facinating instead of creepy bug
Sat, Apr 11, 2009 at 3:25 AM
Hey Bugman,
today I was in my garden, enjoying the first spring sun. When I walked near our pond, I came across this creature of wich I send the photo’s. When I tried to grab it, he kept falling on his back..but got up immidiatly with his 2 long legs. Was pretty cool to see, after like the 5th time he fell on his back, he just flew away.. I’ve never seen a bug like this, but I hope you can help me identify it.
Greetingz Joël ps. excuse my bad English, I’m a Dutchguy.
The Netherlands Budel-Schoot, near water.

Water Boatman


Dear Joël the Dutchguy,
Your fascinating insect is a Water Boatman in the family Notonectidae  The reason it was rather clumsy on land is that it is an aquatic insect that also flies quite well in the event its water habitat dries up or becomes otherwise unlivable.  Water Boatman swim up-side-down, with their bellies up.  The long oarlike legs propel them quickly through the water in a somewhat bobbing fashion.  Water Boatman are predators with piercing/sucking mouthparts.  You are lucky you were not bitten as the bite of a Water Boatman is quite painful, but otherwise harmless.  You can read more about North American Water Boatmen on BugGuide.

Update:  June 27, 2016
We just received a comment indicating that this is a Backswimmer and not a Water Boatman.  Backswimmers, according to BugGuide, are called Water Wasps or Water Bees and they do have a painful bite.

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Location: Budel-Schoot, Netherlands

3 Responses to Backswimmer from The Netherlands

  1. Dave says:

    Water Boatman: edible

    Both the eggs and the adults of Water Boatmen and Backswimmers are edible, and consumed in several parts of the world. The most notable example of this is in Mexico, where the eggs were “farmed” when bundles of straw were laid in the lake (the famous one at Mexico City, which in the last half-century or so has gotten badly polluted, such that these insects aren’t found in great numbers any more — so I’ve read). Back in the Aztec days, the eggs were a food reserved for royalty.

    SmallStock Food Strategies

  2. Brian says:

    All this information is correct if you substitute “backswimmer” with “water boatmen”… water boatmen are harmless and feed on algae; but ya this picture is a backswimmer and can sting/prick you

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