Many people have been asking about the little net tents set up here and there along the trails! What are they? If you haven't yet heard, they are Malaise traps and they are used for collecting flying insects. The traps have been set out as part of a study to inventory the aquatic invertebrates, (in this case insects), that occur in the park. The traps will be out through 2012. The scientific investigation is being led by Dr. Charles Parker, an entomologist with USGS. Dr. Parker has done work for Great Smoky Mountains National Park and other NPS units in our geographic region.
One might wonder "why are the traps not in the water," if the survey is to document aquatic insects. Many insects that live in an aquatic habitat spend some life stage out of the water. This stage is frequently the adult stage when many insects have wings in order to find a mate and reproduce. Some examples of these insects are dragonflies, mayflies, caddisflies, blackflies, mosquitoes, and craneflies. Of course, Dr. Parker collects critters from the water too, and sometimes traps at night using lights to attract them.
Certain aquatic invertebrates are recognized as biological indicators. That is, their presence in a body of water will be a reliable indicator as to the quality of the water. It will be very interesting to see the final results of the report. We have already trapped some rarely encountered species.