One of the elements of the Smith Mountain Lake Association’s mission is to protect the lake. By counting insects, volunteers with Save Our Streams help monitor the health of the lake.

Save Our Streams has more than a dozen teams monitoring 18 streams that flow into the lake in Bedford and Franklin counties and is looking for additional monitors. Residents interested in participating and becoming certified monitors are invited to the next orientation session on Feb. 29 from 9 a.m. to noon at Westlake Library.

After a classroom orientation, volunteers then practice in the field, generally by working with a team on a stream near their home. Training and necessary equipment are provided free by SMLA.

Monitors test for insects that serve as a primary source of food for most species of birds and freshwater fish. Much like the legendary canaries in the coal mine, insects serve as an early warning system and can tell a lot about how clean a stream is.

When pollution tolerant insect varieties predominate, the conditions are less than favorable and the stream can negatively impact the lake. When pollution intolerant varieties thrive, monitors can tell that the stream’s water will contribute to a safe and healthful lake.

Testing is done on each stream once in the spring and again in fall. Bug counts are merged into data maintained by Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality. The ratings produced by DEQ are the most reliable measures of water quality in the state.

Interested participants can register by calling the SMLA office at 719-0690 or by emailing

To learn more about SMLA, visit

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