The Ultimate Guide to Water Scorpions: Identification and Intriguing Facts

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The Water Scorpion is a fascinating creature that you might come across in freshwater habitats. Despite its name and intimidating appearance, this insect isn’t related to true scorpions. In fact, Water Scorpions belong to the order Hemiptera, also known as true bugs. Don’t be fooled by their resemblance to a twig; these insects are ingenious predators that use their unique features to ambush their prey.

Water Scorpions often measure about 2 inches long and have long, slender bodies with four legs, making them excellent swimmers. One distinguishing feature is their set of pincers, which are used for catching and consuming smaller insects like mayfly nymphs. While these pincers might hint at a dangerous nature, rest assured that Water Scorpions pose no harm to anything larger than their prey.

As you continue reading, you’ll learn more about their habitats, life cycle, and other fascinating facts. So, get ready to dive into the world of Water Scorpions and discover all there is to know about these intriguing true bugs.

An Overview of Water Scorpions

Water scorpions are fascinating creatures that belong to the family Nepidae within the order Hemiptera, also known as true bugs. They are not true scorpions, but their appearance might remind you of one. These insects come in two genera: Nepa and Ranatra. Let’s take a closer look at their characteristics.

These insects undergo incomplete metamorphosis, starting as nymphs and going through several molts before reaching adulthood. Their size varies, with most water scorpions ranging from 2 to 4 inches in length. Their flattened bodies are typically dark brown or blackish-brown in color, helping them blend in with their surroundings. They have three pairs of jointed legs, with the forelegs being specialized, raptorial limbs for seizing small aquatic prey.

Here are some key features of water scorpions:

  • Belong to the order Hemiptera (true bugs)
  • Part of the family Nepidae
  • Two genera: Nepa and Ranatra
  • Undergo incomplete metamorphosis
  • Size: 2-4 inches in length
  • Flattened, dark brown or blackish-brown bodies

Water scorpions are primarily predators, using their specialized forelegs to catch and consume various small aquatic prey. Their habitat varies from ponds to streams, where they use their camouflage to blend in and ambush their dinner effectively.

In summary, water scorpions are intriguing aquatic insects that belong to the Nepidae family and Hemiptera order. They are not true scorpions, but their appearance might lead you to think otherwise. With their unique features and predatory behavior, these remarkable creatures are truly worth learning more about.

Habitats and Distribution

Water scorpions are fascinating creatures that thrive in a variety of freshwater habitats. You can find them in diverse environments such as ponds, lakes, canals, and even algae-rich or muddy areas.

These insects are not limited to just one type of water body, as they can adapt well to different surroundings. For example, you may find them in clear water with abundant vegetation or in muddy areas with decomposing plant matter.

Their distribution is wide, ranging from southern Canada to various parts of the United States. In particular, water scorpions are commonly found in the following habitats:

  • Ponds: They thrive in shallow, still waters that offer ample vegetation or debris for hiding and hunting prey.
  • Lakes: Although not as common as in ponds, they can also be found along the edges of larger bodies of water.
  • Canals: Slow-moving or still water in canals can provide ideal habitats for water scorpions.
  • Algae-rich areas: Abundant algae provide both cover and a food source for these insects and their prey.
  • Muddy environments: Decomposing plant matter in mud attracts the small aquatic creatures that water scorpions feed on.
  • Spring-fed habitats: The fresh, cool waters of springs can attract water scorpions in certain regions.

Always keep an eye out for these fascinating creatures when exploring various freshwater ecosystems. With their wide distribution and adaptability to different habitats, you never know when you might come across a water scorpion in your next outdoor adventure.

Physical Characteristics

The Water Scorpion is an interesting creature with unique physical features. Let’s dive into its characteristics:

  • Tail: The Water Scorpion has a long tail, which is actually a siphon that works like a snorkel. This enables it to breathe while underwater.
  • Front legs: It possesses a pair of powerful front legs with sharp pincers. Despite being called “scorpions”, they belong to the order Hemiptera or true bugs and can’t harm anything larger than a mayfly nymph.
  • Body: Its body is long (about 2 inches), lean, and well-camouflaged, often resembling a twig. This camouflage helps it stay hidden from predators and prey.

