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Top 9 Common Aquatic Insects (Facts & Pictures)

Common aquatic insects include caddisflies, whirligig beetles, dragonflies, mayfly larvae, stoneflies, water boatmen, backswimmers, and more.

Insects are the most abundant animals on earth. But most of them live on land. So what insects live in water? 

There are actually countless types of aquatic insects, each with unique characteristics and habits.

In this post, we will explore the most common aquatic insects.

List of Aquatic Insects

Aquatic insects are a group of organisms that spend the majority of their life in water. 

There are many different types of aquatic insects, each with its fascinating adaptations for living in an aquatic environment:

  • Caddisfly
  • Whirligig Beetle
  • Dragonfly
  • Mayfly Larvae
  • Stonefly
  • Water Boatmen
  • Backswimmer
  • Water Strider
  • Water Bug

1. Caddisfly

Scientific NameTrichoptera
Common NameCaddisfly
Animal OrderTrichoptera
DietLeaves, algae, other organic matter

The caddisfly is the common name for an order of insects that contains some 12,000 species. They live in every continent except Antarctica, and their larvae are often used as bioindicators to monitor water quality.

The larvae of many caddisfly species are aquatic, living in both still and running water.[1]

Caddisfly larvae build shelters using materials they find in their aquatic environment, and the type of material they use can give clues about the water’s chemical composition. 

Adult caddisflies are often mistaken for moths, and they can be found near water or flying over it.

2. Whirligig Beetle

Whirligig Beetle
Image Source
Scientific NameGyrinidae
Common NameWhirligig Beetle
Animal OrderColeoptera
DietOther aquatic insects and invertebrates

The whirligig beetle is one of the most common aquatic insects found in ponds and lakes. They get their name from their ability to swim rapidly in circles. 

Whirligig Beetles are predators and eat other small aquatic insects, larvae, and fish eggs. If you see a group of them swimming around in a circle, they are probably chasing and eating prey. 

These beetles can fly, but they are not good at it and often crash into things. When they are not in the water, they can be found on the banks or floating on the surface of the water.

3. Dragonfly

Scientific NameAnisoptera
Common NameDragonfly
Animal OrderOdonata
DietInsects, minnows, tadpoles

The dragonfly is an easily recognizable aquatic insect. They are found in nearly every body of fresh water on Earth, from small ponds to large lakes. 

As predators, they feed on other insects, small fish, and even tadpoles[2]. Adults typically live for a few weeks, but they are an important part of the food web in their aquatic ecosystem.

Dragonflies are characterized by their long, slender bodies and large, membranous wings. They have two pairs of wings, which are attached at the base of the body. 

They fly quickly and maneuver gracefully in the air, making them difficult prey for other predators.

4. Mayfly Larvae

Mayfly Larvae
Image Source
Scientific NameEphemeroptera
Common NameMayfly
Animal OrderEphemeroptera
DietDetritus and other plant materials

Mayfly larvae are often called “water fleas” or “daphnia” and are a major food source for fish. They are small, ranging in size from 1/8 to 1/4 inch long with a hard exoskeleton. They are clear or pale in color.

These larvae are found in freshwater streams and lakes where they feed on algae and other small organisms. When they mature, mayflies emerge from the water and fly away to mate. 

The adult mayflies only live for a few days before dying. The mayfly life cycle is completed when the female lays her eggs in the water and the larvae hatch. 

Mayfly larvae are an important part of the aquatic food chain and play a role in the ecology of freshwater ecosystems.

5. Stonefly

Image Source
Scientific NamePlecoptera
Common NameStonefly
Animal OrderPlecoptera
DietPieces of dead vegetation and macroinvertebrates

Stonefly larvae are one of the most common types of insects found in freshwater habitats[3]. They are recognized by their long, segmented bodies and large, compound eyes. Stoneflies are a source of food for fish, amphibians, and other predators.

The larvae are often found clinging to rocks or other substrates in fast-moving streams. They are proficient swimmers and use their large tails to propel themselves through the water. 

