1. The seasonal dynamics of the benthic macroinvertebrate assemblage, and the subset of this assemblage colonising naturally formed detritus accumulations, was investigated in two streams in south-west Ireland, one draining a conifer plantation (Streamhill West) and the other with deciduous riparian vegetation (Glenfinish). The streams differed in the quantity, quality and diversity of allochthonous detritus and in hydrochemistry, the conifer stream being more acid at high discharge. We expected the macroinvertebrate assemblage colonising detritus to differ in the two streams, due to differences in the diversity and quantity of detrital inputs.2. Benthic density and taxon richness did not differ between the two streams, but the density of shredders was greater in the conifer stream, where there was a greater mass of benthic detritus. There was a significant positive correlation between shredder density and detritus biomass in both streams over the study period.3. Detritus packs in the deciduous stream were colonised by a greater number of macroinvertebrates and taxa than in the conifer stream, but packs in both streams had a similar abundance of shredders. The relative abundance of taxa colonising detritus packs was almost always significantly different to that found in the source pool of the benthos.4. Correspondence analysis illustrated that there were distinct faunal differences between the two streams overall and seasonally within each stream. Differences between the streams were related to species tolerances to acid episodes in the conifer stream. Canonical correspondence analysis demonstrated a distinct seasonal pattern in the detrital composition of the packs and a corresponding seasonal pattern in the structure of the detritus pack macroinvertebrate assemblage.5. Within-stream seasonal variation both in benthic and detritus pack assemblages and in detrital inputs was of similar magnitude to the between-stream variation. The conifer stream received less and poorer quality detritus than the deciduous stream, yet it retained more detritus and had more shredders in the benthos. This apparent contradiction may be explained by the influence of hydrochemistry (during spate events) on the shredder assemblage, by differences in riparian vegetation between the two streams, and possibly by the ability of some taxa to exhibit more generalist feeding habits and thus supplement their diets in the absence of high quality detritus.