The Water Scorpion’s respiratory system is quite fascinating:

  • Siphon: As mentioned earlier, the tail acts as a siphon or snorkel. It extends above the water’s surface, allowing the Water Scorpion to breathe without coming to the surface.
  • Spiracles: These tiny openings on the sides of the insect’s body control the airflow in and out of its internal organs.

Remember, Water Scorpions are not actual scorpions, but they do share some similarities. In summary, their most notable characteristics include:

  • Long, narrow body resembling a twig
  • Sharp pincers on front legs
  • Siphon-like tail functioning as a snorkel
  • Ability to breathe underwater due to spiracles

The Life Cycle of Water Scorpions

When observing water scorpions, you might be curious about their life cycle. Let’s get to know the stages from eggs to adults.


Water scorpions begin their life as eggs, usually laid singly on underwater vegetation during spring and summer. The female makes sure to attach the eggs securely, as they can be vulnerable to predators.

Mating and Reproduction

Mating occurs underwater, with males and females engaging in courtship rituals. Once a pair mates, the female lays her eggs, starting the cycle anew.

  • Males: Often have stronger front legs to grasp the female during mating
  • Breeding: Can happen multiple times throughout the season
  • Reproduction: Necessary for the survival of the species

Life Cycle Stages

The water scorpion life cycle consists of three main stages:

  1. Egg: Hatches after a couple of weeks
  2. Nymph: Goes through five instar stages, molting between each one
  3. Adult: Fully developed, capable of reproduction

During the nymph stage, water scorpions resemble smaller versions of adults. They grow by molting their exoskeletons and feeding on small aquatic organisms.


Water scorpions, while not endangered, can be sensitive to environmental changes. It’s essential to protect their habitats to ensure their continued existence.

So there you have it, a brief overview of water scorpion life cycles. These fascinating creatures undergo a complex process from egg to adult, including mating, reproduction, and growth. Knowing more about their life cycle can help you appreciate their unique behaviors and significance in aquatic ecosystems.

Feeding Habits

Water scorpions are carnivore and ambush predators. They primarily feed on small aquatic animals, such as:

  • Tadpoles
  • Small fish
  • Small crustaceans
  • Crickets

While hunting for their prey, water scorpions rely on their excellent camouflage and patience. They prefer to wait in hiding, usually among aquatic plants, until their prey comes nearby. They then use their strong front legs to capture and subdue their meal.

To satisfy their hunger, these predators pierce their prey with their needle-like mouthparts and inject it with toxic digestive enzymes. They can also deliver a painful bite to humans if threatened. Remember, water scorpions need a diverse range of food to ensure they stay happy and healthy.

Changing their menu from time to time is a good idea, offering a mix of live and frozen food items. While their primary prey are small aquatic animals, they can sometimes consume detritus as well. However, it is essential to focus on providing a balanced diet.

When you observe their feeding process, remember their ambush style varies depending on the type of prey they are after. While hunting small fish, they can move in a swift, sudden motion; for tadpoles or other slower targets, they might take a more calculated approach.

In conclusion, understanding these fascinating creatures’ feeding habits is crucial to maintaining a healthy environment for them, either in the wild or captivity

Adaptations for Living in Water

Water scorpions are fascinating aquatic insects that have adapted well to their watery environment. In this section, we’ll explore some of the key adaptations that help them survive and thrive in their aquatic habitat.

One of the most important adaptations for living in water is their ability to swim. Water scorpions can both swim and crawl, which allows them to navigate through various types of aquatic habitats. They primarily inhabit slow-moving or stagnant water, where they can easily find aquatic vegetation to cling to or hide among. This habitat provides them with plenty of opportunities for finding food and escaping from predators.

Breathing underwater is another crucial adaptation for aquatic invertebrates like the water scorpion. These insects possess elongated respiratory tubes, which they use to extract oxygen from the water. These tubes work like a snorkel, allowing them to breathe even when submerged. Water scorpions can also fly short distances, which helps them move between different water sources and find new habitats.

Some features of water scorpions include:

  • Elongated respiratory tubes for underwater breathing
  • Ability to swim, crawl, and sometimes fly
  • Preference for slow-moving or stagnant water

In conclusion, water scorpions are well-adapted for their aquatic lifestyle thanks to their swimming abilities, respiratory tubes, and habitat preferences. These adaptations help them efficiently navigate, breathe, and find food in their watery environment.

