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Water Boatmen:Basic & Fun Facts and Prevention

June 8, 2017
Doodle character for water boatman illustration

The water boatman, a common water bug, is a member of the ‘Corixidae’ family. The ‘Hemiptera’ order is classified into more than 300 species of the water boatman. They are found in quite a large number all around the globe and are commonly seen in still or running water such as ponds, lakes, rivers, etc. They are supposed to keep their air bubbles filled so that can breathe underwater as they lack gills like other aquatic animals. They are fond of flying in the artificial lights lit up at night near their residence. Their eating habits, sometimes, prove to be helpful as they feed on mosquitoes and other dangerous small insects.

Basic Facts about Water Boatmen

1. AppearanceThe water boatman captured under water

The body color of almost a half inch long water boatman is dark brown or black but can be light brown with dark spots, depending on the kind. They make the jerking movements during swimming with their long, hairy and oar-like hind legs. Then they have slender middle legs and short front legs that are strong enough to capture the prey. Having the triangular mouthparts, their flattened body is elongated and oval shaped. The air bubbles are hidden under their wings, used for the survival under the surface of the water.

2. Habitat

Slow moving streams, lakes, rivers, ponds and the watery places where abundant of aquatic vegetation can be found, are the places where they like to live. Their home is on the muddy surfaces deep down in the water near the aquatic plants. These locations can be anywhere in the world regardless the water being fresh or salty.

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3. Diet

Most of the water boatmen are non-predatory and are herbivores, but those are also found that hunt mosquito larvae and other aquatic insects. Non-predatory water boatmen satisfy their hunger with algae and the plant that are grown underwater. Their saliva helps them to extract the juices from the plants by dissolving them which they suck with their sharp mouthparts. They only can take the juices from the plants as they are unable to bite.

4. Reproduction

Reproduction experiences the three stages of development. Males attract the female by making sounds to mate. They lay eggs after mating that remain attached to the plants or water rocks before they hatch into the nymph. The nymph comes to the surface to fill the air bags. Then they undergo gradual molting to become an adult. The process lasts for six weeks. They get their wings in the final stage when they become adults.

5. Classification

Insects are classified in the orders, suborders, infra-orders and then families. An order of insects can have a large number of species. Water boatman is classified in the order ‘Hemiptera’ and the suborder ‘hetropetra.’ They have further grouped in the infra-order ‘Nepomarpha, ’ and their family name is ‘Corixidae.’ The family includes too many lookalike species like backswimmers and lesser water boatmen.

6. Water Boatman Sound

Water boatman can be named as the bug with a singing penis because they sing loud by rubbing their penis on their stomach for the purpose of inviting the females for mating. Moreover, the term used for it is stridulating. The sound they make is so loud that it is easily audible to the person standing nearby. The frequency of their sound can reach up to 90 decibels. The singing sound is clearly audible out of the water even after losing most of the sound while crossing from water to air. This is surprising that the sound with such high frequency is created by an insect hardly a half inch long.

7. Water Boatman Bite

If we specifically talk about the Corixidae species, they do not bite. However, there are some lookalike species from a different family that shares basic features with water boatmen and often called with the same name. So, in that case, we can say that they bite. You may encounter them while cleaning up your pool. Their bite can be hurting as they release a poisonous substance through the mouth to hunt the prey. So be careful while cleaning the pool from inside.

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【Read more about Bite】

  • Symptom

You get a burning feeling when water boatmen bite. The pinching feel can lead to the swelling of the affected area. These insects are not that harmful those with sensitive skin can get it in severe form.

  • Treatment

The bite can be treated with painkillers and antihistamine. If your skin is sensitive or allergic and gets the severe reaction, consult a physician instantly.

8. Water Boatmen Confused with Backswimmer

Both the species may look the same, but they have got distinctive characteristic. They both are aquatic and can be living at the same place; this is the reason people find it difficult to differentiate and call all of them water boatmen. They are different in so many ways such as:

  • Water boatmen cannot swim on their back, they use their long rare legs and can only swim On the other hand, backswimmer is named after their ability to swim upside down.
  • Backswimmers are quite bigger in size.
  • Water boatmen are deprived of the ability to Thus they are non-predator while backswimmers love to feed on aquatic insects.
  • Water boatmen love to fly in the night lights, but these lights do not attract backswimmer. They can also fly but the insects you see near the lights art night are water boatmen.
  • If you get pinched in your swimming pool, don’t blame water boatmen for that. They are surely backswimmers.

【Read more about Water Bug】

9. Lesser Water Boatmen

This is another type of water boatmen that is lesser water boatmen. These species are mostly seen in the United Kingdom. There are yellow lines all over their dark and boat-shaped body. Their long thin legs help them to swim, not on their back, on their bellies. Unlike the greater water boatmen (backswimmers), they choose to eat plants. Besides being under the water surface, they show up at night; artificial lights seem to fascinate them. They can be seen flying near these places. They need to be on the surface very often to meet their need of air supply underwater. They collect the air in their specific body parts to utilize under the water surface. The term ‘lesser water boatmen’ is commonly used in the UK for usual water boatmen.

Water Boatmen Prevention

Household swimming pools can contain abundant of water boatmen. Now the question is that what they find so appealing in the swimming pools except water? And the answer is that algae, grown on the walls of swimming pools. Not all the insects you find in the pool are water boatmen; some are backswimmers that may take water boatmen as their food. You can get interrupted by them while enjoying in the pool because of their biting habit, to be saved from them, you need to remove both the species. Use the following tricks to get them disappeared from the pool:

  1. Clean up the walls regularly to stop the growth of algae.
  2. Give the pool shock treatments after chlorination to kill these bugs.
  3. Use the algaecides, bleach or hydrogen peroxide to remove the food sources of the bugs.
  4. Pour a small amount of liquid dish soap close to the particular light source near the pool and turn all the other outdoor lights off. This method will make difficult for them to stay on the water surface to collect the air to breathe and they will die.
  5. Cooking oil can also be used to make the water surface difficult to stay.
  6. Regularly remove the dead insects because they can invite the bugs that can eat on them.
  7. More lights near the pool mean more water boatmen. Avoid the type of lights that attract the insects more.

12 Fun Facts about Water Boatmen

  1. More than 500 species of water boatman exist in the world, and they major portion belongs to North America.
  2. Their duration of their life is one.
  3. They can have one or two generations per year.
  4. The have to keep themselves clung to the plants under the water surface to avoid floating.
  5. Silver turned bug means having enough of a number of air bubbles.
  6. These species are known for their loud sounds and also considered as the loudest.
  7. In Mexico, people collect the water boatmen eggs to make flour out of it and use as a food item.
  8. They remain active throughout the year, even in the winter season.
  9. They are one of the most boisterous bugs. They use their ability to sing in a loud voice to invite the females for mating.
  10. Water boatmen are the large portion of trout’s diet.
  11. They are not much bothered about the water quality they live in.
  12. They don’t have to sneak out of the water to fly; they can take a flight directly from the water surface.
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