see for yourself the amazing variety of aquatic insects, crayfish, snails and clams (technically known as benthic macroinvertebrates: animals without a backbone that live in the streambed) that make up the bottom of the river food chain.
Volunteers visit sites throughout the headwaters of the watershed and search for mayflies, stoneflies and other aquatic invertebrates. The presence or absence of these streambed creatures reflects the quality of the water and habitat. Check out a map of sites.
Friends of the Rouge has been managing this program since 1998.
To learn more about what participating in a Bug Hunt is like, watch our recent webinar: An Introduction to Bug Hunts.
How do I volunteer?
Bug Hunts are held in April and October. No prior experience is necessary but you do need to pre-register to be assigned to a team. Children eight and older are welcome when accompanied by a participating adult. Groups of six or less can sign up together.
Once you have attended one event, you might consider increasing your level of involvement by attending training and learn to assist a team at future events.
What is a Stonefly Search?
In the winter we hold a Stonefly Search that is similar to the Bug Hunts except we only look for one type of bug. Stoneflies are very sensitive aquatic insects that hatch from streams in winter. See a map of sites that have been surveyed for stoneflies and results. To learn more about our Stonefly Searches, how to identify stoneflies and what we find, view the Stonefly Refresher.
Additional Parameters Collected
In 2020, we began partnering with the Izaak Walton League of America’s Salt Watch program and began testing Stonefly Search sites for road salt. Aquatic life in freshwater streams declines as salinity increases. After finding high levels at many sites in January, we added spring and fall testing to help determine the background level of chloride. Stream quality index scores declined as salt levels increased (2021 Spring Bug Hunt Report).
In 2023, we added testing for nitrates and nitrates to our monitoring events once it was offered by the Izaac Walton League as “Nitrate Watch.” Human activities have increased the amount of this essential nutrient going into our streams, mainly from fertilizers, manure and sewage. Excessive nitrate causes harmful algal blooms that threaten the health of the watershed and its inhabitants. Check out the Nitrate Watch Map.
If you notice illicit discharges or dumping, call the hotline. Download this brochure if you are not sure what to look for.
Friends of the Rouge volunteers have been collecting data on benthic macroinvertebrates (“bugs”) since 1998. We use protocols and forms developed by the Michigan Clean Water Corps (MiCorps) for Stream Monitoring. MiCorps is the organization that oversees volunteer monitoring for the state of Michigan.
Most sites are sampled every season for three years and then sampled on a rotating basis every few years. Wayne County Department of Public Works Water Quality Management Division samples additional sites and provides the data to FOTR. Schoolcraft College also monitoring a site on their campus.
Bugs are identified in the field to order and occasionally to family. Voucher specimens are collected and identified in the lab to family and sometimes to genus or species. Check out a video showing identification of the bugs we collected one spring.
Data is compared by season (Fall, Spring, Stonefly).
Check out our map of sites.