Defensive Strategies

In the world of water scorpions, defensive strategies play a crucial role in survival. Camouflage is one such tactic employed by these insects. They often resemble dead leaves or sticks, allowing them to blend seamlessly into their environment.

Their appearance as needle bugs or water stick insects further aids in their deception. This helps them evade predators and makes it easier to ambush unsuspecting prey.

As for their method of self-defense, water scorpions are equipped with a venomous bite. Although not deadly to humans, the bite can be painful and discourage predators from trying to feast on them.

In addition to their disguise, water scorpions have a few habits that aid in their defense. They often share habitats with backswimmers, a similarly colored aquatic insect. This can confuse predators and increase their chances of survival.

Here are some key points about water scorpion defensive strategies:

  • Camouflage resembling dead leaves and sticks.
  • Look like needle bugs or water stick insects.
  • Venomous bite for self-defense.
  • Sharing habitats with backswimmers for added confusion.

Understanding the defensive strategies of water scorpions can provide you with valuable insights into their behavior and help you appreciate these fascinating creatures. Remember, when observing them, be cautious, as their bite can still be painful.

Water Scorpions and the Ecosystem

Water scorpions are fascinating invertebrates that play a unique role in their ecosystem. They can be found in various aquatic environments, from freshwater ponds to slow-moving streams. Interestingly, these creatures are not actually scorpions but are named due to their resemblance to terrestrial scorpions.

Water scorpions are predators that help maintain a balance within the ecosystem. They primarily feed on small aquatic invertebrates such as insects, tadpoles, and even small fish. In turn, they become a food source for other species like amphibians, birds, and fish.

One fascinating aspect of water scorpions is their ability to produce a chirping sound. While underwater, they communicate using these noises. This sound may also play a role in their mating rituals, attracting potential partners during the breeding season.

You might be interested to learn about the relationship between water scorpions, algae, and amphibians. Algae are primary producers in aquatic ecosystems, converting sunlight into food for many organisms. When water scorpions feed on invertebrates that consume algae, they indirectly help control algae growth.

Moreover, water scorpions share similar habitats with amphibians. As amphibians typically reside in freshwater environments, their presence may indicate a healthy ecosystem. The existence of water scorpions, along with amphibians, may signify a strong, balanced aquatic community.

In conclusion, water scorpions are an essential component of the aquatic ecosystem. By regulating populations of other organisms through their predatory nature and serving as a food source for larger species, they contribute to a well-functioning environment. Their presence, alongside other species like amphibians, highlights the interconnectedness and complexity of the natural world.

Water Scorpions and Humans

Water scorpions, belonging to the genus Ranatra, are fascinating aquatic insects. They might look intimidating with their mantis-like grasping forelegs and slender, needle-like appendages, but they don’t pose any threat to humans. In fact, water scorpions play an essential role in aquatic ecosystems by feeding on small aquatic prey. Let’s explore some interesting facts about these creatures and how they affect humans indirectly.

Often mistaken for underwater walking sticks, water scorpions have adapted to their aquatic environments. When you spot them in water, they might look like twigs with four legs. But don’t be fooled, their seemingly harmless appearance hides a skilled predator.

They use their raptorial forelegs to capture prey like small fish and insect larvae. Water scorpions also inject their victims with digestive enzymes through a proboscis, liquefying the insides so they can easily consume it. Not to worry, though. This digestive process doesn’t harm humans.

Anglers and people exploring freshwater habitats may encounter water scorpions in their nets or while observing underwater life. While they might look menacing, these insects are not dangerous to humans or our pets. They’re not venomous and won’t sting or bite you.

You can learn a lot from water scorpions, especially if you’re studying aquatic ecosystems and insect life. Let’s recap some key features:

  • Belong to the genus Ranatra
  • Have mantis-like grasping forelegs
  • Use digestive enzymes to consume prey
  • Not dangerous to humans
  • Found in freshwater habitats

Overall, water scorpions are an important part of our ecosystems and should be respected. So, the next time you come across one, appreciate its unique adaptations and role in maintaining a healthy aquatic environment.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Water Scorpion

