Starting from spring, people try to spend more time in nature, near rivers and reservoirs. Clean air, the murmur of water, the sun – all this has a positive effect on health, mood and well-being. Another plus of such a pastime is the opportunity to get to know unique animals better. In particular, this is a water strider, which is also called a water bug. You can learn more about these insects and their lifestyle in this publication.
Origin of the species and description
The water strider is a rather graceful, light insect that lives on the surface of rivers, reservoirs, swamps. Very often it is confused with spiders because of its thin and long legs. Sometimes a water bug is mistaken for a cockroach or just a beetle. Water striders is the name that unites a whole family of hemipteran insects. They belong to the suborder of bedbugs. In Latin, the name of such animals sounds like “Gerridae”.
Video: Water Strider
To date, it is known about the existence of more than seven hundred species of water striders that live on the water. This is the most common type of such insects.
The most famous and widespread species include three:
- pond water strider. Its distinguishing feature is the bright, rich color of the paws;
- large water bugs. They are almost the largest in the family. The body length of such insects can reach seventeen millimeters;
- slow rod-shaped water strider. This animal got its name solely because of its appearance and habits. Outwardly, this bug is very reminiscent of a stick, it lives in Siberia, leads a measured lifestyle.
It is quite easy to recognize representatives of the water strider family. They have medium dimensions for insects, large and thin paws. From afar, they can really resemble a spider. Water bugs live on the water surface. Their paws are covered with very hard hairs that have water-repellent properties. That is why the water strider can easily slide on the water and not sink.
All representatives of this family have many common features, one of which is the stage of development. All water striders go through two stages: larvae and adults. In the first stage, water striders live for about a month. At this time, their body is actively developing, changing its color. From a greenish insect with short legs, they gradually turn into a rather large brown bug with long, thin legs that allow them to move freely on the surface of ponds and reservoirs.
Appearance and features
The water strider is a predatory insect, the dimensions of which depend on the species. Most species of these animals have a small body size – only a few millimeters long. However, many water strider bugs are large in size for an insect. Some species can reach a length of seventeen millimeters. The color of the body also largely depends on the species. It ranges from greenish to dark brown. The lower part of the abdomen and legs of the insect are covered with stiff bristles. It has water repellent properties. The abdomen is usually brown or gray.
Insects have a small head, against which the proboscis and antennae stand out very much. Antennae are an important part of the body of water striders. They help the animal to capture various smells and serve for touch. The proboscis takes part in the hunt. With its help, the bug injects a special enzyme into its victim. This enzyme dissolves the insides of the prey.
The special attention of people in the appearance of water bugs is always attracted by the paws. They look intimidatingly long. Water striders have three pairs of legs, each of which is endowed with its own functional abilities. The first two legs (the shortest) are used during hunting to capture prey, the middle and rear pairs are necessary for support and movement. The bristles located on the paws hold air, which makes the insect “unsinkable”. Some species of adults also have wings. With their help, water striders fly over various distances to search for food.
Interesting fact: Lake, river water bugs do not have wings. They just don't need them. Most of all, water strider species that live in puddles need them. With the help of wings, these insects can move, because the puddles dry up sooner or later.
Where does the water strider live?
Water striders are a huge family that has about seven hundred species. Therefore, their natural habitat is quite extensive. These insects are almost everywhere where standing ponds, ponds and even puddles are present. The only exceptions are very cold regions with severe winters. The water strider lives in Poland, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, America and many other countries.
The water strider puts forward a number of requirements for its habitat. They need a temperate climate with warm winters and water – a pond, reservoir or river with a slow flow. Some species of such insects live in puddles. Such water striders have wings so that if the puddle dries up, they can move to another place. The paws of water bugs are long, but very comfortable. This allows the animal to move quickly not only on water, but also on land.
There are species of water bugs that can survive in huge salt water bodies. For example, such are marine water striders. They differ from their relatives in tiny dimensions. Another important requirement for the place of residence is the presence of vegetation near the water source. In it, insects overwinter, falling into hibernation. Sometimes they winter in coastal soil. Water striders wake up only with the onset of heat.
Now you know where the insect lives. Let's see what water striders eat.
What do water striders eat?
Water striders are excellent hunters. They have sharp eyesight, developed motion receptors. Motion receptors are located on the antennae and limbs, which allows insects to quickly respond to any fluctuations in the water. They give an almost instantaneous reaction to movement in the water, so they easily get food for themselves. These little water bugs are real predators. Their daily diet consists of a huge number of insects, fish, beetles and other small representatives of the animal world.
In the capture of prey, the front pair of legs takes an active part. It is equipped with special hooks. Their water bugs are used to firmly capture prey. In the process of nutrition, the proboscis also plays an important role. His water strider plunges into its prey to suck out nutrients or to inject poison. The proboscis is long, but it does not interfere with movement. After eating, the animal bends it under the chest.
The favorite treats of water striders are:
- flies, mosquitoes, horseflies. These insects become food for bedbugs only through their own negligence. Sometimes they fly too close to the water or accidentally fall there;
- eggs of small insects, fish caviar. The water strider finds such food on swampy shores;
- jellyfish, fish fry, physalia. Such food is the main food in the diet of sea striders;
- the remains of dead representatives of the fauna. The water strider is a unique and very useful creature. Representatives of this family eat a large number of remains, cleaning reservoirs and banks.
Interesting fact: Because of food, water striders often have conflicts and even fights among themselves. Often insects take food from each other with the help of tenacious front legs.
Character and Lifestyle Features
Water striders is the name of a whole group of small insects, perfectly conveying their way of life. These animals measure the water surface with their thin and long paws. It is water that is an integral part of the habitat of such insects. Water striders easily move through the water and do not drown due to the special bristles on their belly and legs. During the day, they can slide on the water surface for hours, hunting for small insects, fry, flies and even mosquitoes.
