10 interesting things about pond skaters

Canadian biologist John Spence holds a Giant Pond Skater - truly one of nature's wonders

Now that pond skaters have been on the telly, here are 10 more interesting things about these nimble creatures.

1. In America, pond skaters are called water striders. In France, they are called ‘Patineurs d’eau’ (which actually translates as pond skaters!).

2. In Britain, 10 different kinds have been recorded so far. Some have common English names, but not all – so there’s a small challenge to pond skater enthusiasts.

Most garden ponds will have the Common Pondskater (Gerris palustris): but other species are possible.

If pond skaters are anything like other freshwater animals we should be in line for a few new colonists as the climate warms up.

3. It’s practically impossible to keep pond skaters away from your pond because, whisper it, pond skaters aren’t too fussy. What they need is water and errr…well, that’s about it.

In the Big Pond Dip in 2009, 8 out 10 people reported seeing them – in fact only worms and wigglies were recorded more often. Pond skaters do like some open water so it’s possible that on ponds with a lot of duckweed they will be less frequent.

4. How do they get to my pond? They fly. Nearly all British pondskaters can fly at least some of the time.

5. Are they endangered? In Britain, it seems not. They are a remarkably tolerant group of creatures, and the common species seem to happily tolerate pollution and to colonise newly created waterbodies. None that are found in Britain seem to be threatened in any way. On the other hand the amazing Giant Pondskater does look like an extremely rare animal and probably isn’t long for this world.

6. Pond skaters don’t just live on ponds. Although, as the name suggests, pond skaters mostly live on ponds and lakes some also like slower flowing parts of rivers. The River Skater (Aquarius najas) doesn’t fly so is much more dependent on habitats that don’t dry up.

7. Pond skaters don’t always stay on the surface: to lay their eggs pond skaters will head a centimetre or two underwater.

8. Pond skaters don’t really like custard. Despite what you may have seen on The One Show they are not normally found living on custard.

9. Not everything walking on the surface of a pond is a pond skater. There are a surprising variety of creatures that live on the surface of ponds, lakes and rivers: Water Crickets and the more sedate Water Measurers.

10. And finally…the amazing Giant Pond Skater! The aptly named Giant Pondskater (Gigantonecta gigas) is amazingly big with a body a couple inches (5 cm) long and a leg-span of about a foot – 30 cm!

The Giant Pond Skater - and Giant Pond Skater enthusiast

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3 Responses to “10 interesting things about pond skaters”

  1. Neil Says:

    Wow a 30cm across giant pond skater, cant believe Ive never come across one before!

    Pond skaters are not only impossible to keep away from ponds, they are are also impossible to keep in pond dipping trays!

  2. Neil Says:

    Me again. I was fastinated by Gigantonecta gigas so tried to do a little research but all google brought up was this site. On the whole of the great wide internet, no one has mentioned this amazing insect till this post. explains why Ive never heard of it but somewhat sad too.

  3. Jeremy Biggs Says:

    Hi Neil

    I’m going to write about Gigantometra some more and get all the stuff that I’ve learnt about it – and that John Spence has told me – out there. And this is a case where there really doesn’t seem to be much more lurking in the scientific information, or older books and papers, which elude even Google!

    Jeremy

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