By Jennies Tran
Have you ever seen a bug gliding across the water in a creek and thought your eyes were playing tricks on you? Chances are you witnessed the distinctive motions of a Water Strider, which are part of the Gerridae family. Water Striders look like giant mosquitos but are actually insects evolved for life on top of still water, making places such as ponds, lakes, and slow moving creeks and streams the perfect Water Strider habitats.
The Water Strider’s body can grow up to to a half of an inch and the color is generally dark brown or black. Water Striders have exceptional vision, and paired with the ability to move quickly, they are able to avoid becoming easy prey. They typically travel in large groups and depend on protection from overhanging trees and shade. Water Striders use their six legs to move with a short front pair and long middle and back pairs. Their middle and back legs also have tiny, water-resistant hairs to repel water and capture air. The Water Strider’s body is lightweight and the captured air allows them to float and move easily. The ability to repel water helps these insects stand on the water’s surface. The short pair of front legs captures prey, the middle pair pushes the insects forward, and the back legs help water striders steer.
Water Striders feed on insects and larvae, such as mosquitos or dead dragonflies, which fall on the surface of water. Water Striders have sharp mouthparts, called the rostrum, which enable them to suck up body juices from prey. The next time you visit a creek or a pond, keep your eyes out for these incredible invertebrates gliding over the water!