In catching prey, animals use everything that nature has given them: sharp eyesight, tenacious paws, a sharp piercing proboscis, and motion receptors. Being an inhabitant of ponds and reservoirs, water bugs are always in sight. However, even here nature helped them, endowing them with a dark brown inconspicuous color. This color and slender body make them almost invisible to enemies.
Many species of water striders have wings. However, such insects fly extremely rarely. Only a few varieties of wings are very necessary for survival. We are talking about those insects that live in small puddles. Any puddle dries out over time, so the bugs have to look for a new one. They fly to another puddle with the help of wings. The rest of the time the wings are not used.
In summer, water striders spend most of the day on the water, in winter – in dense thickets or soil. In winter, these animals hibernate. In the warm season, the population of water striders in reservoirs, swamps, rivers and ponds is quite high. Resting in nature, probably, every person observed such an insect in close proximity. Bed bugs rarely go to land – only when necessary. This is due to the fact that their paws are poorly adapted for movement on the ground and the ground.
Social structure and reproduction
After hibernation, water striders are ready for the breeding process. For them, this process occurs almost immediately with the onset of heat and in the middle of summer. For this reason, in one summer season, similar insects of completely different ages can be seen on reservoirs. For mating, the male chooses a female and climbs on her right in the water. As early as a week after mating, the female can lay eggs.
Interesting fact: Water striders are very prolific insects. A female water bug can lay up to fifty eggs at a time. This allows most species to maintain their high population in nature despite the impact of many negative factors.
The female bug lays her eggs on the leaves of various plants that are in the water. The masonry has a rather unusual appearance – it is a jelly-like long cord. It neatly laid out all the testicles. Small species of water striders lay eggs without mucus. They pile them up or stick them into the leaves of plants.
After a couple of weeks, larvae emerge from the eggs. They develop very quickly and in a month they completely turn into adults. However, young animals always differ from their parents. Young water striders are small in size and have a slightly swollen belly. The life expectancy of these animals is short – only one year. However, this does not prevent the family from being one of the most numerous insects in the world and maintaining its population steadily.
Natural enemies of water striders
The water strider spends most of its life on the water, rarely appearing on land. That is why all its natural enemies live in ponds and reservoirs. However, there are not many of them. Basically, fish and some frogs, tree frogs, and toads feed on such animals. They deftly prey on water bugs. The worst enemy of water striders is the water mite. The larvae of such a tick bring great harm to the animal. They bite through the body of a water strider and drink its blood.
The water strider is not easy prey for predators. These creatures are quite neat, agile. They are good jumpers and can move at high speeds. Sensing danger, many water bugs have time to quickly leave the territory. They have well-developed motion receptors, so even the slightest splash of water will alert them.
Interesting fact: Few people know about the benefits that water bugs bring to the ecosystem. They are often called orderlies of reservoirs, swamps and rivers. These animals are able to purify water from blood-sucking horseflies. They are the “regulators” of the population of these pests.
A person cannot be called a natural enemy of water striders. People do not specifically destroy these insects, because they are of great benefit. Water bugs, in addition to being useful, are absolutely safe for people. This insect can bite only in an exceptional case, when it is in real danger from a person.
Population and species status
Water striders are one of the largest families of insects. It includes more than seven hundred species of animals, so their overall population is not a concern. Water bugs have been given a conservation status of Least Concern. This status indicates that this family of insects is not threatened with extinction in the very near future.
Various factors have a positive effect on the high population of representatives of water striders:
- benefits for the ecosystem and humans. People do not try to get rid of water striders, because they know that they are the orderlies of the reservoir. This animal is of great benefit in controlling the population of blood-sucking horseflies;
- high natural fecundity. Water striders breed several times a year. At one time, the female lays about fifty eggs, from which the larvae then appear;
- high survival rate. Water bugs have a short life span of only one year. However, before this time, adults rarely die. These are neat, fast and dexterous insects. They rarely become victims of natural enemies, they practically do not get sick.
Despite the overall rosy picture, some species of the water strider family are listed in the Red Books of individual states and cities. For example, we are talking about a sphagnum water strider. This animal belongs to rare species.
Water strider protection
Sphagnum water strider is a rare species that has a small natural habitat. Such insects live in Ukraine, Russia, Sweden, Poland, Finland, Belarus. The species is considered little studied, endangered. It is included in the Red Books of many regions of Russia: Chelyabinsk, Voronezh, Tobolsk, etc. This animal is also included in the Red Book of the Republic of Belarus.
To date, little is known about sphagnum water striders. This type has a rather classic appearance, inherent in all water bugs. In length, the animals do not exceed 9.7 millimeters, have a brownish-black color. They differ from other varieties in the thickened femurs of the front legs, on which there is a wide black stripe on the outside. Also a distinctive feature is the habitat. Such insects prefer to live and breed in sphagnum bogs. In other aspects, sphagnum water striders are no different from their other relatives.
What is it that negatively affects the number of sphagnum water striders? The main limiting factor is the pollution of water bodies and swamps. Sphagnum swamps are becoming less and less, and those that exist are practically unsuitable for insect life. Significant changes in climate and landscape features of the natural habitat of these animals also negatively affect the population. Despite this situation, at the moment there are no special measures for the protection of sphagnum striders.
In our world, each creature plays its own role. The water strider is no exception. This is a rather unusual, but very useful insect. It is the orderly of reservoirs, rivers, swamps, ridding the ecosystem of various pests. For people and other animals, water bugs do not pose any danger. Water striders spend almost their entire lives on the water surface.