As one of my favourite quotes of all time, “everything in this world has a purpose; you just need to find it.” While researching and studying Pond Bugs and Insects to write an article on them, this quote kept coming to my mind.
A common scenario for a pond owner to become tensed or wonder about the bugs in a pond. What is this bug? Are these bugs good or bad for your pond? Whether you should clean your pond or not? And many others.
You don’t need to worry if you saw some aquatic insects in your pond. They’re an essential part of a water ecosystem.
Pond bugs can give you lots of information about your pond’s current condition. You can identify if your pond is in a healthy or unhealthy condition. Such as-
If your pond has dragonflies, it indicates your pond water quality is good, as they are sensitive water pollution; on the other hand, if your pond has mosquitoes and leeches, indicating the possible water pollution, and your pond’s water may need some checkups.
With that being said, pond insects also play other roles as well; they eat other insects, parasites, and algae in your pond, which helps you to keep your pond clean. Furthermore, bugs in your pond are among the greatest food sources for your turtles, fish, frogs, and other pond habitats.
So, don’t think bugs or insects in your pond are not only gross, frightening, and undesirable species but are an important part of the natural ecosystem.
Today we’ll cover the freshwater insects you see in a pond or lake and other common insects or bugs found near the water (Which not necessarily pond bugs), how they look like, what they eat, where they live, and whether they are good or bad for your pond, etc.
1. Water Strider
Water striders also go by names pond skaters, water bugs, water skimmers, and many other names. They have an unusual ability to walk on water. They’re one of the very common aquatic insects found on the water in any part of the world.
There are more than 10 species of water striders have been identified. Most of them are freshwater inhabitant insects.
Body Description/ How water strider looks like:
Most of the water strider’s species are (About a half-inch long) between 2-12mm (0.08-0.47 inch) in body length. But some could get around one inch (0.47-0.98 inch) long. Female water striders typically get larger than males.
Pond skaters have four long skating legs and two short legs at the front, and a pair of antennas. The fort legs are the shortest and have claws to capture prey. The middle pair of legs are shorter than the last pairs and longer than the front pairs.
Their thorax is around 1.6-3.6 mm long; some species are rounder than others.
Some water striders have wings around the backside of the thorax, and others don’t.
The most interesting thing about pond skaters is their whole body is full of small hair piles with thousands of micro-hairs (spiracles), which help them repel the water and keep them afloat. They also do look like a bit of mosquito.
Habitat and Diet:
Water Striders are mainly fresh and calm water inhabitants, but some species live in marine areas. They prefer water temperature around 25 °C (77 °F), and below 22 °C (72 °F) isn’t their territory.
If the salt concentration increases in your pond, they will move to the lower salt area.
They are predatory aquatic water bugs; water striders prefer the area with abundant insects and zooplankton. Also, an area with plenty of rocks and plants is preferred for laying eggs. The female lays eggs above the waterline in mud, decomposing vegetation, the stems of plants, or rotting wood.
Striders mainly feed on insects, spiders, and other invertebrates. Their legs are very sensitive; they receive the vibration from the smallest ripple in the water, which helps them catch their prey and escape from their predators.
Are Water Striders Harmful to your pond?
No, they aren’t. Instead, striders are a fine food source for your pond fish, turtles, or frogs.
Do they bite humans?
No, they don’t. So, you don’t have to worry about having them in your pond.
2. Mayfly Larvae/ Mayfly nymph
Mayflies spend most of their life in water; they’re known as Mayfly nymph or larvae during that time. Shadflies and Fishflies are another two common names for them. There are around 3000 species, grouped into 400 genus in 42 families.
Their immature stage passes in freshwater and is called “nymph” or “naiads.” The name Mayfly comes from a Greek word “living a Day” as the adult Mayflies live about 1-4 days only.
Body Description/ How They Look Like:
Mayflies tend to be brown, grey, or yellow and have a slender, round or flattened, and soft body. They pass through several stages during their nymphing period; the size increases each time.
Depending on their species, Mayfly nymphs vary in length around 3-30 mm (0.12-1.18 inch). Their head has a tough outer cover. Mayflies can move their head forward or downward with a mouth at the front and two large compound eyes.
Mayfly nymph has 6 legs with one or no claws on them, possesses 3 or 2 antenna-like things, extending from the abdomen tip; there also has hairy looing gills, help them breathe under the water. However, those are no antenna for sure (lol). Also, most of the Mayfly nymphs have three long tails at the end of their body.
Diet & Habitat:
Don’t get confused with the name Mayfly; they’re also very active during the warmer months as well. You can find Mayfly nymphs in ponds, lakes, rivers, and streams, all that is relatively fresh and clean.
You can find them under rocks in a stream, sediment, decaying vegetables, or sometimes in your pond area’s mud.
The nymphs are herbivores or detritivores feed on detritus, diatoms, algae, and some species eat other small insects and larvae.
Mayfly nymphs play a vital role in the natural ecosystem. They do the burrowing at the bottom of lakes and redistribute the nutrients and their other activities (lots of complicated things, you don’t have to know all of those) help the water ecosystem revives from being dead.
Here’s an article on how they help to improve the water ecosystem- Swarms of Dying Mayflies Bring Good News.
So, are they good for your pond?
Yes, they’re, even if you can’t notice any positive impact from them. However, if they aren’t doing any good, but they are an excellent feast for your pond’s inhabitants.
Do Mayflies bite humans?
