Species Profile

Hungerford's Crawling Water Beetle

Scientific Name: Brychius hungerfordi
Taxonomy Group: Arthropods
Range: Ontario
Last COSEWIC Assessment: May 2011
Last COSEWIC Designation: Endangered
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Endangered

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Quick Links: | Description | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Hungerford's Crawling Water Beetle


Brychius hungerfordi, or Hungerford’s Crawling Water Beetle, is a small insect 3.7- 4.4 mm long and yellowish-brown in colour with irregular dark stripes on the back. The larvae are long and slender with a distinctive curved hook at the tip of the abdomen. (Updated 2017/08/30)


Distribution and Population

Hungerford’s Crawling Water Beetle is endemic to the Great Lakes region with approximately 40% of its distribution in Canada. All Canadian populations are found within Ontario. The species is restricted to five streams in three counties (Emmet, Montmorency and Presque Isle) in northern Michigan and to three rivers (the Rankin, the North Saugeen and the Saugeen) in Bruce County, Ontario. Over the last 10 years the possible loss of one of three locations has been documented. (Updated 2017/08/30)



Hungerford’s Crawling Water Beetle is a specialist of small to medium-sized streams characterized by a moderate to fast flow, good stream aeration, cool temperatures (15°C to 25°C), inorganic substrate, and alkaline water conditions. Populations are often, but not always, found immediately downstream from culverts, beaver dams, and human-made dams. The presence of the alga Dichotomosiphon may be a critical component of the habitat because the beetle larvae appear to be very dependent upon it as a food source. Some areas within two watersheds (Saugeen and Grey-Sauble) containing Hungerford’s Crawling Water Beetle are relatively pristine while others are very degraded. Poor agricultural practices, wetland degradation, impoundment and other watercourse alterations, and urban development are current threats in these watersheds. There is some evidence that the habitat at the location on the North Saugeen River has been impacted in such a way that may have led to a decline or loss of the Hungerford’s Crawling Water Beetle population. (Updated 2017/08/30)



Hungerford’s Crawling Water Beetle has four life stages: egg, larva, pupa and adult. The egg stage has not been described nor has egg-laying been observed for Hungerford’s Crawling Water Beetle, but based upon studies of closely related species, females probably lay their eggs in spring or early summer on or in aquatic plants. The larvae are herbivorous and a recent study suggests that they may specialize upon the filamentous alga Dichotomosiphon tuberosus. The larvae probably feed and grow until the fall when they then move from the water to damp soil along the edge of the river where they probably remain over the winter. The following spring, they likely transform from larvae to adults before returning to the water. The adult beetles may live as long as 18 months. (Updated 2017/08/30)



Although the habitat requirements of Hungerford’s Crawling Water Beetle are not fully understood, it is likely that threats to this species include any activities that degrade water quality or remove or disrupt the pools and riffle environment of streams in which this species lives. Such threats may include stream modification (e.g., channelization, dredging, bank stabilization, erosion control, and impoundment), pollution, impacts to the groundwater quality and quantity and invasive alien species. Alternations to stream flow as a result of waterpower development, waterpower management regimes, permits to take water (either surface water directly from the stream or groundwater that may feed the stream), discharge of storm water and other activities may also impact Hungerford’s Crawling Water Beetle populations by altering the hydrology, temperature, substrate and water chemistry of the stream. These activities all currently occur in the three Canadian watersheds where Hungerford’s Crawling Water Beetles are found. Such activities and the resulting changes to stream flow could also impact the shoreline pupation sites of this beetle (e.g., through erosion and/or flooding). One Canadian location is adjacent to lands where an expansion to a landfill site is proposed. Such an expansion could have impacts on groundwater quality which may result in negative direct or indirect effects upon the Hungerford’s Crawling Water Beetle population at this location. (Updated 2017/08/30)



Federal Protection

The Hungerford's Crawling Water Beetle is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.



PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

6 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Hungerford's Crawling Water Beetle (2011)

    A probable early postglacial relict, this water beetle is endemic to the upper Great Lakes and is Endangered in the US. In Canada, it is restricted to a small area and is known from only 3 locations in Ontario. This species has declined and may be extirpated at the North Saugeen River. It is threatened by further planned developments at the North Saugeen and Saugeen River locations, by hydrological alterations at the Rankin River location, and by continuing declines in water quality due to events associated with increasing human population at all locations.


  • Order Acknowledging Receipt of the Assessments Done Pursuant to Subsection 23(1) of the Act (2016)

    His Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, acknowledges receipt, on the making of this Order, of assessments conducted under subsection 23(1) of the Species at Risk Act by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) with respect to the species set out in the annexed schedule.
  • Order Amending Schedule 1 to the Species at Risk Act (2017)

    Biodiversity is rapidly declining worldwide as species become extinct. Today’s extinction rate is estimated to be between 1 000 and 10 000 times higher than the natural rate. Biodiversity is positively related to ecosystem productivity, health and resiliency (i.e. the ability of an ecosystem to respond to changes or disturbances), and, given the interdependency of species, a loss of biodiversity can lead to decreases in ecosystem function and services (e.g. natural processes such as pest control, pollination, coastal wave attenuation, temperature regulation and carbon fixing). These services are important to the health of Canadians, and also have important ties to Canada’s economy. Small changes within an ecosystem resulting in the loss of individuals and species can therefore result in adverse, irreversible and broad-ranging effects. List of Wildlife Species at Risk (referral back to COSEWIC) Order

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2010 - 2011 (2011)

    Under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA), the foremost function of COSEWIC is to “assess the status of each wildlife species considered by COSEWIC to be at risk and, as part of the assessment, identify existing and potential threats to the species”. COSEWIC held two Wildlife Species Assessment Meetings during the past year assessing the status or reviewing the classification of a total of 92 wildlife species.

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species under the Species at Risk Act: Terrestrial Species – December 2011 (2011)

    As part of its strategy for protecting wildlife species at risk, the Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, also called the List of Wildlife Species at Risk. Please submit your comments by February 8, 2012 for species undergoing normal consultations and by November 8, 2012 for species undergoing extended consultations.