Water Strider: All You Need to Know in a Nutshell

Water striders are fascinating creatures that have piqued the curiosity of many nature enthusiasts. These insects, which belong to the family Gerridae, possess unique characteristics allowing them to gracefully “walk on water.” As you delve deeper into the world of water striders, you’ll quickly discover why they are such extraordinary insects.

One of the most striking features of water striders is their ability to glide across the surface of water without sinking. This is made possible by their long legs and the surface tension of the water. In addition, their legs are lined with microscopic hydrofuge hairs that further enhance their buoyancy.

As you continue to explore the water strider’s habitat, behavior, and life cycle, you’ll gain a newfound appreciation for these intriguing insects. They not only serve as a remarkable example of adaptation but also provide valuable insights into the complex and dynamic world of aquatic ecosystems.

Meet the Water Strider

Friendly Insects Skating on Water

Water striders are fascinating little insects that you can often find skimming across the surface of ponds and streams. They belong to the family Gerridae and are a type of invertebrate known as “true bugs.” These agile creatures have a unique ability to walk on water, thanks to their water-repellant hairs on their hind and middle legs. It’s quite a sight to behold when you spot them in action.

Different Species of Water Striders

You might be surprised to learn that there are several species of water striders in North America. The most common and conspicuous one in many areas is the large water strider (Aquarius remigis) source. Each species has its distinctive traits, but they all share the ability to navigate effortlessly on the water’s surface.

Characteristics of Water Striders

These adaptable insects possess some fascinating features that set them apart from other bugs:

  • Velvety hairs on their bodies help them stay dry even when surrounded by water
  • Their legs seem to distribute their weight evenly, allowing them to float on the water’s surface
  • Water striders are natural predators of other small insects and aquatic life, playing an essential role in their ecosystem

Next time you’re near a pond or stream, take a moment to observe these extraordinary insects gracefully dancing across the water’s surface. The water strider is just one example of the amazing adaptability and diversity found within the natural world.

Unique Locomotion

Walking on Water

A water strider has an amazing ability to walk on water. How does it manage to do this? The secret lies in its long, water-repelling legs and the surface tension of water. By distributing its weight across a large surface area, it can take advantage of the high surface tension to prevent sinking. To illustrate, picture yourself trying to balance your weight on your tiptoes.

Understanding Surface Tension

Surface tension is a property of water caused by the attraction between water molecules. This attraction generates a thin, elastic “skin” on the water’s surface, which can support certain objects. Water striders take advantage of this by having legs that repel water and minimize their contact area with the water. This way, they don’t puncture the surface tension and remain afloat.

The movement of a water strider can be broken down into two key parts: pushing off with the middle legs and using their rear legs for steering. The front legs mainly act as sensors to detect any ripples or disturbances in the water.

To sum up, the water strider’s unique locomotion is made possible through:

  • Long, hydrophobic legs that repel water
  • Exploiting surface tension to stay afloat
  • Efficient movement using all three pairs of legs

By understanding these aspects, you can appreciate the remarkable adaptation skills of the water strider and its ability to master the art of walking on water.

Habitat and Species Diversity

Freshwater Habitats

Water striders thrive in various freshwater habitats such as ponds, lakes, and creeks. In these environments, you’ll find them gracefully gliding on the water surface, thanks to their water-repellant hairs on their legs. These specialized hairs allow them to stay dry and avoid sinking. Here are some features of freshwater habitats:

  • Ponds: Small, still bodies of water with abundant aquatic plants, offering the perfect environment for water striders.
  • Lakes: Larger bodies of water with various ecosystems for water striders to live, eat, and reproduce.
  • Creeks: Flowing bodies of water that provide a diverse range of conditions for water striders.

Sea Striders

While water striders are commonly associated with freshwater habitats, certain species, known as sea striders, can be found in ocean environments. However, they are not as widespread in these habitats since freshwater ecosystems better suit their needs.

Comparison between Freshwater and Sea Striders:

Habitat Freshwater Striders Sea Striders
Environment Ponds, lakes, and creeks Ocean
Adaptations Water-repellant hairs on legs Similar adaptations but less widespread
Species Multiple species, such as Aquarius remigis Specific to ocean habitats

In conclusion, understanding the habitat preferences and species diversity of water striders can help you appreciate these fascinating insects better. Whether they are in freshwater ponds or navigating the vast ocean, their unique adaptations and characteristics truly set them apart.

