Water striders (Family: Gerridae) in Mayberry Park. June 10, 2015. Photo: K. Fitzgerald.
In North America, there are 47 species of water striders. All have a few things in common: Their bodies are covered in water repellent hairs and scales, they live in aquatic habitats (ponds, rivers, streams, lakes, ditches and estuaries) and they move by “skating” across the water surface. When disturbed, they sometimes dive underwater.
Like all insects, water striders have three sets of legs. Unlike most insects, non-wettable hairs on the ends of water striders’ legs allow them to walk on top of the water surface without breaking the surface tension of the water. Their middle and hind sets of legs are longer, touch the water, and are used for movement. Their front set of legs are short, held up off the water surface, and are used to grasp prey. Water striders feed on other insects, including other water striders.
During winter, you might find water striders living on land: Adult water striders move ashore and hang out in protected areas close to the water’s edge.
Voshell, J.R. 2002. A Guide to Common Freshwater Invertebrates of North America. Blacksburg, VA: McDonald & Woodward Publishing Company.