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Stoneflies - Plecoptera: Pteronarcyidae of Gunnison County, Colorado

Pteronarcella badia Least Salmonfly

(Hagen) 1874
Updated 18 Mar 2021
TSN 102486


Slow areas of streams and rivers in debris such as leaf packs.

Life History

P. badia has one generation per year (univoltine) with peak emergence in late June in the Gunnison River at Lost Canyon Resort (Fuller and Stewart 1977). Fuller and Stewart noted P. badia had a diet high in detritus, with large quantities of moss in the winter and spring months. Small nymphs appeared in September and fed primarily on detritus. The desmid Cosmarium was abundant in the river and guts in September and October. Diatoms were 11 and 15% of nymphs diet in September and October respectively. It appears P. badia uses conditioned fall leaf debris in the fall thru winter and eats more mosses right before emergence. Richardson and Gaufin 1971 noted this species is primarily herbivorous. P. badia ate higher plant and mosses in the Lake Fork of the Gunnison. Diatoms were also found in the guts. Specimens collected in the spring ate mostly Ephemeroptera and Plecoptera, some ate Chironomids. They change diets when plant material is unavailable. P. badia distributions overlap with Pteronarcys californica and their diets are similar, however P. californica is more omnivorous.

Locations Collected

Lake Fork of the Gunnison, Gunnison River at the Lost Canyon Resort, Cement Creek, Agate Creek, Sapinero Creek


Older publications may refer to this species as Pteronarcys badia.

Good Links

  • Reintroduction to the Logan River, Utah http://www1.usu.edu/buglab/projects/project%20Salmonfly.htm

  • Photo of Nymph from the Tree of Life

    PAN Pesticides database: http://www.pesticideinfo.org/List_AquireAll.jsp?Species=79∓Effect=
         Unfortunately, P. badia finds most of the pesticides reviewed on this site "highly toxic".


    Abbott,JC and Stewart,KW 1993. Male search behavior of the stonefly, Pteronarcella badia (Hagen) (Plecoptera: Pteronarcyidae), in relation to drumming. Journal of Insect Behavior 6:467- 81 PDF

    Baumann, RW Gaufin, AR, Surdick, RF 1977 The stoneflies (Plecoptera) of the Rocky Mountains. Memoirs of the American Entomological Society 31, 1-208.

    Branham,JM and Hathaway,RR 1975 Sexual differences in the growth of Pteronarcys californica Newport and Pteronarcella badia (Hagen) (Plecoptera). Canadian Journal of Zoology, 1975, 53:(5) 501-506.

    Clubb,RW; Gaufin,AR and Lords,JL 1974 Acute cadmium toxicity studies upon nine species of aquatic insects. Environmental Research 9(3) 332-341. PDF
         Abstract: Continuous-flow bioassays were employed to determine 96-hour median tolerance limits (TLm), for the stonefly, Pteronarcella badia (Hagen) (TLm was 18.0 mg Cd/l) and the mayfly, Ephemerella grandis grandis Eaton (TLm was 28.0 mg Cd/l). Ninety-six hours TLm values for other species of aquatic insects tested were not determined, since these species were relatively insensitive to cadmium.
    Insects exposed for four days in cadmium-containing water, then placed in tap water, show a linear rate of cadmium loss. This loss may lower or prevent mortality under ideal conditions.

    Colburn,T 1982 Measurement of low levels of molybdenum in the environment by using aquatic insects. 29, 422-428.

