FBA ‘Identifying Caddis’ Course summary

June 10, 2013

I’m just back from the Freshwater Biological Association’s ‘Identifying Caddis’ training course run at its fabulous facility at Ferry Landing on Windermere. The course was given by the eminent Dr Ian Wallace – author of Keys to the Case-bearing Caddis Larvae of Britain and Ireland (Wallace et al., 2003) and co-ordinator of the Trichoptera Recording Scheme.

The course ran over two days, starting with a quick introduction to the Order Trichoptera. The rest of the morning was spent looking at various examples of caddisfly larvae from Ian’s collection, giving us the opportunity to see species we might not normally see and to compare similar species that can be difficult to differentiate with the key when you only have one. Ian was always on-hand to lend assistance and also to give tips on the collection, identification and ecology of the various species.

After lunch we headed out into the glorious sunshine to carry out lake sampling on the sheltered and wave-washed shores of Windermere, using hand-nets, bathyscopes and collecting rocks to find which little beasties might be attached. We then returned to the lab with our fresh catches to see what species we had found and continued working through other samples. Light-traps were set up at the end of the day with the aim of collecting adults for the following morning.

The second day began by examining the catch of the light traps and preserved samples of adult caddisflies. It was quite a change for most of us, as our freshwater ecology backgrounds meant that we had rarely encountered the adults beyond a fluttering encounter, focusing mainly on things living below the water line. Manipulating the fore- and hind-wings was the most challenging part of dealing with the adults to begin with and more practise is definitely needed to get a handle on their identification.

In the afternoon (again with the weather gods smiling down upon us) we headed out to sample river and stream habitats. Here we took kick samples and examined rock and woody debris finding the sponge-eating Ceraclea albimacula and Lype reducta, which lives in galleries on rotten wood, amongst numerous other species. The effort and attention to detail needed to find many of the smaller species was brought home throughout the morning’s sampling.

After lunch, it was back into the lab to look at the species we had picked up in the river and surrounding habitats. The day was brought to a conclusion with a review of how to identify the various caddisfly larvae families in the field.

I found the course to be well-run and of great help in improving my caddisfly identification skills and went home with renewed enthusiasm to persevere with developing my ID skills and to get out recording.

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