Saturday, May 22, 2010

Water Scorpion


 This crazy looking stick-like insect is NOT a Stick Insect. It is in fact a Water Scorpion in the family Nepidae. They are in the same order as other true bugs, Hemiptera. They are very long and thin just as this picture shows. Their front two front legs are used to grab insect prey and pull it back into their mouth to feed. They will eat tadpoles, tiny fish like minnows or offspring of other fish (in captivity they do well on young guppies), they will also feed on other aquatic insects. Their mouth is much like another group of insects within this order called the assassin bugs. It is a beak-like structure that pierces the outer skeleton of their prey, then they inject them with an enzyme which sedates their prey as well as liquefying the insides of the unfortunate victim. The water scorpion can then slurp up the insides like a n insect slurpee.


The long "tails" that protrude from the backside of the scorpion are actually breathing tubes. They typically float on debris or plants near the waters surface where they will extend their breathing tubes out of the water. They can swim, but seldom do unless disturbed.  They will overwinter as adults and lay eggs the following spring. The female will lay her eggs in vegetation near the shore line or on the surface of the water. In about 2 to 4 weeks the eggs hatch and the young begin feeding on tiny insect prey. It takes them about 2 months to reach maturity. It is not uncommon to see one of these crazy looking insect reach lengths up to 5 or 6 inches. These crazy bugs possess wings and will fly.


The one pictured here was captured by a little girl during a field trip to my office. We were hosting a local preschool for a field trip to the pond. We divided the group into two separate groups. One half of the group fished, while the other half mucked around in the pond for aquatic insects. Then we switched the groups. One of the girls in the first group pulled her net into shore and screamed that she caught a water spider. I went to investigate and discovered that she had caught this water scorpion. It was only the second one I've ever seen and certainly the biggest at approximately 3 1/2 inches in length. I made a big deal out of her capture and told her what a special insect she caught. She was thrilled. After the group left I kept the scorpion and placed it in a tank. I've been feeding it freeze dried crickets. Hopefully it will survive.

11 comments:

  1. Cool bug, I have seen it before.Like to have the ID. I was in Thousand Hills park the last few days, but was surprised at low count on birds. Did try and get a 1/2 metalic green beetle shot but it was gone in a flash.Saw a bobolink north of there!

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  2. Wow! I've never seen one of those. Super interesting--a breathing tube would come in handy, eh? And glad to hear about it's little, proud finder.

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  3. I agree Prairie, they are very cool. They certainly look nothing like scorpions though. From what I read they get their common name from their extended front legs and the way they grab their prey, which apparently appeared scorpion-like to whom ever named this bug. The tail extending out of the water also looked much like a scorpion tail as it was extended upwards. Funny how things appear to some people. I would have called this insect a "water stick bug" oh well..... I've seen a few of my regular spring time bird visitors. The hummingbirds, orioles, bluebirds, and the indigo buntings. I've never seen a Bobolink.

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  4. Bio--this is only the second one I've ever seen. The first one was much, much smaller. This one was quite impressive. I will enjoy showing it to the students who come for field trips. That little girl just beamed when I told her how Special her find was. :o)

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  6. Wow. I live in southern Arizona and was shocked to find this bug swimming in my high school's pool, even more so when I googled "Arizona Stick Bugs" to show a friend what they usually look like here and found one of these as the 3rd or 4th picture! I sure am glad to find that thing on the end isn't a stinger, finding it nearly scared me half to death. The bug was at least 4 inches long and I assume feeding off our abundance of water bugs and/or wasps.

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  7. I seen on that looked like this but more legs and smaller anteniaes and zebra patter...what is it??

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  8. I just found two of these in my algae filled swimming pool in Tucson. They got sucked up by the sump pump and are no more.

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  9. Nice page! I have had a few of these in my pool in Titusville FL. If I see one again, I will take a picture first since they are apparently somewhat hard to locate. What a cool insect. The first time I scooped this one out, it recovered in a couple seconds and flew right back into the pool. Next time I went for it, it dove underwater. Swimming, flying stick bug. How unusual.

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