    Cui, Y; Béthoux, O; Kondratieff,B; Shih,C and Ren,D 2016 The first fossil salmonfly (Insecta: Plecoptera: Pteronarcyidae), back to the Middle Jurassic. BMC Evolutionary Biology, 16(1) 217 HTML
         While describing a new species of fossil Pteronarcyidae that pushes the origin of the family to the Jurassic (165 million years ago), they also publish photos of Pternarcella badia wings after noticing a lack of such information in the current literature.
    Quote: "Wing venation variability in Pteronarcella badia During our survey, we discovered that there was a lack of data on the wing venation of Pteronarcella badia, a critical species for comparison. An incomplete view of a forewing is available in Needham & Claassen (1925) [13] (Fig. 11), and a fore- and a hind wing are illustrated by Nelson & Hanson 1971 [14]: (Figs. 23-26). We investigated nine macropterous specimens (three males, six females). The typical morphology of the species is represented by Fig. 1a-d for males and Fig. 1e-h for females. In both fore- and hind wing, it involves a 3- or 4-branched RP, a 2-branched M (i.e. both MA and MP simple), a simple CuA, and no cross-veins in the area between R/RP and M basal to the first fork of M. In forewings, the rp-ma cross-vein is long, and AA2 has 2-3 branches."

    Fuller,RL and Stewart,K,W 1977 The food habits of stoneflies (Plecoptera) in the Upper Gunnison River, Colorado. Environmental Entomology 6, 293-302.
         Abstract: " Gut contents of 1,463 stonefly nymphs, comprising 10 species, from the Gunnison River, Colorado, were analyzed from Dec., 1974-Oct., 1975, in relation to food availability. Pteronarcella badia fed primarily on detritus and moss. Perlidae and Perlodidae mature nymphs were all carnivorous, but showed considerable seasonal-developmental shifting in diets and preference during earlier stages. Early instar Isoperla fulva nymphs were herbivore-detritivores, then gradually shifted through an omnivorous to carnivorous diet as development proceeded. Claassenia sabulosa and Hesperoperla pacifica remained carnivorous throughout development. Dominant prey groups were chironomids, mayflies and caddisflies. Horn's Coefficient of Dietary Overlap showed significance among all predator species for major food categories, but subtle mechanisms such as prey species-and size-selectivity and temporal succession provided sufficient partitioning of the abundant food resources to allow for coexistence. Large Claassenia sabulosa nymphs in August selected more mayflies after dark than in the afternoon. No behavioral selection by predacious stoneflies was indicated for the chironomids Ablabesmyia sp., Cricotopus sp., Prodiamesa sp., and Rheotanytarsus sp. "

    Fuller,RL and Stewart,KW 1979 Stonefly (Plecoptera) Food habits and prey preference in the Dolores River, Colorado. American Midland Naturalist, 101(1) 170-181. First page
         Abstract: " Gut contents of 1013 stonefly nymphs, comprising nine species, from the Dolores River, Colorado, were analyzed from December 1974 October 1975 and compared with food availability. Pteryonarcyids ingested large quantities of detritus and some moss, moss being a substantial food item in later instar Pternarcella badia nymphs. Perlodids fed primarily on chironomids and simuliids, although Isoperla fulva also ingested mayflies in June. Claassenia sabulosa remained carnivorous throughout development: young nymphs ingested chironomids and small mayflies and larger nymphs ingested caddisflies and mayflies. Horn's Coefficient of Dietary Overlap indicated significant overlap between all perlodids and chloroperlids. It also showed significant overlap between small and large C. sabulosa nymphs, yet selection of different prey sizes indicated resource partitioning. A comparison of food habits with the Gunnison River stoneflies indicated differences between the diets of large and small Claassenia sabulosa, with chironomids comprising large percentages of the diet for both size classes in the Gunnison River and smaller nymphs in the Dolores. Mayflies were important prey for larger individuals in the Dolores River. These differences could be attributed to different prey populations in each river and/or to availability of prey in the particular size that each predator preferred. In both rivers, Chironomidae and Simuliidae larvae were the major prey in the guts of Cultus aestivalis and Isoperla fulva. This prey specificity may have been due to decreased availability of smaller individuals in the other major prey groups or a difficulty in capture of larger prey organisms."

    Gaufin,AR; Clubb,R and Newell,R 1974 Studies on the tolerance of aquatic insects to low oxygen concentrations. Great Basin Naturalist 34:45-59. PDF
          The authors studied the acute short term tolerance of aquatic insects to low oxygen. They used the 96 hour Median Tolerance Limit. The TLm96 for P. badia was 2.4 mg/l and 21% oxygen saturation.

