Although I’ve written about winter stoneflies (Plecoptera: Taeniopterygidae) once or twice before, the other day I came across an individual that represented the earliest one I had ever seen. On February 27 I was visiting my dad on his farm in southeast Michigan and while out near the River Raisin I noticed this one crawling around.
One might think our record-breaking high temperature of 64 F (18 C) brought this insect out and about, but in reality the weather brought *me* out and about to find it. Winter stoneflies don’t need warm, sunny days to be active. These cold-adapted insects are at their peak from January to April. The aquatic nymphs thrive in cold, oxygen-rich winter waters of rivers and streams, feeding mostly on decaying plant material. In late winter they emerge to molt into adults, living just long enough to mate and lay eggs in the water from which they came.
These hardy arthropods have become my favorite insects to find in the harsh depths of winter. They just go to show that there’s always a bright spot to discover among the seemingly lifeless cold.