Anatomy and Adaptations

The water strider has a unique body structure that enables it to walk on water. One of the key features is its long and slender legs, which distribute its weight evenly over a large surface area.

Its front legs are shorter, helping it grasp prey and manipulate objects. The middle and hind legs act as oars, providing propulsion so it can glide across the water effortlessly. You’ll also notice hydrophobe hairs on their legs, which prevent them from getting wet and maintain their buoyancy.

Water strider’s skin is covered in microscopic wax-like structures that repel water and provide additional buoyancy. This helps them stay afloat even under challenging conditions.

Their wings are another remarkable adaptation. The water strider is capable of flying short distances, usually to escape danger or find new habitats. This skill, combined with their excellent agility on the water, makes them agile predators in their aquatic environments.

When it comes to surface area, water strider’s legs and body play a major role in maintaining balance on water. The long legs increase the surface area in contact with water, providing stability and ensuring that they don’t sink.

To sum it up, here’s an overview of key features of water strider anatomy:

  • Long, slender legs for weight distribution and movement on water
  • Shorter front legs for grasping prey and objects
  • Hydrophobe hairs for buoyancy and water repellency
  • Microscopic skin structures for added buoyancy
  • Wings for short-distance flight
  • Increased surface area for staying afloat

These remarkable adaptations make water striders masters of their environment, and enable them to thrive in a world that’s both fluid and challenging.

Feeding Habits

Water striders are fascinating insects capable of skating on the surface of the water. They rely on water-repellent hairs on their legs and bodies to remain dry while searching for food. Their diet mainly consists of small insects, but they are also known to consume mosquitoes and mosquito larvae. Let’s dive a little deeper into their feeding habits.

In order to capture their prey, water striders use their front legs as sensors. They detect vibrations on the water’s surface made by the struggling insects. Once they sense their prey, they quickly approach and grab it with their front legs. Their sharp, needle-like mouthparts are then used to pierce the insect and suck out its bodily fluids.

An important part of the water strider’s diet is mosquitoes. This makes them valuable allies in controlling mosquito populations near bodies of water. Additionally, because they consume mosquito larvae, they can further help reduce the number of mosquitoes in their environment.

Here are some key points about water striders’ feeding habits:

  • They mainly feed on small insects.
  • They also consume mosquitoes and mosquito larvae.
  • Their front legs act as sensors to detect vibrations made by struggling insects.
  • They use sharp mouthparts to pierce their prey and consume the fluids inside.

So next time you come across these incredible insects near a pond or a stream, remember that they are not only mesmerizing to watch, but also beneficial in controlling pesky mosquitoes around you.

Life Cycle and Reproduction

Water striders, fascinating insects that can walk on water, have an interesting life cycle and reproductive process. In this section, you’ll learn about the different stages in their life cycle, and how males and females contribute to the survival of their species.

Water striders develop through incomplete metamorphosis, which means they have three life stages: egg, nymph (or larva), and adult. When eggs hatch, the larvae emerge, resembling smaller versions of adult water striders. They shed their exoskeletons several times as they grow, eventually becoming fully developed adults.

Males and females play different roles during reproduction. Males actively pursue females, often engaging in aggressive behaviors to secure a mate. Some species display antagonistic coevolution, where males develop traits that provide a reproductive advantage while females develop counter traits in response.

For example:

  • Males might have specialized body structures for grasping females during mating.
  • Females could develop structures that make it difficult for males to latch on.

Water strider populations can exhibit polymorphism, with individuals displaying variations in size, color, and other physical traits. This diversity can be advantageous, as it offers a range of mating options and improves the chances of finding a compatible partner.

In summary:

  • Water striders have a life cycle with three stages: egg, larva, and adult.
  • Males and females can exhibit antagonistic coevolution to improve their reproductive success.
  • Polymorphism in water strider populations promotes genetic diversity and survival of the species.

As you learn about water striders, remember that their unique adaptations to living on the water’s surface showcase the amazing diversity of life on our planet.