    Gaufin,AR and Hern,S 1971 Laboratory studies on tolerance of aquatic insects to heated waters. Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society 44:240-245. PDF
         Abstract: "The mature larvae of fifteen species of aquatic insects (Diptera, Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera, and Trichoptera) and the scud (Amphipoda) were tested to determine their relative sensitivity to heated waters under laboratory conditions. The temperature at which 50% died after 96 hours (TLm96) was recorded as the lethal temperature. This ranged from 11.7 C for the torrential stream mayfly, Cinygmula par Baton, to 32.6 C for the snipefly, Atherix variegata Walker. "       The TLm96 for P. badia was 24.4°C.

    Hagen,HA, 1874 Report on the Pseudo-neuroptera and Neuroptera collected by Lieut. W.L. Carpenter in 1873 in Colorado. Annual Report of the U.S. Geological and Geographical Survey of the Teritories, embracing Colorado, 7: 571-577.
         Original description of this animal.

    Hassage,RL 1989 Life histories, behavior and space partitioning in selected species of western North American Plecoptera. pHd Dissertation, University of North Texas. 105pgs. PDF
         Abstract: "Five species of stoneflies (Zapada haysi, Plumiperla diversa, Taenionema pacificum, Isoperla petersoni, Arcynopteryx compacta) from the North Slope and Interior of Alaska were examined for seasonal patterns of emergence of adults and growth of nymphs. Generally growth was retarded during the winter in this region, and all species except I. petersoni completed growth prior to January. The life cycles of six stonefly species (Prostoia besametsa, Triznaka signata, Sweltsa coloradensis, Isoperla fulva, Skwala parallela, Claassenia sabulosa) are described from northern New Mexico. In this region growth was generally less retarded during the winter than in Alaska; P. besametsa completed all nymphal growth during late fall and winter. Drumming behavior of a Colorado population of Pteronarcella badia was described using an evolutionary framework to explain the maintenance of signal variation in this species. Laboratory experiments were used to explore the effect of intraspecific and interspecific interactions on spatial partitioning in P. badia and Claassenia sabulosa. P. badia exhibited clumping and distributed itself as the surface area of substrate in low densities; however, in the presence of C. sabulosa its distribution was random and different from available surface area. A field study was used to examine spatial partitioning by three New Mexico stonefly species (I. fulva, P. besametsa, T. signata) and to ascertain patterns of microdistribution relating to several abiotic and biotic factors. Generally, there was an interaction of the measured abiotic parameters (current, water temperature, time) with nymphal size. Additionally, void space and sample volume were successfully used to compare biotic densities among leaf and mineral substrates, which were higher in leaf packs than in mineral substrates."

    Hassage,RL; DeWalt,RE and Stewart,KW 1988 Aggregation of Pteronarcella badia nymphs and effects of interaction with Claassenia sabulosa (Plecoptera). Oikos, pp.37-40.
         Abstract: " Claassenia sabulosa (Banks) and Pteronarcella badia (Hagen) stonefly nymphs were examined for distributional responses in an experimental setting. In treatments with single individuals and groups of four, P. badia, a shredder, distributed itself in proportion to the available surface area among fibrous, non-food substrates of different sizes. In treatments with four and fourteen P. badia, the nymphs demonstrated aggregation, often with body contact. Its distribution became random and significantly different from substrate surface area in the presence of C. sabulosa, a predator, indicating an interspecific interaction."

    Hassage, R.L., Stewart, K.W. and Zeigler, D.D., 1988 Female response to computer-simulated male drumming call variations in Pteronarcella badia (Plecoptera: Pteronarcyidae). Annals of the Entomological Society of America, 81(3)528-531.
         Abstract: " Pteronarcella badia (Hagen), a western stonefly, was examined for population variation in male drumming signals and female response to computer-generated variation in male signals. Female response to a wide range of variation in number of beats (3-11) and call duration (57-154% of typical) encompassed observed variation in male signals, indicated a definitive window of recognition, and conformed to an all-or-none pattern. Male five-beat calls convey minimal information necessary for substantial female response, and longer calls, including the mode natural seven-beat calls, seem to have the minimal calls embedded in them. The pattern of variation in the second call interval suggests that extant calls have been derived from minimal five-beat calls by adding beats to the beginning, which accommodates mechanical error (failure to strike the substrate on either end of the call) and variable thermal regimes."

    Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) accessed 15 Jan 2010 http://www.inhs.uiuc.edu/
    Cat. # Species Stream Location County State Country Date
    5596 Pteronarcella badia Agate Creek Sargents [Saguache/Gunnison] Colorado United States of America 7 June 1954
    5598 Pteronarcella badia Sapinero Creek Sapinero [Gunnison] Colorado United States of America 8 June 1954

    Kiffney,PM 1996 Main and interactive effects of invertebrate density, predation, and metals on a Rocky Mountain stream macroinvertebrate community. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 53(7): 1595-1601 .

    Kiffney,PM; Clements,WH 1993 Bioaccumulation of heavy metals by benthic invertebrates at the Arkansas River, Colorado. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 12, 1507-1517.
         Quote from page 1512: "Variation among taxa: Metal concentrations in organisms collected from station AR-5 [impacted by heavy metal pollution from California Gulch] (fall, spring, summer) varied significantly among taxa (Fig 7). The highest concentrations were generally found in the mayfly Baetis spp., the stonefly Pteronarcella badia, and the caddisfly Arctopsyche grandis, whereas the lowest levels were measured in the two predators, Skwala americana, and Rhyacophila spp."

    Kiffney,PM; Clements,WH 1996 Size-dependent response of macroinvertebrates to metals in experimental streams. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 15(8)1352-1356.
         Abstract: "Our previous research has shown that the effects of metals on stream benthic invertebrate populations and communities can vary within and between locations. With this in mind, we examined whether invertebrate body size could explain some of the variation in metal sensitivity within a species. Benthic macroinvertebrates from a pristine Rocky Mountain foothills' stream were collected using artificial substrates and exposed to a mixture of Cd, Cu, and Zn in stream microcosms for 10 d at their respective Colorado chronic criterion levels (4.0, 5.0, and 50 mu g/L). The effects of metals on the ephemeropterans Baetis tricaudatus (Baetidae), Ephemerella infrequens (Ephemerellidae), and Rhithrogena hageni (Heptageniidae) and the plecopteran Pteronarcella badia (Pteronarcyidae) were size dependent, as there was an inverse relationship between body size and survivorship. These results may have important implications for setting water-quality criteria for metals and For using benthic invertebrates in biological assessments. "

    Kondratieff,BC and Baumann,RW 2002 A review of the stoneflies of Colorado with description of a new species of Capnia (Plecoptera: Capniidae). Transactions of American Entomological Society 128 (3) 385-401.

    Luedtke,RJ and Brusven,MA 1976 Effects of sand sedimentation on colonization of stream insects. Journal of the Fisheries Board of Canada, 33(9), pp.1881-1886. PDF
         Abstract: " Driftnets, basket samplers, and artificial streams were used to investigate the influence of heavy sand accumulations on insect drift, colonization, and upstream movements in Emerald Creek, northern Idaho. Most riffle insects successfully passed through low-velocity, sandy reaches 80 m long. Upstream movements on sand were impeded by flows as low as 12 cm/s, except for the heavily cased caddisfly Dicosmoecus sp."

    Malison,RL; Ellis,BK; DelVecchia,AG; Jacobson,H; Hand,BK; Luikart,G; Woods,HA; Gamboa,M; Watanabe,K and Stanford,JA 2020 Remarkable anoxia tolerance by stoneflies from a floodplain aquifer. Ecology, 101(10), p.e03127. PDF

