Derby City Pond Warden Association
A fun and educational activity, pond dipping allows you to explore the wildlife that lurks in and around ponds. Click the items around the table for more information.Chaddesden
When to go Pond Dipping
The best time for pond dipping is between the months of May and August, when the aquatic invertebrates are at their most active and the amphibians, such as frogs, toads and newts, have completed their breeding cycle. It is also the best time to view the aquatic plants when they are out in flower, thereby making them easier to identify.
PLEASE DO NOT UNDERTAKE POND DIPPING ACTIVITIES OUTSIDE OF THIS PERIOD.
Where to Pond Dip
Choose a pond with easy and safe access to the water’s edge. A pond with a dipping platform or a paved edge is ideal as they provide a stable place to kneel down next to the water, especially during damp weather.
The DCPWA website shows the location of ponds in the Derby area. Please obtain the landowner’s permission before the pond dip.
Pond Dipping Equipment
To be used for dipping into the pond and hauling out little creatures.
Temporalily house any creatures you find in plastic tubs, preferably white to aid observation.
It is easier to empty out your net into a container with a large surface area.
Small transparent pots or jars can make it convenient to observe your catch.
Thes can be used to move creatures between containers, or to lift them up for a closer look.
Some of the creatures in a pond can be very small. Use a magnifying glass to embiggen them.
Camera or Smart Phone
To record your finds. A camera with a "macro" setting can help focus on small things.
Pencil and Paper
For making notes about the finds.
Dipping is simple enough for anyone to enjoy:
- Half fill all of the containers with pond water
- Place the tray next to the water’s edge
- Dip the net in the pond and sweep in a figure-of-eight or circle
- Gently turn the net inside out into the the tray so the creatures can swim out
- Once sufficient creatures have been caught, they can be transfered to containers away from the pond for examination
- After the finds have been examined, gently return them to the area of the pond where they were caught
- Dip in different areas, depths and habitats to find a variety of species
- While dipping near weeds, sweeping a few times will catch animals hiding from earlier sweeps
- Do no collect too much mud, as this can make it diffficult to spot the creatures
Pond minibeasts (invertibrates)
Damselflies and Drogonflys (Odonata)
Frogs, Toads and Newts (Amphibians)
Like 98% of animal species, pond creatures are usually invertibrates, which means they have no internal skeleton.
Pond Snail Lymnaea stagnalis
The snail’s 45-60mm brown shell has weakly convex whorls. The upper whorls are pointed, while the bottom is suddenly inflated to be much larger than the others.
Greater Water Boatman Notonecta glauca
Known as a backswimmer because they swim upside down. They measure up to 20 mm long, and can give a nasty bite.
Lesser Water Boatman Corixa punctata
This insect swims on its front and is not related to the Greater Water Boatman. The long hind legs are covered in tiny hairs which helps them float on the surface of the pond.
Pond Skater Gerridae
A bug that can walk across the surface of the pond, using the water’s surface tension to support its legs.
Whirligig Beetle Gyrinidae
Usually seen on the surface of the pond, they swim rapidly in circles when alarmed. Also notable for their divided eyes which enable them to see both above and below water.
Water Hog Louse Asellus aquaticus
Known by many names, this freshwater crustacean resembles a woodlouse. Its presence in a pond is a sign of good water quality.
Water Flea Cladocera
A small crustacean with a length between 0.2 and 6.0 mm.
Red Worm Eisenia fetida
A type of earthworm that prefers to live in rotting vegetation rather than soil. They have bristles on each segment that move in and out to grip nearby surfaces to enable them to push themselves forward.
A blood-sucking type of worm, they have a sucker at each end. Some types have been historically used in medicine to remove blood from patients.
A type of midge lava, can be up to 2 cm in length. Also known as a Phantom Midge Lavae because of its transparency.
Mayfly Nymph Ephemeroptera
The insect lives for a year in their aquatic nymph form, but only about a day as an adult. Nymphs are distinctive in having seven pairs of gills on the dorsum of the abdomen, and three long cerci or tails.
Odonata are carnivorous insects that live in water during the early stages of their lifecycle. Young odonata are called nymphs, and have multiple stages of developmnt that are called instars.
Banded demoiselle Calopteryx splendens
This is a large damselfly with a total length up to 48 mm and a hindwing length up to 36 mm. The male has translucent wings which have a broad, iridescent blue-black band across the outer part.
Blue-tailed Damselfly Ischnura elegans
The insect has a largely black abdomen with very narrow pale markings where each segment joins the next. Segment eight, however, is entirely pale blue.
