© Peter J. Bryant.

Water boatman

Hemiptera: Corixidae

Water boatmen generally resemble backswimmers, but are much flatter. They are herbivores; and they ingest their food—mainly plant microorganisms or algae—whole. Water boatmen have mouthparts specifically modified away from their beak, which “appears to arise at the rear of the head, rather than the front, and is unsuited for piercing or sucking” (Milne et al., 1980). Unlike members of Belostomatidae (“toebiters”), Water boatmen are not known to bite humans.

Adults are capable of flight, but for the most part remain in aquatic habitats (sewage tanks and birdbaths are some of the more noteworthy of their habitats).

Unlike backswimmers, Water boatmen swim right side up. Their strong hind legs, which resemble small paddles and are used like oars are adapted for swimming; their fore legs are adapted for scooping food, and the mid legs, when rubbed together, illicit a squeaking sound helpful in attracting a mate.

Tolerating a wide range of salinity, from pure seawater to mildly brackish water, Water boatmen can be found in large numbers near coasts, and in many estuaries and salt marshes. One species, Trichocorixa reticulate — commonly referred to as “the Marsh Boatman” shows a preference for salt water.

Sources: Arnett, Dr. Ross H., Jr. & Jacques, Dr. Richard L. (Eds.). (1981). Simon & Schuster’s Guide to Insects. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Hogue, Charles L. (1992). Insects of the Los Angeles Basin (2 nd ed.). Los Angeles: Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.
Milne, Lorus & Milne, Margery. National Audubon Society: Field Guide to North American Insects & Spiders. New York: Chanticleer Press, Inc., 1980.

Text by Britton Jacob-Schram.

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Silverado Canyon, Orange County, CA. 3-12-07. © Ron Hemberger