Many hundreds of species of insects, common and rare, live in the Kennet. Some including dragonfly, caddisfly and mayfly have a larval stage that lives underwater, and an adult stage that flies above it.

          Cased Caddis Larvae
              Above: cased caddis larvae                                                              Above: adult mayfly

Others, like water beetles and water bugs, live in, or on, the water all year round. The Kennet is noted for its large hatches of mayflies, whose long-tailed, short-lived adults are a favourite food of trout. One of the more conspicuous is the large, yellow-bodied Ephemera danica, the angler's 'drake'. Caddisflies are also very numerous, especially in late summer when they come to lighted windows and street lamps. Their larvae make expertly-built little cases of stones or plant debris. To find such hidden insects, you need to be a dedicated stone-turner. But remember to replace them as you found them.

Above: male banded demoiselle

The river is too fast for most dragonflies, but a species of damselfly the banded demoiselle is one you'll see often flapping along well-vegetated margins in midsummer of slower flowing streams. The males have bright blue bands on each wing.
Another brightly-coloured insect that appears at the same time is the scarlet tiger moth, which flies by day, and can also be found at rest on flower-heads. Its caterpillars feed on comfrey leaves, and can easily be found by searching in the spring: they are black with a yellow stripe, hairy and about an inch long.
The Kennet valley is home to thousands of moth species, from big poplar hawk moths to tiny ones that fly up when you walk through tall grass at the river's edge. There are even a few, known as China-marks, whose caterpillars live under water. Butterflies that can be spotted by the river include orange-tip,brimstone, small tortoiseshell and peacock.The peacock caterpillars have been found in nettles near the river, and orange-tip caterpillars on lady's smock and hedge garlic.


Above: scarlet tiger moth                                                                      Above: scarlet tiger moth caterpillar
Above: peacock butterfly                                             Above: peacock caterpillar