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For Insects, Spiders & Their Kin
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Family Notonectidae - Backswimmers

Notonectidae - Notonecta kirbyi Water boatman? - Notonecta kirbyi Buenoa sp. Backswimmer - Buenoa Backswimmer - Notonecta irrorata Buenoa Notonecta - Notonecta lobata More than I can shake a stick at - Buenoa Notonecta? 1 - Notonecta
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 Nepomorpha (Aquatic Bugs)
Superfamily Notonectoidea
Family Notonectidae (Backswimmers)
Other Common Names
Water Bees, Water Wasps
2 subfamilies, with 32 spp. in 3 genera in NA(1)(2) and 400 spp. in 11 genera worldwide(3)
5‒15 mm(3)
Aquatic bugs that often swim upside-down. When resting at the surface, body is typically tilted with the head downward. Characteristics(4)(5):
hind legs modified for swimming, with long hairs
front legs not scoop-like (unlike in Corixidae)
dorsum convex, V-shaped when viewed from tip of abdomen
wings clear, tips without veins
eyes typically separated by less than the width of one eye
Species identification often requires examining stridulatory structures and male genitalia.
Keys to genera/species in (6)(1)(7)(8)(9)(10)
Ponds, freshwater pools, slow flowing streams
Prey on other aquatic insects and sometimes on small vertebrates; nymphs often cannibalistic
Life Cycle
Elongated white eggs are cemented to underwater plant stems and hatch in a few weeks; first-generation adults appear in July; often 2 generations a year(11)
May bite if handled carelessly
Dive by holding air trapped in abdominal pockets; can remain submerged for up to 6 hrs
Come to lights; may invade swimming pools and become a nuisance
Males stridulate probably as part of courtship
See Also
Corixidae have rather flat body (often cross-streaked with dark lines) and scoop-shaped front tarsi(12), and swim dorsal side up
Internet References
Works Cited
1.Aquatic Insects of North America
R. W. Merritt, K. W. Cummins, M.B. Berg. 2008. Kendall/Hunt.
2.American Insects: A Handbook of the Insects of America North of Mexico
Ross H. Arnett. 2000. CRC Press.
3.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.
4.Photographic Atlas of Entomology and Guide To Insect Identification
James L. Castner. 2000. Feline Press.
5.How to Know the Insects
Roger G. Bland, H.E. Jaques. 1978. WCB/McGraw-Hill.
6.How to Know the True Bugs
Slater, James A., and Baranowski, Richard M. 1978. Wm. C. Brown Company.
7.Identification manual for the aquatic and semi-aquatic Heteroptera of Florida
Epler J.H. 2006. FL Dept. Env. Prot., Tallahassee, FL. 186 pp.
8.Bright E. (2002-2011) Aquatic Insects of Michigan
9.Clifford H.F. (1991) Aquatic invertebrates of Alberta
10.Three aquatic true bugs (Hem.: Heteroptera) newly reported in Illinois, with keys to Hesperocorixa (Corixidae) and Notonectidae
Swanson D.R., Bilger E.E. 2021. Ent. News 130: 1‒18.
11.National Audubon Society Field Guide to Insects and Spiders
Lorus and Margery Milne. 1980. Knopf.
12.A Field Guide to Insects
Richard E. White, Donald J. Borror, Roger Tory Peterson. 1998. Houghton Mifflin Co.
13.Australian Faunal Directory