Subject: Is this a water scorpion?
Location: St Clair, N.S.W 2759
September 19, 2016 10:28 pm
Hi, my son and I are very big on insect spotting, this one popped up on our back porch and we have never seen anything like it. I have been researching for days to try figure out what he is and water scorpion is the closest I have come but we live out in the suburbs with no lakes,rivers or ponds anywhere.
Signature: Mummy and Noah

Water Scorpion
Water Scorpion

Dear Mummy and Noah,
This is indeed a Water Scorpion, and they are able to fly great distances in search of water.  According to Sportsman Creek Conservation Area:  “They can ambush fast swimming prey such as small fish catching them between their front legs and stabbing them with their pointed probiscus.  Known as Toe-biters able to inflict a nasty nip although this specimen played dead when disturbed. Water Scorpions are also capable fliers and inhabit waterholes over much of Australia.”  According to the Queensland Museum, Australian Water Scorpions are in the genus

Letter 2 – Water Scorpion

We found it in the pool
We found this in the pool in Muswellbrook in the Hunter Valley in NSW, Australia – I have never seen one before and hope to never again.

Hi Michelle,
Thank you for sending us you most awesome photo of a Water Scorpion in the genus Nepa. We often get photos of their relatives, Water Scorpions in the genue Ranatra as well as Giant Water Bugs known as Toe Biters, but we rarely get these broader Water Scorpions in the genus Nepa. They are not deadly, but the bite is quite painful.

Letter 3 – Water Scorpion

Water Scorpion (& photo)
Hey Bug man,
Thanks for helping me identify the water scorpion (Ranatra) I found in my pool! I think I got a fairly decent shot of it, considering it was under water

Hi Henry,
We haven’t received an image of a Ranatra Water Scorpion in nearly a year. Your photo is a much welcome addition to our site.

Letter 4 – Water Scorpion

Assassin Bug Species?
Found this little cutie in the North Georgia Mountains 5/4/08 at about 3000 feet. If I remember correctly the body was about 1-1.5 inches long, with the legs and oviposter maybe three inches. Looks similar to the Thread-legged Assassin Bug on your pages. Am I close? Any info on the natural history of it? Thx…
Greg in Dahlonega, Georgia

Hi Greg,
It is easy to confuse the Water Scorpion in your photo with a Thread Legged Bug. Your Water Scorpion is in the genus Ranatra, and BugGuide has many wonderful images, but none as nice as yours.

Letter 5 – Water Scorpion

Water Bug? January? In Michigan????
I went to one of our pet stores to get a couple of fish. I saw in the tank a wierd looking but that looked like a walking stick in the water, I know nothing so I didn’t even know what to say. All I said was, “Can I have that thing?” They had no idea what it was and they told me to go ahead and take it. What is this thing?

Hi Melissa,
This is a Water Scorpion in the genus Ranatra. You don’t want to keep it with your fish as it is a predator that might eat them.

Letter 6 – Water Scorpion

Water walking stick
Hello, Bugman –
Enjoyed your web page in the search for an ID for a bug. Our friends found this critter (photo attachment) in the pond in their back yard in South Carolina in August. It doesn’t seem to have the two-stripes you describe on your web page for the Anisomorpha buprestoides , plus it was quite at home in the pool rather than on a tree. What exact species/genus is this and what else can you tell me about it? Is it a type of scorpion? While I’m at it, they also do not know what type of yellow spider this is, also from their back yard (photo attached). Thanks!
Heidi/Where on Earth?

Hi Heidi,
We had to visit your website and have to admit we find it terribly tempting. You just might be getting an order from us in the near future for Insects in Amber or perhaps Christian Dior tails. What we would really like to find is a replacement set of antique tuxedo studs and cufflinks that were rhinestone studded Art Nouveau flies that somehow vanished from our possession over 15 years ago. Your mystery water insect is in fact called a Water Scorpion. It is in the genus Ranatra. The spider is Nephila clavipes, the Golden Silk Spider.

Letter 7 – Water Scorpion

Water Scorpion
I have a penchant for taking photos of insects while up at the cottage. Last week I had the pleasure of meeting this amazing guy/gal. After the second shot it decided to leave and flew across the lake to the other side. From your site I believe it to be a water scorpion, the first I have seen in the Haliburton/Minden area just south of Algonquin Park in Ontario, Canada.

Thank you for your high quality image of a Water Scorpion in the genus Ranatra.

