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Water Strider

Water Striders are insects that are easily identified by their ability to walk on water. They have long, thin bodies of 1 to 2 centimeters in length and six legs (like all insects) which form six characteristic dimples in the water over which they are traveling.

Natural History

The water strider lives on ponds and small streams, and can walk across the surface of the water. Like all insects, it has a three-part body (head, thorax and abdomen), six legs, and two antennae. The water strider's long middle legs move it across the surface of the water like paddles. The hind legs are used to steer, and also act as brakes. The short front legs are used to catch prey.

Water striders eat small insects that fall on the water's surface, or larvae that live just below the surface. Water striders are very sensitive to motion and vibrations, and use these to find prey. Water striders do not bite people, and because they cannot detect motion above or below the water's surface, are easy prey themselves for frogs, fish, and birds.

The Water Strider propels itself by pushing backward against the small dimples in the water created by its legs.

How is it that water striders can walk on water without ever falling in or getting wet? The answer has to do with surface tension. This force between the molecules of the surface acts like a 'skin', and tends to repel solids. Very light objects are supported by this force, and the water strider has a very small mass. The water strider also has feet coated with a surface that repels water, much like waxed paper. The result is that the tiny insect barely makes contact with the surface of the water with the tips of its feet, and where it does make contact, it doesn't break through the surface.

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