Sunday, May 11, 2008

Camera Critters: Backswimmer

(click on the photo to open it, full-size, in a new window)

This aquatic insect was collected by the fifth and sixth graders on their expedition last week. They call it an upside down swimmer, but it is actually a backswimmer (Notonecta glauca). This is the bottom side of the insect. I couldn't get the top side of it because it would flip upside down so quickly. There are very tiny, fine hairs around his bottom end. Ohio State University calls these "aquatic pests":
Adults are about 1/2 inch long, black and white colored, swim upside down on their backs, have triangular-like (boat-shaped) bodies, and large eyes. They are kidney shaped, with a four segmented beak, and antennae in three to four segments concealed between the head and thorax. There is an irregular brown and blackish band across the wings at the base of the membranous portion. The front and middle legs are fitted for grasping while the hind legs are flattened, fringed and fitted for swimming. They are often seen on the water surface with their long hind legs held straight out and pointed forward, poised for a fast start. They live in all kinds of water (fresh to scum-covered stagnant) and overwinter as adults. They fly long distances, often in swarms and are attracted to lights. The life cycle requires about 40 days. They feed on insects, tadpoles and small fish. They can bite, causing pain much like a bee sting when handled carelessly.
However, Troutnut says that "backswimmers are often important to trout, especially in ponds. They're one of the insects which usually doesn't factor into a fly angler's decisions at all, but it pays to be aware of them because in just-so situations the trout eat nothing else." This BBC site has great information on this bug that is also called a water boatman.

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My other Camera Critters post is about my neighbor's horses.


  1. What an interesting looking little critter! Great info too! Thanks.

  2. Wow i have never seen one of these, thanks for all that information on it as well.

  3. What an AWESOME macro and fantastic information too, my friend! GREAT post!

  4. Very cool ‘informative’ post for Camera Critters! Reminds me of fun times when I taught 5th & 6th graders long ago ;--)
    Hugs and blessings,

  5. I think I have heard of the water boatman. I also got to go on a field trip this week, sith fourth graders releasing their baby salmon and doing a creek study. It was a great experience.

  6. Great picture !!
    And thanks for all the info hadn't heard of this insect before this !!


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