Field Guide

Aquatic Invertebrates

Showing 1 - 10 of 21 results
Media
Photo of backswimmer, side view
Species Types
Scientific Name
About 32 North American species in the family Notonectidae
Description
Sometimes called “water bees” or “water wasps,” backswimmers are predaceous and can deliver a painful bite if mishandled. True to their name, they swim belly-up, and their backs are keeled like a boat, which makes back-swimming easier.
Media
Photo of a whirligig beetle viewed from above
Species Types
Scientific Name
Species in the beetle family Gyrinidae
Description
Groups of whirligig beetles swim on the water surface in quick, random patterns, searching for food. They have two pairs of eyes — one pair above water, one pair below — to help them quickly and accurately capture their prey.
Media
Photo of a predaceous diving beetle
Species Types
Scientific Name
Species in the beetle family Dytiscidae
Description
Like many aquatic insects, these large oval beetles prey voraciously on other aquatic organisms. Excellent swimmers, they fly well, too, and are often attracted to lights.
Media
Photo of a collared water scavenger beetle showing back.
Species Types
Scientific Name
Beetles in the family Hydrophilidae
Description
Water scavenger beetles are a mostly aquatic family. They are similar to predaceous diving beetles, but unlike them many have a distinctive spine running down the center of their bellies.
Media
Photo of a giant water bug
Species Types
Scientific Name
Species in the genera Abedus, Belostoma, and Lethocerus
Description
Giant water bugs are huge aquatic insects that frequently fly around electric lights at night. They are infamous for the painful bite they can deliver, but fish, birds — and some people — find them tasty!
Media
Photo of a water scorpion, genus Ranatra, captured in a jar of pond water.
Species Types
Scientific Name
Ranatra spp. and Nepa apiculata
Description
Water scorpions remain still, looking like a random bit of plant material. Then they suddenly grab their prey and deliver disabling fluids with a quick jab of their knifelike beak.
Media
Photo of a spotted fishing spider perched on the water's surface amid floating duckweed plants
Species Types
Scientific Name
Dolomedes spp., Tetragnatha spp., and others
Description
A variety of spiders are adapted for live on and around water. Many of these are called fishing spiders. Several have the ability to run across the water’s surface. Some build webs, others do not.
Media
Photo of a single water strider
Species Types
Scientific Name
Aquarius remigis; also species in the genus Gerris
Description
Water striders are hard not to notice. Water-repellant hairs on the hind and middle legs allow these nimble insects to skate on the surface of the water.
Media
Photo of a dragonfly larva resting on a stone.
Species Types
Scientific Name
Species in the suborder Anisoptera
Description
Dragonfly larvae are aquatic insects with large eyes, six legs, and an oval or rounded segmented abdomen. The lower jaws are scooplike and cover much of the lower part of the head.
Media
Photo of a mayfly naiad crawling on rock underwater
Species Types
Scientific Name
There are hundreds of species in North America.
Description
Mayfly larvae, or nymphs, live from months to years under water, breathing through gills, and the adults fly around in the air, mating, living for only a day or two.
See Also

About Aquatic Invertebrates in Missouri

Missouri's streams, lakes, and other aquatic habitats hold thousands of kinds of invertebrates — worms, freshwater mussels, snails, crayfish, insects, and other animals without backbones. These creatures are vital links in the aquatic food chain, and their presence and numbers tell us a lot about water quality.