water strider bug surface tension
A surprising variety of insects (including water striders, flies, and beetles), and some spiders, are able to “skate” across the surface of puddles, ponds, and even quiet pools in streams and rivers. How do they do it? Why do they do it? The answers lie in the anatomy of the insects and the unique properties of water itself.
Try this experiment at home (your budding entomologist will love it!) to see just how strong the surface tension of water can be: Fill a cup or glass to the brim with water, then slowly and gently slide or lower a paperclip onto the surface.
Their thin, widely spaced legs spread a water strider’s weight across a large area. This allows the water molecules underneath to still stick together while supporting the insect’s weight.
2. Cut several pieces 30 centimeters (roughly 1 foot) long.
“Every spring, Jim … thoroughly cleans and fills his plastic-lined pond with freshwater. Year after year, adult water striders arrive within a day or even minutes after the pond is filled. He has told me, with what I think is only a little exaggeration, that ‘the air must be crowded with cruising water striders looking for a pond.’”
For instance, if the strider is living in small wetland and temperatures are rising, the habitat is likely to disappear. Thus a mechanism is triggered so the next generation of water striders has wings, allowing them to fly away from their drying wetland. But if the wetland is lush, wet and expansive, the strider has young without wings – the wings take more energy to maintain, and there’s no benefit to having them if they aren’t needed.
Water striders can be seen on the surface of calm or slow-moving water throughout the continental U.S. They prefer ponds, vernal pools, and marshes.
Water striders are about a half-inch long with a thin body and three sets of legs. The water strider’s secret is its legs. The legs have tiny hairs that repel water and capture air. By repelling water, the tiny water striders stand on the water’s surface and the captured airs allows them to float and move easily.
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