River Kennet Creature Feature – Water Boatmen

Ramsbury Raven
By The Raven

Wonderous Water Boatmen

Have you ever seen little dark coloured insects floating about in a pond, just under the Water?

They have three pairs of legs; one pair is very long and spread out, so that they look like two little oars. Perhaps this is why these insects are called water boatmen. These powerful long legs are covered in tiny hairs which helps them float on the surface of the water. It’s front legs are very short and are used to scoop up food.

If you frighten them, they will dive underneath very quickly, but they soon come back, because they have to breathe fresh air. You will never guess where they take it in— through the tips of their tails!

If you catch one and let it go on land, it will hop about on long oar legs the right way up. You will be able to see that his back is light coloured and it has two pairs of wings, Backswimmers (Notonecta spp) look very similar to water boatmen. However there are two main differences: backswimmers are carnivorous eating tadpoles, insects and small fish, and they swim on their backs. Water boatmen eat Plant debris and algae.

The mother insect lays her single eggs on the stems of water plants as most other pond insects do. When the baby hatches out, it is very small and has no wings, it has to change it’s skin twice before it grows up.

The first time it becomes a pupa, with two funny little side flaps, but the second time it has developed wings, and is a new water boatman, just like it’s father and mother and the circle of life begins all over again!