Commonly seen walking on the surface of the water of ponds, marshes, and pools near rivers, the water strider plays an important part of the freshwater ecosystem. The typical water strider habitat is any still watery area with an abundance of shade and other insects.
A water strider can be one of 500 different insect species in the family Gerridae. The smallest species of water strider is in the genus Rheumatobates and can be just 1.6 mm long at full size, while the largest can be as long as 36 mm. All water striders feed on other insects they find on the surface of the water and and eat both living and dead insects. Water striders have very good vision and can catch insects much larger than themselves very quickly. Certain species have fully functional wings as well.
Water striders feed with a part called a rostrum, which is used similarly to a mosquito's probiscus, which is inserted into prey to sucks out the juices inside.
It can be very difficult to identify various species of water strider as they all tend to be black or brown and share the same body composition.
A water strider has the ability to stand and walk across the surface of the water. This has garnered them such names as a water skipper, pond skater and Jesus bug. The legs of a water strider are very light and covered in very small water-resistant hairs. These hairs trap tiny air bubbles, and these air bubbles along with surface tension of the water keep water striders afloat. The hind legs of a water strider steer, the middle legs move them and the front legs grab and hold other insects.
The habitat of the water strider varies depending on the particular species, but water is one key element they need to survive. Without water, a water strider can only move about 25 yards across land to find another water-filled area. They are very vulnerable on land and become easy prey to larger insects and birds.
A typical water strider habitat is a pond, marsh or very still area of a river's edge. Water striders feed on the larvae of mosquito's and share the same still water areas. Water striders are often seen in small groups.
There are 5 species of water strider in the Halobates genus that actually live in parts of the ocean.
Relationship With Fish
Areas of rivers and lakes with a large water strider population tend to be populated with fish as well. Many types of small and medium sized fish feed on water striders as well as the insects water striders eat. Water striders tend to be found right next to shore, while the fish that feed on them tend to be found 15 to 20 feet out.
Impact on Ecosystem
Water striders are a very important part of the river and pond food chain. Small fish and larger insects eat them and they eat smaller insects or those unfortunate enough to get stuck on the surface of the water. Water striders are an important food source for fish, insects, and small birds that share the same habitat.
- Photo Credit pond image by Tomasz Kubis from Fotolia.com
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