Freshwater Invertebrates

Freshwater invertebrates are those which spend at least part of their lifecycle in freshwater (e.g. rivers, streams, ditches, springs, ponds and lakes). Therefore this includes dragonflies, damselflies, riverflies, water bugs and anything you would expect to find whilst pond dipping or kick sampling. They are endlessly fascinating and play an important part in the ecology of the freshwater ecosystems, and help maintain the quality of our water. This is done by breaking down organic matter and by being an important source of food for other species such as fish, birds and mammals.

Dragonfly in flight
Male Common Hawker in flight

Freshwater Invertebrates can also be used as indicators to assess the health of freshwater ecosystems so knowing how to identify freshwater species is a key skill for any ecologists or conservationists working in these habitats. Most freshwater invertebrates can only be identified using a microscope, many are small and require a lot of skill and practice before you can be confident identifying them to species level. However, we think the best place to start identifying these is with dragonflies and damselflies. There are currently around 30 dragonfly species and 20 damselfly species which can be encountered in Britain and Ireland. Many of the adults are beautifully coloured and most of them can be identified in the field once you get your eye in.

Freshwater Invertebrate Identification Courses

FSC run regular freshwater invertebrate courses throughout the year. For details of these courses, and to learn more about freshwater invertebrates, click the button above to view our courses.

Identification Resources:

FSC Freshwater Name Trail chart
FSC Dragonflies and Damselflies chart
FSC AIDGAP Key to the major groups of British freshwater invertebrates