File: <gerridae.htm>                                               [For educational purposes only]        Glossary            <Principal Natural Enemy Groups >             <Citations>             <Home>


HEMIPTERA, Gerridae --  <Images> & <Juveniles>


Please refer also to the following links for details on this group:


Gerridae = Link 1


          Gerridae are aquatic insects that occur worldwide.  The order includes water striders, water bugs, magic bugs, pond skaters, skaters, skimmers, water scooters, water skaters, water skeeters, water skimmers, water skippers or Jesus bugs. There are around 510 known species,


Diagnostic characters of these "water striders" include a long antennae, not concealed; fore legs noticeably shorter than other legs; hind femora extending beyond apex of abdomen; tarsal claws preapical; single scent gland opening in the middle of the metasternum.


All Gerridae are predators on a wide variety of hosts.  They feed not only on aquatic prey, but also attack many insects or other small animal, which alight on or fall into their surroundings.  The family has been considered important as the natural control of mosquitoes.


         The size can vary in length from 1.5 to 38 mm. The body shape ranges from thin and elongated to almost round.  A common feature is their long legs, with the first pair being short and stubby.  These are uses for "walking" on the water surface. The bodies and legs are covered with many hairs. The head is frequently elongated in front of the eyes to form a rostrum.  The development of wings varies within the same population. Most are with undeveloped or poorly developed wings. But, a small number have fully developed wings that are used for colonizing new habitats and forming new populations.


          All species are predatory and use surface tension to walk on the water. They live on the surface of ponds, and other quite waters.  They seek out their prey on the surface using strong forelegs that end in claws. They can move very quickly, and they paddle forward with the middle pair of their legs, using fore- and hind legs as rudders.


          Five species of Halobates or "sea skaters" range on the open ocean.


          The water resistance legs may be due to specializations, which include large numbers of tiny hairs (microsetae) with fine grooves. Water resistance thought to be due more to this physical structure than the chemical properties of coatings on the legs (Gao 2004).


References:   Please refer to  <biology.ref.htm>, [Additional references may be found at:  MELVYL Library]


Drake, C. J. & H. M. Harris.  1934. Ann. Carnegie Mus. 23:  179-240.


Gao X, Jiang L. 2004. "Biophysics: water-repellent legs of water striders". Nature 432 (7013): 36.


Schuh R.T., Slater J.A. 1995. True Bugs of the World (Hemiptera: Heteroptera). Classification and Natural History. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York, USA. 336 pp.


Sperling F. et al. 2001. Molecular genetics and distribution of the ocean-skater Halobates (Heteroptera: Gerridae). The ESA 2001 Annual Meeting - 2001: An Entomological Odyssey of ESA.