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Cicadas True Bugs and Relatives: Hemiptera - Backswimmer (notonecta Sellata): Species Accounts

water accessed october near

Physical characteristics: The backswimmer's body is widest at the middle. The head is rounded, while the abdomen narrows at the tip. They measure 0.31 to 0.35 inches (8 to 9 millimeters) in length. Their bodies usually have dark blue and white markings, but some individuals are colorless. The mouthparts are short and cone-shaped. The front and middle legs are short. The hind legs are long, fringed with hairs, and are held away from the body and used like boat oars. The larvae closely resemble the adults but are smaller and lack wings.

Backswimmers slowly swim upside down near the water surface, searching for prey, but can move quickly when threatened. They seize prey and hold it with the front and middle legs. (Illustration by Emily Damstra. Reproduced by permission.)

Geographic range: They are found in the lowlands of southern South America from central Bolivia, Paraguay, and southern Brazil to northern Argentina, east of the Andes.


Habitat: This species prefers to live in cloudy water in shallow ponds and pools with few plants. It is often found in temporary rain pools.


Diet: They feed on all kinds of small insects and crustaceans living near the water surface.


Behavior and reproduction: Backswimmers slowly swim upside down near the water surface, searching for prey, but can move quickly when threatened. They seize prey and hold it with the front and middle legs. Winged adults escape drying ponds by flying away. They are often attracted to lights at night.

Mating takes place near the surface of the water. Eggs are glued individually to submerged twigs and algae. The larvae molt five times before reaching adulthood.


Backswimmers and people: Backswimmers may harm small fish, but they may also control mosquito larvae.


Conservation status: This species is not endangered or threatened. ∎

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Books:

McGavin, G. C. Bugs of the World. London: Blandford, 1999.

Schuh, R. T., and J. A. Slater. True Bugs of the World (Hemiptera: Heteroptera): Classification and Natural History. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1995.

Tavolacci, J., ed. Insects and Spiders of the World. Volume 2: Beetle-Carpet Beetle. Vol. 3: Carrion Beetle-Earwig. New York: Marshall Cavendish, 2003.

Periodicals:

Evans, A. V. "Dogdays Are Here Again." Fauna (July-August 2001): 58–66.

Web sites:

"Hemiptera. Bugs, Aphids, Cicadas." Ecowatch. http://www.ento.csiro.au/Ecowatch/Hemiptera/Hemiptera.htm (accessed on October 8, 2004).

Order: Homoptera. http://insectzoo.msstate.edu/Students/homoptera.html (accessed on October 8, 2004).

Periodical Cicada Page. http://insects.ummz.lsa.umich.edu/fauna/Michigan_Cicadas/Periodical/Index.html (accessed on October 8, 2004).

Scale Net. http://www.sel.barc.usda.gov/scalenet/scalenet.htm (accessed on October 8, 2004).

"True Bugs. Heteroptera." BioKids Critter Catalog. http://www.biokids.umich.edu/critters/information/Heteroptera.html (accessed on October 8, 2004).

Videos:

Bug City. Aquatic Insects. Wynnewood, PA: Schlessinger Media, 1998.

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