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see also Mosquitoes-Culicidae under Aquatic Insects

See also Blackflies-Simuliidae under Saskatchewan  River Blackfly research

    Chironomidae are the major group considered here, but the Diptera Simuliidae and Culicidae are also covered.  Chironomidae are very important in  prairie flowing water systems because of their abundance and role in the food chain. Also,  Simuliidae are  important because of the economic damage the blood feeding females  can cause.  Other families of Diptera are present but occur in small numbers and less diversity, and  they are in general  more poorly known.  Such groups would include,  Tabanidae, Tipulidae, Ceratopogonicdae, Dixidae, and others, but the minor groups are not considered here.  See Merrit and Cunnins (1996).

see also:

Mason and Lehmkuhl, 1983, Effects of the Squaw Rapids Hydroelectric Development on --Chironomidae-- Mem. Amer. Ent. Soc. 34: 187-210.

Mason and Lehmkuhl, 1985. Origin and Distributioin of the Chironomidae rom the Saskatchewan River---Canad. Jour. Zool. 63: 876-882


       These are very familiar  at the family level, especially the C- shaped blood red larvae associated with eutrophic or polluted water.  There are hundreds of other species, and they require special techniques and skill to  identify genera and species.  Since they require special mounting techniques and expertise,  they are often treated superficially, at the family or subfamily level,  in ecological and pollution studies.   While the following lists of species are long,  the information illustrates the great diversity of species found in typical flowing water habitats, and the role these abundant organisms play in nutrient cycles and energy flow in ecological systems.  Most  of the information presented here is from  Mason 1978 and 1983, who studied the taxonomy of Saskatchewan River Chironomidae  and their relationship to Tobin Lake Reservoir.  He found a total of 136 species in the river and in the reservoir.  In the river itself there were 122 species.  Following is a review of his results, along with information from Merritt and Cummins (1996 ).


            These may be active  predators, swimmers, and burrowers, and usually are not tube builders. They feed on tiny organisms such as Protozoans, Cladocera, Ostracoda, and larger prey such as  Oligochaeta, Ceratopogonidae,  other Chironomidae, mayflies, and caddisflies.  Most in this subfamily are lotic,  the group is widespread, and there are about three dozen genera  and many species in North America (Merritt and Cummins 1996).

            Nine species in the Subfamily  were found by Mason (1983) in the Saskatchewan River.  Some species are associated with a description but not confidently associated with a name, so they are listed by number.  They are nonetheless individual species, even if unnamed.  Mason (1983)  found  (all predators, Merritt and Cummins 1996) Ablabesmyia sp. 1,  sp. 2 and sp. 3;  Conchapelopia telema Roback ,  Rheopelopia sp. , Thienemannimyia senata  (Walley)  ,  Procladius denticulatus  Sublette, P. freemani Sublette,  and P. bellus (Loew) .  Most are listed as lotic-erosional (not depositional) for habitat in Merritt and Cummins (1996), consistent with their presence in the Saskatchewan River.


            These are associated with  cold flowing water or oligotrophic lakes, and the north (Merritt and Cummins 1996).  They are collectors and scrapers.   Mason (1983) found two species in his study: Diamesa cf. cinerella Miegen and Potthastia longimana Kieffer, both listed as widespread and lotic-erosional by Merritt and Cummins (1996).


            This is a very large subfamily with many genera and species that are widespread in both lotic and lentic habitats.   Members tend to be burrowers, tube builders, and filterers that gather organic materials as food.  It includes the familiar red bloodworms that are characteristic of muddy lake bottoms and similar habitats.

             Mason (1983) reports about two dozen genera  and about  80 species in his study of the Saskatchewan River.   These include Chernovskiia amphitrite  (Townes) (sandy areas of rivers, Merritt and Cummins 1996)),  the tube builders and burrowers Chironomus  plumosus (Linnaeus), C. anthracinus Zetterstedt and C. decorus Johannsen (in Tobin Lake Reservoir only),   and C. sp. 1,  sp. 2 and sp. 3. More burrowers are  Cladopelma sp., Cryptochironomus digitatus  Malloch, C. scimitarus (Townes), C.  stylifera Johannsen, and C. sp. 1, sp. 2,  sp. 3, and sp. 4;  Cryptotendipes darbyi Sublette, Cyphomella gibbera  Saether, Demicryptochironomus sp, Dicrotendipes nervosus Staeger, the tube-builder Endochironomus nigricans  Johannsen , the oftentimes net spinners Glyptotendipes lobiferous  (Say) and G. paripes (Edwards) ,  the clingers and climbers Harnishia curtilamellata  (Malloch), Microtendipes caducus Townes and M. pedillus (Edwards), plus Nilothauma babiyi (Rempel),  the sprawlers and sometimes parasites in Mollusca and predators (at the genus level) Parachironomus abortivus (Malloch) and  P. frequens  (Johannsen) ; also Paracladopelma nereis  (Townes), P. winnelli Jakson, and P. sp. 1,  sp. 2, and sp. 3;  Paralauterborniella nigrohalterealie (Malloch), Paratendipes albimanus ((Miegen), Phaenopsectra obediens (Johannsen), Polypedilum aviceps Townes, P. convictum (Walker), P. failax (Johannsen), P. illinoense (Malloch), P. laetum (Meigen), P. obtusum Townes, P. digitifer Townes, P. scalaenum (Schrank), P. sp. 1, P. sp. 2, and P. sp. 3;  Robackia claviger (Townes), R. demeijerei (Kruseman), Saetheria tylus Jackson, Stenochironomus taeniapennis (Coquillett), S. sp. 1, S.  sp. 2, and S. sp. 3,  and Xenochironomus scopuola Townes.

