Common Pond Insects

Pond insects spend most of their lives in the water. They also breed in water, and many of their larvae wind up as food for fish. The next time you visit a pond, keep an eye out for some of these insects.

  • Mayflies only live one day as adults, in which they mate and die. Their nymphs, or immature form, can live for up to a year in ponds. Mayfly nymphs eat live and decaying plants and absorb oxygen directly from the water. Trout typically eat the nymphs.
  • Dragonflies and Damselflies at the nymph stage have gills and absorb oxygen from water as they propel through it. The nymphs feed on small fish, mollusks, worms, mosquitoes and small insects. The adults have thin, needle-like bodies and two pairs of layered wings. Damselflies are smaller than dragonflies, but otherwise they look very much alike. Adults in both species eat mosquitoes and mosquito larvae, making them very beneficial. These are some of the oldest insects on Earth; fossils of dragonflies from the Jurassic era have been found.
  • Water Striders have four long, thin, spindly legs that make them seem to glide along the surface of the water. In reality, their lightweight, perfectly balanced bodies allow them to move quickly across the water, relying on surface tension to keep them afloat. They absorb oxygen through the surface of their skin.
  • Giant Water Bugs look like beetles and breathe through a tube that works like a snorkel. They attack, kill and eat prey in the water up to 20 times larger than they are. They have a third pair of legs in the front, which are capable of catching and holding their prey.
  • Water Scorpions look like sticks in the water, with long thin legs. They have breathing tubes in their abdomen for obtaining oxygen. Like Giant Water Bugs, they also are predators of the pond.
  • Backswimmers look unique because they swim on their backs. Their legs have long hairs that help them swim. Their bodies are rounded, making them look like little boats gliding through the water.
  • Mosquitoes lay their eggs in water and bite animals and people, sucking blood for a food source. Their larvae take in oxygen from the air through tubes. Mosquitoes are prolific breeders, and their larvae are a favorite food of most pond insects and fish.
  • Predaceous Diving Beetles have six legs and a set of mandibles on their jaws. These beetles can store air underneath their wing covers and remain submerged for several minutes. If a tadpole, worm or small fish appears while they're submerged, the beetle grabs the prey in its mandibles, surfaces and starts to eat.
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