Survival Tactics

Water striders are fascinating insects known for their ability to walk on water. They have developed unique survival tactics to help them thrive in their aquatic environments.

Escape from Predators

Water striders often face threats from various predators like fish and birds. When sensed, they quickly glide away at high speeds, relying on their long legs and agile movements. This skill helps them to evade predators and ensure their survival.


Another tactic water striders use is their natural camouflage. Their slim and sleek body structure allows them to blend with the water surface easily, making them less visible to lurking predators.

Social Interaction

Water striders are known to live in groups, which can provide added safety. By staying together, they can monitor their surroundings more effectively and collectively respond to potential threats.

Low Profile

When confronted with danger, water striders lower their body close to the water surface, reducing visibility to predators like birds and fish.

Here’s a quick comparison of their survival tactics:

Survival Tactic Benefits
Escape Quick movements evade predators
Camouflage Blend with water surface
Social Interaction Group behavior for improved safety
Low Profile Reduces visibility to predators

So, the next time you see a water strider gracefully gliding across the water surface, remember the impressive survival tactics they employ to thrive in their watery environment.

Observing Water Striders

For Students

When studying water striders, it’s helpful to have the right materials. For example, scientists suggest that you will need:

  • A container to collect water and water striders
  • A clear plastic container or a large-enough aquarium for observation
  • A magnifying glass
  • A waterproof notebook and pen for taking notes

To observe them more closely, gently collect a few water striders using a small net or cup and transfer them to a clear container filled with water. Be careful not to harm them! Use a magnifying glass to look closely at their specialized legs, which allow them to easily glide on water.

In the Wild

If you prefer to observe water striders in their natural habitat, you can find them in various outdoor environments like ponds, lakes, and slow-moving streams. Keep in mind that they are often found:

  • Near the water’s edge
  • Around aquatic vegetation
  • In sunny, calm areas

When observing water striders in the wild, it’s crucial to be respectful of their habitat and the surrounding environment. Familiarize yourself with any local regulations regarding wildlife observation, and avoid disturbing or harming any organisms.

Biologists often share their insights and observations on water striders through blogs or research articles. By reading these resources, you can deepen your understanding of these fascinating insects and their unique adaptations. So, whether you’re a student, a passionate naturalist, or simply curious, observing water striders is a great way to explore and appreciate the wonders of nature.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com 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 Wasp from Australia


Subject: Odd bug
Location: Ringwood East, Vic
January 16, 2015 2:34 am
Hello bugman,
I found this insect in my lawn after it was cut. We don’t know what it is! Do you?
We live in Ringwood East, Victoria.
Thank you for your help!
Signature: Oscar Edwards


Dear Oscar,
Do you have a pond or swimming pool in your yard or nearby?  This is an aquatic True Bug known as a Backswimmer in the family Notonectidae.  Though they are aquatic, adult Backswimmers can fly from one body of water to another.  They are predators that feed on other small water insects and invertebrates, even feeding on small fish and tadpoles.  LIke other True Bugs, they have mouths designed to pierce and suck, and they can deliver a painful bite, causing them to be called Water Wasps in North America.  See the Australian Museum for more information, including:  “Backswimmers get their name because they are great at backstroke. Using their legs they swim upside down at the surface of the water.”


Letter 2 – Waterscorpion


Strange household insect
I’ve been trying very hard to find a classification for it on google to no avail…the insect is very small, approximately 2 to 3 centimeters, and resembles a small version of the the toe-biter/giant water bug, except its body is almost completely flat. It has two large front legs that resemble pincers but are used for locomotion. It has a dull, dead-leaflike color and texture, and a very small, hairlike protrusion coming out the back. Any thoughts on what this might be? A few pictures are attached.
Rev. Alexander

Hi Reverand,
You have made us so very happy with your photo. This is a first for our site. This is a Waterscorpion, Nepa apiculata. There are two different genuses of Water Scorpions in North America, and we have received photos of the other, Ranatra, in the past. Waterscorpions are related to Giant Water Bugs known as Toe-Biters. Waterscorpions and Toe-Biters are both aquatic, but both also fly and are attracted to lights. The hairlike protrusion is a type of snorkle for breathing while submerged.


  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com 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.

  • 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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