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How to pond dip

Pond dipping is a wonderful way to look at the creatures that live in and around pond water. Insect larvae, beetles, leeches and frogs are some of the animals you might find living in your local pond. 

Pond dipping is trawling the shallows of a pond to capture the pond-dwelling creatures that are abundant in spring and summer.

Watch the video above to find out how to go pond dipping, then read on for further tips and information on the animals you might find.

A hand pouring pond water into a tray from a jug

What is pond dipping?

You will need:

  • a small net or container, such as a bucket or jug
  • a flat tray, preferably white so you can easily see what’s inside 
  • a spoon
  • a magnifying glass (optional) 
  1. Head outside to your pond. Place your tray near the pond and then head to the pond’s edge. Make sure you have sturdy footing when standing by the water’s edge and only pond dip in places where you can easily reach the shallows without placing yourself at danger of falling in. 
  2. Half fill your flat tray with water from the pond. This will act as a temporary home to any pond life you find. 
  3. With your net or container, scoop through the water just above the pond floor. 
  4. Empty the net or jug into your flat tray. If using a net, you might need to turn it inside out so you can wash out what you have scooped up. Don’t worry if you trawl up a little bit of pond weed, this can make your creatures feel at home.
  5. With a spoon, slowly search through the tray for signs of life. 
  6. If you find something, take a good look. You can photograph or sketch any interesting creatures. 
  7. When you have finished, gently pour the water and all the creatures you found back into the pond. 
Someone using a spoon to search for life in a tray of water filled with pond weed and pond creatures

With a spoon, slowly search through the tray for signs of life

Common pond insects 

Seeing what lives in a pond is a great way to know if a pond is in good health. If you find dragonfly or caddisfly larvae, this suggests you have lots of oxygen in the pond and it’s a great place for animals to live. 

For more detailed identification of some of the groups of animals you might find, you can check our beginner’s guide to UK freshwater invertebrates.

What lives in a pond?

Ponds are home to many fascinating creatures. 

Where to go pond dipping 

Most ponds in parks, forests or backyards will probably have some insect life living in their shallows. 

If you are wondering what a pond looks like, ecologist Sylvia Myers says a pond is a still body of water and that even a puddle left for a few days might start to attract animals.

‘A lot of ponds in the wild are very changeable places and they might only have water for half the year or a few months,’ Sylvia adds.  

These temporary ponds would have naturally formed as rivers meandered across the country, leaving little pools behind. Certain geologies, such as clay, might help ponds of rainwater form. Most ponds in parks and gardens have been made by humans. 

A snail in tray of water

You might like to photograph or sketch any interesting creatures you find, such as this freshwater snail

When to go pond dipping

The warmer months of spring and summer are the best times to go pond dipping. At this time of year, insects, insect larvae and other creatures are most active.