Letter 8 – Water Scorpion

Similar to a Walkingstick
August 23, 2009
This looks like a walking stick but its legs are too close together. It was found in lake wicwas in meredith NH. When placed on shore it walked back to the lake where it held to a rock on the shoreline just under water. Seen at 1:15 pm on August 22, 2009.
Wicwas Bugs
Meredith NH

Water Scorpion
Water Scorpion

Dear Wicwas Bugs,
This is a Water Scorpion, and it gets its name from the painful bite.  Though Water Scorpions do not routinely bite humans, if they are carelessly handled, they do not hesitate.  Your specimen is not mature yet as evidenced by its incompletely developed wings.  Though aquatic, adult Water Scorpions fly quite well.

Letter 9 – Water Scorpion

No idea what this is!
Location:  Yarmouth, Maine
September 18, 2010 4:01 pm
This bug landed on my neck while kayaking on a quiet river in southern Maine, September 18th. It didn’t appear to have wings, but maybe they’re just folded up close? I don’t know how else it could have landed on me, unless it was blown off a plant by the wind. (It WAS windy.) He was about 2.5-3” long. from tip to tip. Didn’t move around a whole lot, but was clearly alive. I didn’t see it depart, so don’t know if it blew off or flew off…
Signature:  Louisa

Water Scorpion

Hi Louisa,
You had an encounter with a Water Scorpion in the genus
Ranatra.  Water Scorpions are aquatic insects that are also capable of flying.  The bite is reported to be quite painful.

Thank you – I just figured it out myself, but glad to have it officially identified. (And glad it didn’t bite me.) Your website is awesome, and so helpful!

Letter 10 – Water Scorpion

Water scorpion
Location:  Delaware
October 13, 2010 1:52 pm
Hey Bugman,
My son and I just found a water scorpion… in the street of our culdesac! We have never seen one of these bugs before. We live in Delaware.
Do you know if they are native to this part of the country? We also would like to bring it into his class since, as luck would have it, they are studying insects.
Do you know if we need water in the jar we’re keeping him in?
Should we have him in one of those plastic aquarium type bug cages? Should we feed him insects?
I sure hope you can help, I don’t want to kill the little guy!
Signature:  Vera

Water Scorpion

Dear Vera,
Water Scorpions are such magnificent insects and they are local for you.  Though they are capable of flying quite well, they are much more comfortable in an aquatic environment.  A five gallon aquarium half full with some sticks would be perfect, but a smaller scale “aquarium” will do.  Just remember to keep a good lid, preferable with ventilation, on the top.  Any small aquatic creatures will satisfy your pets appetite, but we are not certain if non-aquatic insects dropped onto the surface will be eaten.

Letter 11 – Water Scorpion

Unknown creature who washed ashore…(I don’t think photo went through last time, sorry)
Location: Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, wet sand at southernmost end of Lake Michigan.
August 9, 2011 7:11 am
We were on the beach in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore when I noticed this bug(?) moving in the sand after a wave washed it onto the beach. Even though I’ve taken multiple wildlife courses in the Dunes and could identify every sand cherry and jack pine growing there, I’m at a loss with this little guy.
One thing that doesn’t come across well in the photo is that this creature seemed to have beady little eyestalks that moved independently. For that reason, I thought this was some sort of freshwater crustacean at first glance, but it doesn’t look too much like a shrimp either.
I’d love to learn about this little guy.
Signature: Kitsa

Water Scorpion

re: beach bug
Location: Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, wet sand at southernmost end of Lake Michigan.
August 9, 2011 7:22 am
After some more research (just had to get myself pointed in the right direction), I see that it’s a water scorpion. Glad I kept my distance, but what a neat bug 🙂
Signature: Kitsa

Dear Kitsa,
We are happy to see that it took you only 11 minutes to self identify your Water Scorpion and to write back letting us know.  While they are not dangerous, Water Scorpions are reported to have a painful bite.  They are True Bugs that have piercing mouthparts adapted to sucking fluids from their prey, mainly small aquatic creatures including insects, tadpoles and even small fish which they catch with their raptorial front legs while waiting camouflaged among vegetation.