    Mangum,FA and Madrigal,JL 1999 Rotenone effects on aquatic macroinvertebrates of the Strawberry River, Utah: a five-year summary. Journal of Freshwater Ecology, 14(1), 125-135. PDF
         Abstract: " Before treatment with a 3 mg/1 Noxfish (0.15 mg/1 active ingredient; rotenone) for 48 hours, benthic invertebrate communities were quantitatively sampled with a modified Surber net. Then spring, summer, and fall post-rotenone samples were taken monthly at each of four Strawberry River stations for five years. Statistical analyses of the data indicated that the application of rotenone had a significant effect on the following species density: Cinygmula sp., Pteronarcella badia, Hesperoperla pacifica, Hydropsyche sp., and Brachycentrus americanus. Thirty-three percent of the benthic invertebrate taxa at the four stations showed resistance to rotenone. Up to 100% of Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera and Trichoptera species were missing after the second rotenone application. Forty-six percent of the taxa recovered within one year, but 21% of the taxa were still missing after five years. Of the 19 taxa still missing, 47% were Trichoptera, 21% were Ephemeroptera, 16% were Plecoptera, 11% were Coleoptera, and 5% were Megaloptera. "

    McCutchan Jr, J.H. and Lewis Jr, W.M., 2001 Seasonal variation in stable isotope ratios of stream algae. Internationale Vereinigung für theoretische und angewandte Limnologie: Verhandlungen, 27(6), pp.3304-3307. PDF Needham,JG and Claassen,PW 1925 A Monograph of the Plecoptera of North America. Entomological Society of America, Lafayette, Indiana. 397 pages.
         Figure 11 at the top of this webpage is from this publication.

    Nelson,CH 2009 Surface ultrastructure and evolution of tarsal attachment structures in Plecoptera (Arthropoda: Hexapoda). Aquatic Insects, (31)523-545. Html
         The author used scanning electron microscopy (SEM) to image the plantar surfaces of the stonefly tarsomeres and pretarsus of Pteronarcella badia and a number of other species.

    Peckarsky,BL 1980 Influence of detritus on colonization of stream invertebrates. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 37, 957-963.

    Peckarsky,BL 1983 Biotic interactions or abiotic limitations? A model of lotic community structure. In: Dynamics of Lotic Ecosystems. Eds: Fontaine III,Thomas D; Bartell,Steven M Ann Arbor Science, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 303-323.

    Peckarsky,BL 1985 Do predaceous stoneflies and siltation affect the structure of stream insect communities colonizing enclosures? Canadian Journal of Zoology 63, 1519-1530.

    Peckarsky,BL; Dodson,SI 1980 Do stonefly predators influence benthic distributions in streams? Ecology 61(6) 1275-1282. Abstract

    Rader RB; Ward JV. 1988 Influence of regulation on environmental conditions and the macroinvertebrate community in the upper Colorado River. Regulated Rivers: Research and Management 2:597-618.
         Quote from page 611: "The reference site was represented by a diverse fauna of stoneflies (approximately fiften species) with similar relative abundances. However, only rare individuals of Amphinemura banski), two chloroperlid, and three isoperlid species represented the stonefly taxa at the regulated site. A general reduction in stoneflies and the occasional appearance of Amphinemura and Isoperla is common below dams in Colorado (Ward and Short, 1978; Zimmerman and Ward, 1984). Eight stonefly species were collected at the recovery site; however, only two (Amphinemura banski and Pteronarcella badia) were consistently represented in samples."

    Richardson,JW; Gaufin,AR 1971 Food habits of some western stonefly nymphs. Transactions of American Entomological Society 97, 91-121.

    Sanders,HO and Cope,OB 1968 The relative toxicities of several pesticides to naiads of three species of stoneflies. Limnology and Oceanography 13(1) 112-117. First page

    Shepard, WD. and Stewart KW 1983 Comparative Study of Nymphal Gills in North American Stonefly Genera and a New, Proposed Paradigm of Plecoptera Gill Evolution. Miscellaneous Publications of the Entomological Society of America 13:1-57
         Illustration of nymph osmobranchiae (gills) on page 56.

