This large, impressive insect can often be found crawling around shorelines of streams and rivers, especially in rocky areas. Occasionally individuals will fly some distance from the water and turn up in people's yards, being attracted to lights at night. They are an important part of stream and river fauna, providing food for fish and birds. Their absence is often a good indicator that a stream is being polluted. These insects are so important that conservation agencies and game fishermen keep charts of when they hatch. Check out these websites for examples of Stone Fly growth charts:
Stoneflies are adapted to well oxygenated streams and rivers. Stonefly nymphs have fixed gills that can only extract oxygen in moving water. If trapped in still water they die quickly. In turbulent, rocky streams, such as the Madison and the Big Hole in Montana, they provide the largest flies and the most spectacular fishing of the season. In certain Oregon streams they are the second most important fish food.
Identification: Giant stoneflies can be up to 40 mm
(1-1/2 inches) long, including the wings. Some small species of stoneflies are only about 10 mm long. The long lacy wings that overlap one another make this a rather distinctive-looking insect.
There are over 200 species of stoneflies
that range in size from about 10 mm to 40 mm (about 1/3 inch
to 1-1/2 inches). Most are grey and black, some having orange areas between the thoracic plates. Some of the smaller species are greenish.
They feed on plants, decaying leaves and detritus. They are also a favorite food for trout, as most fishermen will know. Adult giant stoneflies do not feed and thus usually live only for a week. Other species may live for more than a month as adults. Males of many species attract a mate by drumming their abdomens on the substrate, the females feeling the vibrations rather than hearing the sound.