Water Boatman

Common Name - Water Boatman

Category - Insects

ScientificName - Family Corixidae

Kingdom - Animalia

Phylum - Arthropoda

Class - Insecta

Order - Hemiptera

Family - Corixidae




Description - Oval, elongate body; flat, dark-colored upper surface, sometimes with fine stripes; first and second pair of legs scooplike; third pair of legs long and fringed with fine hairs; piercing and sucking mouthparts; head broad and cone-shaped rather than sharp like a beak; eyes large and reddish in color when alive

Size - 0.25 – 0.5 in. (0.5 – 1.3 cm) long

Ecological Role - Nymph and adult water boatmen are common in ponds, puddles, and other stands of fresh water where they gather aquatic algae with their scoop-shaped legs. They are classified as collector-gatherers because they eat small organic particles that fall to the pond bottom and they spend much time swimming head down to find it. Adult water boatmen are excellent flyers and are able to colonize temporary water sources like birdbaths and troughs. Water boatmen are preyed upon by a variety of fish, frogs, and aquatic invertebrates, such as water scorpions. The eggs are food for fish and water birds.

Fun Facts - Some water boatmen species are able to produce a squeaking sound by rubbing the front legs against the head (stridulation). The sound is used to attract mates. They breathe oxygen from an air bubble held under the wings and must periodically break the water’s surface to renew the bubble. Water boatmen are sometimes used as pet food for fish, turtles, and birds. There are several species of water boatmen in Kentucky, but all are similar in appearance and behavior and can only be distinguished by experts.

Food - Algae; tiny aquatic organisms on the pond bottom, such as one-celled organisms, worms, and small insects, such as midges and mosquitoes





Habitat - Ponds and temporary stands of water

Kentucky Distribution - Statewide

Life Cycle

Three developmental stages: egg, nymph, adult (simple, or incomplete, metamorphosis); in spring and summer months, adult females place clusters of eggs on underwater rocks and other surface; eggs hatch in 1 – 2 weeks and the nymphs mature into winged adults after several weeks; adults are active in spring through summer

Life Span

Life Stage


Seasonal Changes - Adults may hibernate in mud on pond bottom during the winter; may remain active under the ice; may fly to larger lakes that do not freeze


Status - Abundant




What We Can Do - Like all aquatic insects, water boatmen depend on clean water to live. The disappearance of wetlands and the pollution of rivers and streams are a potential threat to these and all aquatic insects.


Diagnosis and Control

Interesting Facts

Contributed By

Website - http://www.members.shaw.ca/len92/water_boatman.htm