Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Water Striders In Our Pond

by Donna L. Watkins
Water Striders In Our Pond

When we decided to put in a small pond for frogs in 1994 we never knew how entertaining the water feature would be. We've seen fish ponds with filters to make clear flowing water so you can watch the fish, but we wanted a natural woodland pond that we didn't need to fuss over and definitely didn't want fish to worry about being eaten by the raccoons and raptors.

What a delight it has been. Besides getting to see all kinds of frogs mating and growing from egg to frog, we've seen a host of other little critters that inhabit woodland ponds. I never realized that ponds had bugs that lived in them, but we have discovered a variety of bugs in our pond and one of those is the Water Strider.

The Water Strider has many names, such as Pond Skater, Water Scooter, Water Skater, Skimmer, and Jesus Bug, due to its ability to walk on water. There's a lizard in Costa Rica that has been named Jesus Christ Lizard because it walks on water. The long, middle legs are used like paddles to move this bug across the surface of the water. The long hind legs are used to steer them and also act as brakes. The front legs are used for catching prey.

This bug lives in ponds and slow-running streams. Since the underside of the body is covered with water-repellent hair it generally stays on the surface of the pond. They look like huge water-walking mosquitoes when they are moving about on the surface. Most Water Striders are over 0.2 inch (5 mm) long. They live on or near the surface and may even dive below before emerging again to breathe air.

Without water, a water strider can only move about 25 yards across land to find another water-filled area. They are very vulnerable on land and become easy prey to larger insects and birds.

You'll consider Water Striders a beneficial insect real fast when you realize it eats mosquito larvae from the water's surface. They are extremely sensitive to vibrations on the water which helps them to locate their meal and suck it dry.Water striders feed with a part called a rostrum, which is used similarly to a mosquito's probiscus, which is inserted into prey to sucks out the juices inside.

A typical water strider habitat is a pond, marsh or very still area of a river's edge. Water striders feed on the larvae of mosquito's and share the same still water areas. Water striders are often seen in small groups. Water is one key element they need to survive. Without water, a water strider can only move about 25 yards across land to find another water-filled area. They are very vulnerable on land and become easy prey to larger insects and birds.

When we skim our pond we use the "compost" nearby for plants and bushes. It allows the water striders to get back to the pond. If you want to discard the skimmings, then it would be nice to leave them there for a day to allow anything within to climb out and get back to the pond.

Their ability to walk on water has been studied greatly and originally it was thought that the bugs got momentum in the water by the creation of capillary waves on the surface. But a scientist named Mark Denny showed that would require the Water Strider to move faster than the bug can move its legs.

So this contradiction became known as Denny's Paradox because the bugs beat that theory by generating hemispherical vortices instead of capillary waves. These vortices carry backward momentum which propels the bug forward. They can stand effortlessly on water due to their legs having chemical properties of a waxy coating.

However, biophysicists Xuefeng Gao and Lei Jiang wrote in Nature Magazine that the water resistance of the legs is due to the “special hierarchical structure of the legs, which are covered by large numbers of oriented tiny hairs (microsetae) with fine nanogrooves” which is much more important than the wax coating.

There's a lot of science behind many things, but for me, it's the creativity of our God the Creator that amazes me. The more I see and learn about the incredible Creation we have all around us, the more the I realize that it will take an eternity to know all there is to know about our Heavenly Father. We are His workmanship also and are created in His image, so we are His crowning glory. We need to remember that we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) and value ourselves as God does.

Don't miss the little things in life ... they are all around us.

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