No, they don’t. So, you don’t have worry to be around them
3. Giant Water Bug (Belostomatidae)
Belostomatidae is a freshwater hemipteran (true bugs) insect. They also go by the names giant water bug, toe-biters, electric-light bugs, and many more. Giant water bugs are one of the largest insects among the true bugs. There are around 170 species found around the world.
Giant water bugs are predatory insects and not considered as pests. They are very fast in the water and stay away from humans. Sometimes people mistake them for beetles or cockroaches.
Body Descriptions/ How They Look Like:
Giant water bugs are at least about 2 cm (0.8 inches) long; though, there is 0.9 cm (0.35 inch) long smaller species have been found too. However, the largest species of giant water bugs can reach around 12 cm (4.5 inches) at length.
Yes, that’s right!! They can get that big, nearly at the largest beetles in the world.
Belostomatidae has an egg-shaped flattened body and legs. The frontal legs are modified raptorial, which helps them to grasp the prey. The back pairs are flatter and more oarlike. They have a short breathing tube retracted into their abdomen. Adult giant water bugs need that tube to breathe while under the water.
They have a sharp beak which can easily pierce through fish and other insect’s body.
Diet & Habitat:
You can find the giant water bugs in freshwater ponds, swamp, slow-flowing streams, and lakes. And, not very common in rivers. They also hang out on the edge of wetlands and lakes or vegetation, waiting for their prey to show up.
Belostomatidae are hardy and can easily survive different weather conditions. They are also pollution tolerant, but that doesn’t indicate your water quality has degraded; though, a quick water test could be a good option.
Giant water bugs often attached to various objects or at the bottom of body water wait for their prey to come near them. After that, they strike and inject a venomous fluid into the prey’s body and suck out the body juice from it. When they feel disturbed, water bugs release odorous fluid from their anus or play dead.
They often leave the water and fly around. Giant water bugs are attracted to the lights; that’s why their name electric-light bugs.
Giant bugs are aggressive predatory insects, feed on small fish, snails, insects, tadpoles, amphibians, crustaceans, and other invertebrates (especially those with no backbones).
The largest species have been found to feed on water snakes and baby turtles.
Are They Bad for Your Pond?
Not necessarily; giant water bugs can help you to control the outbreak of any particular insects or bugs in your pond. However, if their number is increasing, you need to remove them from your pond. Although your pond fish can eat some smaller water bugs, they can become a problem for your pond inhabitants with a large number.
And, among all the pond bugs, giant water should be your least preference.
Do Giant Water Bugs Bite Humans?
Yes, they do; though the water bugs avoid human confrontation, if you accidentally step on them, they may bite your toe; that’s where the name “toe-biters” comes into play. Their bite is excruciating but doesn’t need any medical treatment.
As I told you before, they don’t like to confront humans; so, they won’t bother you during swimming.
Difference Between Giant Water Bugs and Cockroaches:
People often mistake giant water bugs for cockroaches. So, here’s some ways to differentiate them-
Size– Giant water bugs are way larger than cockroaches.
Eating Habits– Cockroaches are somehow scavenger, while the water bugs feast on other insects and small fish.
Habitat– Cockroaches prefer dry land, while Belostomatidaes prefer water.
Temperament- Cockroaches don’t like light and will fly away from it, while giant water bugs have a nickname “electric-light bugs.”
4. Dragonfly nymph/ Dragonfly Larvae
Dragonfly is like Mayfly; they start their life in water until the adult stage. They are voracious predatory insects belong to the order Odonata, which also includes damselflies. Sometimes you will get confused between Dragonflies and Damselflies.
Adult dragonflies are large, with two pairs of strong transparent wings, compound eyes with an elegant body, and colored patches.
However, the Dragonfly nymphs (also known as “naiads”) are aquatic and are ferocious underwater predators. They spend several years as a nymph under the water before turning into an adult. There are around more than 30 species have been identified so far.
Dragonfly nymph Body Description/ How They Look Like:
Adult Dragonflies are about 2-8 cm (0.8-3.2 inches) long; and the nymphs are around 1.5-3 cm (0.6-1.2 inches) long.
Yeah, that’s right; nymphs are bigger than the matured ones.
Dragonfly larvae (nymphs) are usually dull looking, has 6 legs with 2 claws on each, large eyes, the abdomen often oval or round shaped, small wing buds on the back of the thorax, angular head with an extendable jaw which helps them to catch their prey.
They breathe through gills located inside the rectum, and by propelling the water through them, they can gain speed, which looks like they are shooting water from their backside.
Diet & Habitat:
As we told you before, Dragonflies are a fierce predatory insect. They will kill and eat any animals they can catch. From the water insects like mosquitoes larvae and water beetles to tadpoles, worms, small fishes, and shrimps, they eat all. They can shoot their jaw to catch their prey.
Dragonfly nymphs are freshwater inhabitants; they live in very clean water, as you won’t find them in polluted water. However, they can live in high salinity water.
Are They Good or Bad for Your Pond:
They are obviously a good indicator for your pond; if they are in it, that means your pond’s water isn’t polluted. And they help your pond by a feast on mosquito larvae and other small insects. Though they may eat some small fish fry, that shouldn’t be a notable problem for your pond.
But, for your aquarium, it could become a problem and may require to restart your aquarium.
Are Dragonfly nymphs Harmful to Human:
No, they aren’t. But they could bite you, which most of the time won’t be able to break your skin. So, you don’t need to worry about that.
More to Come……