    Smith,LW 1917 Studies of North American Plecoptera (Pteronarcinae and Perlodini). Transactions of the American Entomological Society 43(4)433-489.
    Smith description of the stonefly Pteronarcella badia Illustration of the ventral abdomen of a female Pteronarella badia Title of figure 32 description of Pteronarcella badia

    Sproul, J.S., Houston, D.D., Nelson, C.R., Evans, R.P., Crandall, K.A. and Shiozawa, D.K., 2015 Climate oscillations, glacial refugia, and dispersal ability: factors influencing the genetic structure of the least salmonfly, Pteronarcella badia (Plecoptera), in Western North America. BMC Evolutionary Biology, 15(1)279. html

    Stewart,KW 2001 Vibrational communication (drumming) and mate-searching behavior of stoneflies (Plecoptera); evolutionary considerations. In Trends in Research in Ephemeroptera and Plecoptera (pp. 217-225). Springer US.

    Stewart,KW and Stark,BP 2002 Nymphs of North American Stonefly Genera. 2nd edition The Caddis Press, Columbus, Ohio. 510 pages. Ventral photo of nymph thoracic and abdominal gills on page 111 figure 6.46. Illustrations of nymph on page 461-462, figures 15.1-15.2

    Stewart,KW; Szczytko,SW and Stark,BP 1982 Drumming behavior of four species of North American Pteronarcyidae (Plecoptera): dialects in Colorado and Alaska Pteronarcella badia. Annals of the Entomological Society of America 75:530-533.

    Stewart,KW and Zeigler,DD 1984 The use of larval morphology and drumming in Plecoptera systematics, and further studies of drumming behavior. Ann. Limnol, 20(1-2), 105-114. PDF

    The United States Geological Survey (USGS) National Water Quality Assessment Data Warehouse (NAWQA) shows this species is present in Gunnison County. Data as of 1Sep2005

    Vieira,NK; Barnes,TR and Mitchell,KA 2011 Effects of wildfire and postfire floods on stonefly detritivores of the Pajarito Plateau, New Mexico. Western North American Naturalist, 71(2) 257-270. PDF
         Abstract: " Wildfires alter the quantity and quality of allochthonous detritus in streams by burning riparian vegetation and through flushing during postfire floods. As such, fire disturbance may negatively affect detritivorous insects that consume coarse organic matter. We assessed how 2 crown fires impacted stonefly detritivores in streams of the Pajarito Plateau, New Mexico. We documented stonefly populations before and after the fires and postfire floods, and compared recovery trajectories among unburned, lightly burned, and severely burned reaches. We also conducted experiments to assess burned detritus as a food resource for Pteronarcella badia Hagen. Specifically, we characterized microbial conditioning, nutrient content, and breakdown rates of burned and unburned deciduous leaves and pine needles. We compared colonization of P. badia in field-placed leaf packs and growth of P. badia in a microcosm experiment on burned and unburned treatments. Detritivorous stoneflies in Plateau streams survived wildfire, but were extirpated from burned reaches after severe postfire floods in both Capulin and Guaje canyon. In Guaje Canyon, Amphinemura banksi Baumann and Gaufin was more resilient to flood disturbance than P. badia and recolonized soon after floods abated, whereas recolonization of A. banksi was delayed in Capulin Canyon. Experiments revealed that detritus quality did not explain slow recovery; despite reduced microbial conditioning and decomposition rates, P. badia colonized and grew well on burned detritus. Instead, postfire floods removed shredder stoneflies and their detrital resources; and traits such as body size, voltinism, and dispersal likely interacted with the postfire landscape to shape recovery trajectories in burned streams."

    Zeigler,DD 1990 Observations pertinent to the role of sexual selection in the stonefly Pteronarcella badia (Plecoptera: Pteronarcyidae). Entomological news (USA).

    Ziegler,DD and Stewart,KW 1977 Drumming behavior of eleven Nearctic stonefly (Plecoptera) species Annals of the Entomological Society of America. 70(4)495-505.

    Zeigler,DD and Stewart,KW 1985 Age effects of drumming behavior of Pteronarcella badia (Plecoptera) males. Entomological News 96(4) 157-160

    Brown, Wendy S. 2004 Plecoptera or Stoneflies of Gunnison County, Colorado