Hellgrammites: even their identify sounds scary.
However as scary as they might seem, they’re among the many extra innocuous insect larvae you’re more likely to see in Maine.
Discovered beneath rocks in rivers or streams, hellgrammites are the larval stage of dobsonflies, which seem equally ferocious.
“It’s a very nasty wanting critter,” mentioned Jim Dill, pest administration specialist with College of Maine Cooperative Extension. “The male is a very unusual wanting critter with two lengthy mandibles out in entrance that may be an inch lengthy [and] within the insect state the physique might be 2 1/2 inches lengthy with inch-long mandibles.”
Seems to be apart, dobsonfly larvae are in all probability finest generally known as probably the greatest baits for bass fishing in Maine. Moreover, they solely reside in clear, pollution-free river water, making them a terrific indicator species of the water’s high quality.
Dobsonfly larvae play an essential function in measuring water high quality in Maine, in line with Jeanne DiFranco, aquatic biologist and supervisor of the Maine Division of Environmental Safety’s organic monitoring program, due largely to its predatory nature and the way lengthy it stays within the larval stage — as much as three years.
“Being longer lived means they’re within the water for an extended time period,” DiFranco mentioned. “Meaning they will combine the consequences of any air pollution sources over that time period.”
That, and the truth that a hellgrammite is consuming different issues that reside in the identical water, would permit any pollution to build up in its personal physique over time.
“If the larva is there for 3 years and nonetheless thriving, that’s factor,” DiFranco mentioned. “The water needs to be of fine high quality over that time period.”
Grownup dobsonflies don’t feed in any respect, in line with Dill. However the hellgrammites catch and eat small fish, different insect larvae and just about anything that wanders by that they will catch with their sharp mandibles.
“They’re a prime predator within the bug world,” DiFranco mentioned. “They’re constructed for searching.”
Regardless of these vicious-looking pincer attachments, hellgrammites pose little menace to people. They’ll attempt to chew if they’re harassed and people pincers can pierce the pores and skin, however the bites will not be dangerous.
“These mandibles are largely for present and, on the males, for tussling with different males for mating,” Dill mentioned. “I’ve dealt with them earlier than and have by no means been bitten, however I’m cautious as a result of even when I get bitten accidentally, it could possibly be painful.”
DiFranco mentioned she’s by no means been bitten, however did have one latch on to her finger one time and mentioned it was with spectacular pressure.
Hellgrammites was once generally bought in bait outlets round Maine, however Dill mentioned that stopped when gross sales started depleting the pure populations of the larvae. At this time, devoted bass fishermen spend time turning over rocks to gather their very own.
“These critters are a part of our ecosystem,” Dill mentioned. “They’re an essential a part of the meals chain and a fairly good meal for fish and different critters.”