Building a Garden Pond for Aquatic Insects, Part 1

pond

My aquatic insect pond

As part of the fellowship I have from the Biosphere (the one that prompted me to start this blog), I designed a permanent educational display that will be available to visitors to the Biosphere.  Because I am an aquatic entomologist, I wanted to introduce people to aquatic insects, especially those that are found in the Sonoran Desert.  I think this is important because most of the people I’ve talked to in the area a) don’t think there’s any water in the state and b) certainly never considered the possibility that there might be insects in that non-existent water.  Yes, Tucson and the Biosphere are in a desert and yes, that means it’s dry, but there IS water – quite a lot of it in fact!  And that water, especially when clean and cool, is home to tons of insects.

I love to teach people about aquatic insects so that they are aware of the role these insects play in the aquatic habitats of my desert.  So, naturally, the subject of my educational display is aquatic insects.  Through experience, I’ve found that the best way to teach people about aquatic insects is to show them live insects.  Nothing draws attention to aquatics like a big dragonfly nymph squirting water out of its butt to move or a giant water bug devouring some helpless fish!  However, my display needed to be largely maintenance-free too and most aquatic insect displays are  anything but.  After brainstorming options for how I might balance maintenance requirements with a splashy educational experience, I decided to build a pond.  I used what I know about the habitat requirements of Sonoran Desert aquatic insects to design a pond that should attract a variety of aquatic insects so that they will find and colonize it themselves.  This way, Biosphere visitors will see live insects in a semi-natural habitat and the maintenance on the display should be minimal, fulfilling both of my goals for the project.

For the next few posts, I’m going to talk about my pond.  But first, a disclaimer!  I have never made a pond before.  I’ve read several books on the subject, so I had a good idea of what I was trying to do, but I’ve never actually made one.  Anyone who reads this series and wants to build their own insect pond (or simply a garden pond) should wait until I have a chance to make sure it’s being colonized by insects at the May Biosphere fellows meeting before following my example.  That said, I hope you find the idea intriguing and consider building your own pond for aquatic insects!

Next time I’ll cover choosing a site and container to hold the water, followed by a post on selecting substrates (the stuff on the bottom or sticking out of the pond that the insects use to hold onto or otherwise use to survive), including rocks and plants.  I’ll finish up the series by posting about the plumbing and electrical systems my pond required and suggest some ways to avoid turning a garden pond into a stagnant mosquito magnet.  Hope you enjoy the series!

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Posts in this series:

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