Identification, Images, & Information
For Insects, Spiders & Their Kin
For the United States & Canada

Family Veliidae - Smaller Water Striders

Broad-shouldered Water Strider - Microvelia americana Veliidae? - Microvelia Broad-shouldered Water Strider - Microvelia Rhagovelia obesa Smaller Water Strider - Microvelia Microvelia Male, Rhagovelia? - Rhagovelia distincta Microvelia? - Microvelia
Classification
Kingdom Animalia (Animals)
Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods)
Subphylum Hexapoda (Hexapods)
Class Insecta (Insects)
Order Hemiptera (True Bugs, Cicadas, Hoppers, Aphids and Allies)
Suborder Heteroptera (True Bugs)
Infraorder Gerromorpha (Semiaquatic Bugs)
Superfamily Gerroidea
Family Veliidae (Smaller Water Striders)
Other Common Names
Riffle Bugs, Broad-Shouldered Water Striders; Ripple Bugs (genus Rhagovelia)
Explanation of Names
Veliidae Amyot & Serville 1843
Numbers
the largest gerromorphan family, with almost 1000 spp. in ~60 genera worldwide(1); second largest in our area, with 34 spp. in 5 genera(2); 9 spp. in 2 genera in MI(3); 18 spp. in 5 genera in FL(4)
Size
1.5-6 mm(4) (exotic spp. up to 9 mm)(5)
Identification
pronotum broader than abdomen (as reflected in the common name); hind femur not longer than abdomen; pre-apical tarsal claws; usually wingless and dark-colored, sometimes with silvery markings
key to NA genera in(6)(4)(7)
NB: to tell adults from nymphs, look at meso-/metatarsi (one-segmented in nymphs, two-segmented in adults)
Range
worldwide; in our area, so. Canada and throughout the US(6)
Habitat
on water surface among vegetation in temporary or permanent ponds, lake margins, placid areas of streams (Microvelia and Velia species) or in rapids/riffles in streams (Rhagovelia species); some may be found on plants away from water(4), also saltwater habitats, mud flats(1)
Food
predaceous on other surface-dwelling arthropods, detecting prey via surface vibrations
Remarks
Pretarsal structure most diverse among Gerromorpha, the mesotarsal ventral arolium (turned into a 'swimming fan') being the most distinctive feature(8)
Works Cited
1.Biodiversity of the Heteroptera
Henry T.J. 2009. In: Foottit R.G., Adler P.H., eds. Insect biodiversity: Science and society. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell: 223-263.
2.American Insects: A Handbook of the Insects of America North of Mexico
Ross H. Arnett. 2000. CRC Press.
3.Bright E. (2002-2011) Aquatic Insects of Michigan
4.Identification manual for the aquatic and semi-aquatic Heteroptera of Florida
Epler J.H. 2006. FL Dept. Env. Prot., Tallahassee, FL. 186 pp.
5.What Bug Is That? The guide to Australian insect families
6.Aquatic Insects of North America
R. W. Merritt, K. W. Cummins, M.B. Berg. 2008. Kendall/Hunt.
7.The Veliidae (Heteroptera) of America north of Mexico
Smith, Cecil L. and John T. Polhemus. 1978. Proceedings of The Entomological Society of Washington 80(1): 56-68.
8.Evolution of the Insects
David Grimaldi and Michael S. Engel. 2005.