Backswimmer Insects Drag Prey Into the Upside Down

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They look like little rowboats, cruising belly up below the surface of a pond or gentle stream. But don't be fooled. Backswimmers are voracious predators, and when it's time to find a new home they know how to make a dramatic exit.


They look like little rowboats, darting around just below the surface of a pond or gentle stream.

But backswimmers are anything but gentle

The surface of the pond is a barrier between two worlds … and backswimmers?

They rule that in-between.


These little predators spend most of their time swimming around upside down on their backs.

They row around with their gigantic back legs.

Hairs on the tips of their legs fan out like the blade of a paddle.

Those hairs, plus more on their abdomen, let them balance on the underside of the water’s surface.

Kinda like they’re hanging on the ceiling.

These relentless hunters patrol the shallows in search of unlucky prey … and drag them down to a watery death.

One of their favorite snacks are these mosquito larvae loitering at the surface.

The backswimmer stabs the mosquito with its beak — injecting digestive enzymes, and sucking out its meal, leaving an empty husk.

But backswimmers aren’t the only predators to look out for in these parts.

Their massive eyes wrap around from the top of their head to the bottom so they can watch for danger below while keeping their eye on the sky.

A single shadow will send them diving for safety in the vegetation.

And these bugs can hide down here for a while.

They trap a bubble of air around their abdomen that they use to breathe.

So, they have to hold onto something or they’ll pop right back up to the top.

These backswimmers have been hanging out feasting on nearly everyone in sight.

But what happens when they start running out of food?

They’re trapped in this pond right?

Nah, not these bugs.

First, they do a very athletic flip, bursting out of the water and landing on top.

They unfurl their wings that they’ve been hiding this whole time under a leathery cover.

And take flight.

Sometimes traveling for days in search of a new home.

These bugs are often one of the very first creatures to settle in streams, ponds and even swimming pools

Explorers that straddle the boundary between water and sky.

Hey, it’s Maddie!

For more freshwater mayhem, check out our Panic At the Pond playlist.

Also, don't miss this new nature miniseries from PBS called “America Outdoors: Understory.”

Follow bestselling author and podcaster Baratunde Thurston as he travels the country exploring the way we work, play and interact with the outdoors.

Go watch and tell them Deep Look sent you.