Letter 12 – Water Scorpion

Subject: Mantis??
Location: Southern Manatee county Florida
August 29, 2013 2:27 pm
Found this on the hood of my car yesterday and can’t find any thing like it online. I was wondering if anyone could identify it. Looks to me like a Mantis of some kind but I can get no closer than that. It was upside down and having trouble righting itself so I let it grab my fingers to get up. I was on my way to get my daughter from school so I was in a hurry and did not have time to take any more pix. It was sunny out and had not rained in a few days, found at 3pm.
Signature: R. Marmaro

Water Scorpion
Water Scorpion

Hi R. Marmaro,
Your mistaking this Water Scorpion is perfectly understandable.  Though unrelated, both have raptorial front legs for capturing prey.  Handle this Water Scorpion with care.  The common name refers to the painful bite they can deliver if accidentally encountered or carelessly handled, though it does make an attractive Buggy Accessory.  Though they are aquatic predators, Water Scorpions are capable of flying from one pond to another, which is especially helpful if their home dries out.

Letter 13 – Water Scorpion

Subject: Water scorpion
Location: college station TX
June 5, 2015 9:05 am
This guy was found drifting in the pool I scooped him out and put him in some freshwater and was gonna release him the next day in a proper area rather than a salt water pool. He died the next day I keep it as a specimen. I plan on keeping a toe biter until it reaches full growth.
Signature: -Tay

Water Scorpion
Water Scorpion

Dear Tay,
Water Scorpions and their aquatic True Bug relatives the Toe-Biters, are amazing creatures.  As they are predators that will bite if carelessly handled, one should use caution.  We will be postdating your submission to go live to our site next week while we are out of the office.

Letter 14 – Water Scorpion

Subject: Please help identify
Location: Kingsland, Tx
March 17, 2016 8:13 pm
My daughter scooped this out of our pond thinking she was rescuing a walking stick. Her sister came to get me to see it saying it had red wings under the black back covers (her words). When I got there, I took this picture and told them it was not a walking stick and before I could take another look it flew away!
Signature: Luckyclucks

Water Scorpion
Water Scorpion

Dear Luckyclucks,
Though we are aware that the common name Toe-Biter can be applied to your submission, we prefer the common name Water Scorpion for this aquatic predator so as not to confuse it with the Giant Water Bug.  Either should be handled with caution as they are capable of biting and the bite is reported to be painful, but not dangerous.

Thank you! Good thing my girls are gentle with wildlife.  A good reminder to use caution with unknown wildlife.
We found a giant water bug carcass a couple of weeks ago and were so excited to have the specimen!
Love your site and refer to it often!

Letter 15 – Water Scorpion

Subject: Bug in pool
Location: Southern Ontario
July 11, 2016 6:49 am
Hello Bugman!
This bug was in our pool for over a day. My daughter caught it in a jar so we could look at it better, and get it out of our pool! It looks like it has a long skinny stinger at the back It’s summertime here. Thanks so much!
Signature: Gretchen

Water Scorpion
Water Scorpion

Dear Gretchen,
This is a Water Scorpion, an aquatic predator whose common name refers to the painful bite that might result if it is carelessly handled or accidentally encountered while swimming or wading.  Water Scorpions are capable of flying from one body of water to another.  What you have mistaken for a stinger is actually a breathing tube.  This description of a Water Scorpion comes from the Northern State University website:  “Water scorpions are not really scorpions, but insects with only 3 pairs of legs and 2 pairs of wings. Their name comes from their specialized grasping forelimbs, superficially similar to the anterior ‘pincers’ of scorpions, and an elongate caudal siphon or breathing tube, which conjures up the image of the scorpion’s long stinging tail. In both cases, these features are completely different from their scorpion counterparts. The forelegs of a true scorpion have a powerful pincer – similar to that of a crab or lobster – at the tip. The forelegs of the water scorpions are likewise adapted for grasping prey, but lack pincers; instead, they use a jack-knifing design with the outer segments folding into a groove to secure prey. The tail of a scorpion has 6 rounded segments with a terminal venomous spine, and can be folded forward over the animal’s back. The tail siphon of the water scorpions is actually two straight filaments pressed against one another; the siphon is not jointed, can pivot only at the base, and does not sting. It is used to obtain air from the water surface, much like a snorkel.”