Common Blue Damselfly Enallagma cyathigerum
This small (32 mm), brightly coloured damselfly is probably the most common of odonata throughout Britain.
Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula
Another common damselfly, it is often the first to emerge, usually in April or May.
Emperor Anax imperator
This large (78 mm long) species of dragonfly has a sky blue abdomen with a black dorsal stripe and an apple green thorax.
Four-Spotted Chaser Libellula quadrimaculata
The brown colour and the four spots on the wings makes this dragonfly unmistakable.
Ruddy Darter Sympetrum sanguineum
A dragonfly with a wingspan of up to 6 cm. The head, thorax and abdomen of the male are vivid red, while the female is slightly smaller, and is a golden-yellow colour with black markings.
Southern Hawker Aeshna cyanea
A large dragonfly, with a long (70 mm) body. It has a black body with green markings, and the male also has blue spots on the abdomen.
Amphibians begin life living in the pond, before undergoing a metamorphosis to become air breathing animals.
The larval stage in the life cycle of a frog or toad that lives in water. Has a tail and no legs, and, like a fish, breathes through gills.
Common Frog Rana temporaria
Frogs have a plump body with a rounded snout, webbed feet and long hind legs adapted for swimming in water and hopping on land.
Common Toad Bufo bufo
A toad’s body is broad and squat and positioned close to the ground. The hind legs are short relative to frogs’ legs and the hind feet have long, unwebbed toes. The skin is dry and covered with small wart-like lumps.
Smooth Newt Lissotriton vulgaris
About 10 cm in length, they have pale throats with conspicuous spots. During breeding season, the male develops a tall, wavy, translucent crest along the spine and tail.
Palmate Newt Lissotriton helveticus
A relatively small species, males reaching only about 8½ cm and females 9½ cm. The palmate does not have the spotted throat of the smooth newt.
Great Crested Newt Triturus cristatus
A protected species. If found, you should stop dipping activities in order not to disturb them. If you are in the Derby area, report any sitings to the DCPWA.
Ponds provide an environment for many plant species to thrive.
Great Willowherb Epilobium hirsutum
Grows up to 2m in height with branched stems that have numourous hairs. The purple-pink flowers have four notched petals. The leaves have sharply toothed edges and no stalk.
Yellow Flag Iris Iris pseudacorus
Growing to 100-150 cm tall, with erect leaves up to 90 cm long and 3 cm broad. The flowers are bright yellow, 7-10 cm across, with the typical iris form.
Soft Rush Juncus effusus
Stems are smooth cylinders with light pith filling. The yellowish inflorescence appears to emerge from one side of the stem about 20 cm from the top.
Hard Rush Juncus inflexus
A tufted perennial with stiffly erect, grey-green leafless, ridged stems and brown flowers.
BulRush Typha latifolia
Grows 1½ to 3 m high and has 2-4 cm broad leaves. Will grow in ¾ to 1 m of water depth.
Reed Sweet-grass Glyceria maxima
A grass whose base grows along the ground and may root at several places. It then grows erect and bears leaf blades. It is highly competitive and invasive.
Duckweed Lemna minor
A floating plant with one, two or three leaves each with a single root hanging in the water. As more leaves grow, the plants divide and become individuals. The leaves are oval, 1-8 mm long and 0.6-5 mm broad.
Water Lily Nymphaea
The leaves grow from the rootstalk on long stems and float on the surface of the pond. The flowers rise out of the pond or float on the surface, opening during the day or at night.
Water Starwort Callitriche stagnalis
Slender stems reach to the surface and form floating mats of leaves, which are often round to spoon-shaped but are variable in morphology.
Floating Pennywort Hydrocotyle ranunculoides
In the UK it is an invasive alien species which is currently spreading in waterways. It is native to North and South America and parts of Africa.
Greater Spearwort Ranunculus lingua
A tall (1½ m) member of the Buttercup family with large yellow flowers.
Safety when Pond Dipping
Always be careful around any body of water!
- Do not try to wade into the pond as it is difficult to judge its depth
- Do not lean too far over the pond in case you lose your balance
- Be aware that muddy areas beside the pond can be slippery
- Examine your finds well away from the water’s edge
- To prevent infection, use waterproof plasters to keep pond water out of cuts and scratches
- After touching the water, keep fingers away from your mouth
- Thoroughly wash your hands when pond dipping is complete
See also: RoSPA’s advice for school wildlife ponds.