            In the Tanytarsini , Mason (1983) found ,  Cladotanytarsus sp. Nr. viridiventris (Molloch), C. sp. 1, C. sp. 2,  Microspectra nigripila (Johannsen), Microspectra polita (Malloch), M. dives (Johannsen), M. sp. 1, Paratanytarsus confuses Palmen, p. sp. Nr. dimorphis Reiss, P. laccophilus ( Edwards), P. sp. nr. natvigi (Goetgjebuer), P. sp. 1, P. sp. 2, Rheotanytarsus exiguous group, R. sp. 1, R. sp. 2,  Stempellinella sp., Tanytarsus glabrescens (Edwards), T. guerius Roback,  T. sp. 1, T. sp. 2, T. sp. 3. and Chironominae Genus 3 sp.


            These are often lotic but are also associated with oligotrophic lakes, especially in the north, and are mostly  tube builders and burrowers,  collectors, gatherers, and scrapers. Some special cases are noted below, such as some predators and sand lovers   (Merritt and Cummins 1996).

            In this group the following were found:  Acricotopus sp., Cardiocladius sp. (predators of blackfly larvae) , Cricotopus bicinctus (Meigen), C. curtus Hirvenoja, C. politus (Coquillett), C. slossonae Malloch,  C. triannulatus (Macquart), C. tremulus (Linnaeus), C. sp. 1, C. sp. 2,  C. intersectus (Staeger), C. trifasciatus Edwards, C. sylvestris (Fabricious) (chewing and gathering tube builders and burrowers), Eukiefferiella sp., Nanocladius anderseni Saether, N. crassicornis Saether, N. spiniplenus Saether,  Orthocladius rivicola Kieffer,  O. carlatus (Roback), O. mallochi Kieffer, O. nigritus Malloch, O. obumbratus Johannsen, O. sp. 1 (burrowers and collectors), Parakiefferiella torulata Saether, Psectrocladius  flavus   (Johannsen),  P. simulans (Johannsen), P. sp. 1, P. sp. 2, P. sp. 3, Pseudosmittia sp., Rheosmittia sp. 1, R. sp.2 (sandy substrates) , Synorthcladius semivierns (Kieffer), Thienemanniella xena Roback, Svetena vitracies ( Saether) and Orthocladinae sp.1 and 2.



       Blood-feeding blackfly adults are among the most serious pests in the world, spreading serious human diseases (Merritt and Cummins 1996) and killing livestock by toxemia.  They also feed on a great variety of wild hosts.   Larvae require flowing water where they filter food from the passing current with unique  fans while they are attached by silk and hooklets at the tip of  the abdomen to clean stones or plants.

      Fredeen (1981,1985) spent many years studying the biology and control of prairie blackflies, and Jarvis (1987) recently studied the biology of blackflies in the river.  The following is from Fredeen and Jarvis.   One hundred fifty species are known from North America.  Six genera and 31 species are recorded from Saskatchewan, many being restricted to the northern Boreal., and the prairie flowing water fauna include 15 species from the Saskatchewan River system.  These are  Ectemnia taeniatifrons (Enderlein) (feeds on mammals) , Metacnephia saskatchewana Shewell and Fredeen, and many  mammalophic species  of Simulium, some of which are serious  livestock pests ., these being  Simulium arcticum Mallokc (seius pest of livestock) ,  S.  bivitattum Malloch, S. decorum Walker, S.  duplex Shewell and Fredeen, S. euryandminiculum Davies (feeds on birds),   S. griseum Coquillet, S. luggeri  Nicholson (serious pest of livestock),   S. meridionale Riley, S rugglesi  Nicholson and Mickel,  S. tuberosum (Lundstroem), S. venustum Say, S. vittatum Zetterstedt,  and S. verecundum Stone.  


         Mosquitoes are almost never found in lotic waters but the can be abundant in adjacent wetlands or backwaters if cut off from the current.  Rempel (1950 and 1953) studied the larvae and adults of western Candian mosquitoes in response to the the encephalomyelitis  outbreak of 1941, and a study of prairie species was considered to be urgent.  He reviews the biology and distribution and gives keys to adults and larvae of six genera and 46 species from western Canada (Anopheles - 4 species, Mansonia-one species, Wyeomyia  – one species, Culiseta - 5 species, Culex   four species, and Aedes  -31 species).