Tuesday, June 1, 2010
This odd looking bug is a Water Strider in the genus Gerris and they are found throughout North America. There are 47 species of water striders in North America within 8 genera. Water Strider's are in the order hemiptera which is the same order that includes, stink bugs, cicadas, tree hoppers, assassin bugs and many other true bugs. Depending upon where you live you may call them any number of crazy names including water skaters, water skeeters, water scooters, water skippers, water skimmers, water bugs, skaters, skimmers, magic bugs and even Jesus Bugs because they "walk on water".
Like their name suggests water striders, stride along the top of the water. There are tiny hairs at the end of their legs that hold little water bubbles which enables them to manage this feat. They rely on water tension to be able to remain on top of the water, whether it is walking or standing still they have no worries of sinking below the surface. They are capable of moving very rapidly, and with little to no effort. They use their middle legs for locomotion, the front and back legs are used like a rudder.
These bugs are predatory and will feed on other water insects that reside just below the surface, or insects that happen to fall into the water. They use their powerful front legs that are adapted with a special pair of claws to grasp and hold onto their prey. They have piercing/sucking mouthparts that they use to stab their victim and suck them dry.
While they spend the biggest majority of their lives on top of the water they are capable of diving under water and remaining there for a short time if danger is nearby. Once the object of their distress has passed they will pop back up to the surface again. These insects are not good indicators for water pollution; simply because they reside on top of the water instead of within the water. Therefore they can tolerate polluted water sources relatively well. If the water they reside in is a temporary pool and dries up they are capable of burrowing into the mud and lying dormant until the water hole rehydrates.
Look for these insects in ponds, lakes and slow moving streams where they will entertain you with their antics of running across the water searching for food and mates.