Stoneflies breathe through a pair of gills located on the sides of their bodies.

6. Water Boatmen

Water Boatmen
Image Source
Scientific NameCorixidae
Common NameWater Boatmen
Animal OrderHemiptera
DietAlgae, plants, detritus

Water Boatmen are found in ponds, lakes, and streams all over the world. Water Boatmen are small, oval-shaped insects with two pairs of wings. 

The front pair of wings are larger than the back pair and is used for flying. The back pair of wings are smaller and used for steering. 

Water Boatmen have long, thin legs that they use to row themselves through the water. They are excellent swimmers and can even swim upside down.

As herbivorous insects, their diet consists mostly of algae and aquatic plants. They use their long, sharp mouthparts to pierce plant tissue and suck out the juices. 

7. Backswimmer

Scientific NameNotonectidae
Common NameBackswimmer
Animal OrderHemiptera
DietOther aquatic insects, tadpoles, small fishes

Backswimmers are a type of aquatic insect that is named for their swimming style. They swim upside down, using their legs to paddle and their backs to push off of the surface of the water. 

Backswimmers are predators and will eat other insects, small crustaceans, and even fish. They are considered to be a pest by many fishermen, as they will often bite humans when they are swimming. 

They can also inflict a painful sting. 

Backswimmers are found in ponds, lakes, and streams all over the world. They are most active at night, but can also be seen swimming during the day.

8. Water Strider

Water Strider
Image Source
Scientific NameGerridae
Common NameWater Strider
Animal OrderHemiptera
DietInsects and larvae

The water strider, or pond skater, is a common aquatic insect. They are members of the family Gerridae, which contains over 1,000 species of insects in the order Hemiptera. Water striders can be found on every continent except Antarctica.

Water striders are predators and hunt other small insects that fall into the water. They use their long legs to walk on the surface of the water and their sharp beak to pierce their prey. 

They are not harmful to humans but can bite if handled roughly. If you find one in your swimming pool or pond, you can safely remove it with a net.

9. Water Bug

Water Bug
Image Source
Scientific NameBelostomatidae
Common NameWater Bug
Animal OrderHemiptera
DietVarious aquatic life such as tadpoles and other arthropods

Water bugs are insects that live in or near water. They can be found in ponds, lakes, and streams. Some species of water bugs can also be found in damp soil or wet leaves. Water bugs are often mistaken for cockroaches.

Water bugs are good swimmers and many species can fly. Most water bugs are predators and will eat other insects, small fish, and tadpoles. Some species of water bugs can bite humans and their bites can be painful.

Common Salt Water Insects

Bristle Sea Worms

Bristle Sea Worms
Image Source

Bristle sea worms are segmented creatures that can be found in both salt and freshwater. They are often used as bait by fishermen.

Acropora Coral- Eating Flat Worms

Acropora coral-eating flatworms are small, flattened worms that have a voracious appetite for corals. These worms can quickly devastate a coral reef if left unchecked.

Sea-skater Halobates

Sea-skaters are small, air-breathing insects that live on the surface of the ocean. They are excellent swimmers and often prey on other insects that fall into the water.


What Do Aquatic Insects Eat?

Aquatic insects are small creatures that live in water. They can be found in ponds, lakes, and streams. Most of them are herbivores and eat algae or detritus. Some of them are predators and eat other aquatic insects.

What Are Water Arthropods?

Water arthropods are a type of aquatic insect. They have exoskeletons, which means their bodies are covered in hard shells. They also have jointed legs, so they can move around easily. Most water arthropods are very small, but some of them can grow to be quite large.

What Insects Have Gills?

Many aquatic insects have gills, which help them breathe underwater. Mayflies, stoneflies, dragonflies, and damselflies are just a few of the insects that have gills. Gills are thin, feathery structures that are covered in blood vessels. The blood vessels absorb oxygen from the water and transport it to the insect’s body.

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