Letter 16 – Water Scorpion

Subject: 4 legged aquatic “Walking Stick”bug?
Location: Concord, MA
August 21, 2016 7:29 pm
While kayaking along the Concord River (Concord, MA) on August 21, 2016 I encountered this 4 legged insect atop a clump of decaying, floating weeds. At first the thought of a “Walking Stick” came to mind. But upon closer examination noticed the 4 legs (4 legs?). It was also about 4 inches long (body). Definitely not a Walking Stick! So what is this bug? I apologize for the picture qualities as I was moving (wind/current) and trying to capture this insect with a telephoto lens in a macro attempt.
Signature: dpsrams

Water Scorpion
Water Scorpion

Dear dpsrams,
This unusual aquatic insect is a Water Scorpion in the genus
Ranatra.  Though only four of the legs are used for walking, the front pair of legs are raptorial, and they are used to capture and hold small aquatic creatures while the Water Scorpion sucks the life sustaining fluids from the body of the prey.  Water Scorpions are also capable of flying from pond to pond which comes in handy if conditions cause one pond to dry out.

Water Scorpion
Water Scorpion

Letter 17 – Water Scorpion

Subject: Mantid in pond water
Location: Jacksonville, Florida
August 1, 2017 10:09 am
Hello! All summer here in Jacksonville, FL, from May to August so far, I’ve been finding small (2-3″) black insects that look like skinny praying mantises in my green, algae-filled pond. There are no fish, just various kinds of water bugs and tadpoles.
I removed the first couple, thinking they had blown in with the wind, but I keep finding more, every few days. They seem quite at home underwater, swimming around, and if I or my dog’s nose get too close, they calmly dive and swim out of sight.
I’ve been quite baffled. I used to keep fat green praying mantises as pets in southern Georgia as a kid, and got used to finding their egg cases attached to sticks. I couldn’t fathom mantises breeding and/or living underwater…. or laying eggs in water, perhaps going through a nymph phase of some kind, then developing into what you see in the pictures.
Hope you can help me understand what I’ve got, and advise me on whether I should be removing them to the bushes on sight, or leaving them to their business!
Signature: John in NE Florida

Water Scorpion

Dear John,
Though it resembles a Mantid, this Water Scorpion is actually an unrelated True Bug.  Adult Water Scorpions have wings so they can fly from pond to pond.  Handle with caution.  Water Scorpions are reported to have a painful bite.


  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

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  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

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14 Comments. Leave new

  • ive been cleaning out my pond and have found some weird bugs i know one is a water scorpion and there are lots of toe biters i have one with eggs on its back but i have two im not sure what they are i can send pictures of them all so yo can add to your collection if you give me a email.
    and hopefully you can tell me what the two are that im not sure about.

  • Like the lady in Muswellbrook I found what I now know to be a water scorpion swimming in our pool, unlike the lady I scooped it out of the pool with my bare hand unawares that it could bite, it differed in that the nippers and legs were quite small and the body fatter and longer compared to the Muswellbrook specimen and about 10cm in length, I left it on the side of the pool and ran for a camera but unfortunately it had gone before I returned.
    M. Mansell South Coast Illawarra N.S.W.

    • Water Scorpions are able to fly, and once your individual found itself on dry land, it must have flown off to wetter surroundings.

  • The image of the UK water scorpion is on an email to you for your archives Mr Bugman , any other UK bug images from the book I can help you with I am happy to email them to you.

    • Thanks Michael,
      If the image you attached came from a book, we cannot post it because of copyright infringement. Thanks for your good intentions.

  • back in 1992 as I was pulling my net aboard the boat in shallow water there was some vegetation off the bottom like grass in the net, in the grass was something like a scorpion,big as the ones you see in movies, pincers and a tail split on the end with 2 stingers. any idea what it was, never saw anything like it before or after

  • Oh.So they only bite if carelessly

    • Well, there are other qualification. Water Scorpions bite their prey while feeding. Our point is that that do not routinely bite humans unless they are handled or accidentally encountered while swimming or wading.

  • Actually it’s a water scorpion not the toe biting insect! What do I do, I have it and a picture.

  • Are water scorpion dangerous and where do they nest? If we found one inside our house are there more?

  • William Aghapour
    September 8, 2023 6:29 pm

    Found this in my stepdaughter’s front hallway and both she and I are looking for a answer to what is this file:///var/mobile/Library/SMS/Attachments/12/02/FC8AA712-0602-44BF-A3E0-2239D1180A9D/IMG_8417.heic


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