RSPB
Skip navigation
Print page

Water boatman

Insect

Corixa punctata

This brown bug lives in water. It has long hind legs, covered in hairs, that it uses rather like paddles to swim. Its middle legs are slightly shorter, but its front legs are very short and are used to scoop up food.

Water boatmen are common and widespread throughout Britain – you’ll find them in most weedy ponds, lakes and slow-flowing rivers. They spend most of their time at the bottom, coming to the surface only to renew their air supply.

Males attract females with a ‘courtship song’, produce by rubbing their front legs against a ridge on their head. Females lay single eggs, which they attach to plant stems or floating algae.

Backswimmers (Notonecta spp) look very similar to water boatmen. However there are two main differences: backswimmers are carnivorous eating tadpoles, insects and small fish, and they swim on their backs.

What does it eat?

Plant debris and algae.

When will I see it?

Throughout the year.

Where will I see it?

In the pond. Sometimes flying during warm weather.

Vital statistics

Length: Up to 12 mm long

Calendar

Seen in JanuarySeen in FebruarySeen in MarchSeen in AprilSeen in MaySeen in JuneSeen in JulySeen in AugustSeen in SeptemberSeen in OctoberSeen in NovemberSeen in December

Key to calendar

Related habitats