An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide

Backswimmers

Backswimmers are aquatic insects that seek out prey as large as tadpoles and small fish. They row around ponds with their fringed hind legs and grasp prey with their front pair of legs. The piercing mouthparts that they use to kill their prey are also capable of giving humans who handle them carelessly a nasty bite (they are also known as “water wasps” for this reason).7-12-13  backswimmer 376 Because they spend most of their time on their back, their coloring is opposite that of most insects – backswimmers typically have a dark belly and a light-colored back, making them less conspicuous to predators (and prey) both above and beneath them. These tiny bugs can stay submerged for hours thanks to their ability to store air bubbles in two channels on their abdomen which are covered with inward-facing hairs. Backswimmers are often confused with Water Boatmen, which are not predaceous, do not bite, and swim “right side up.” Water Boatmen’s dark color and parallel lines on their backs help distinguish them from Backswimmers.

3 responses

  1. Laura

    Do you have a picture of the waterboatman to compare it to the backswimmer?

    July 12, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    • No, Laura, I don’t have a decent one — I should have waited to post this until I do have one!

      July 12, 2013 at 2:41 pm

  2. Kathie Fiveash

    I just went to google to look at images of both. It is still a bit confusing – I think I never have really distinguished the two before. It looks to me like the water boatman has a sort of cross on its back. And the upside-down swimming is the key to the backswimmer. Does that sound right?

    July 12, 2013 at 9:44 pm

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