Field Guide

Aquatic Invertebrates

Showing 1 - 7 of 7 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
Red midge fly larva, side view, in a petri dish
Species Types
Scientific Name
Nearly 1,100 species in North America
Description
Midge larvae look something like thin aquatic inchworms. They can be clear, whitish, olive, tan, or bright red. They occur in a variety of aquatic habitats. As adults, they resemble mosquitoes but they never bite.
Media
Photograph of several mosquito larvae resting at water surface
Species Types
Scientific Name
There are about 50 species of mosquitoes in our state.
Description
The larvae of mosquitoes, often called “wrigglers,” have a large head and thorax and a narrow, wormlike abdomen; they typically hang just below the water surface. When disturbed, they wriggle downward.
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
Water boatman viewed from above
Species Types
Scientific Name
About 125 species in North America in the family Corixidae
Description
Water boatmen are one of the few aquatic true bugs that are not predatory and do not bite people. Instead, they suck juices from algae and detritus. Only a few types eat other small aquatic creatures.
Media
Photo of two water penny beetles clinging to a wet rock.
Species Types
Scientific Name
Beetles in the family Psephenidae
Description
Water penny beetle larvae are truly nifty aquatic invertebrates that bring out the child in all of us. Some of them really do look like pennies!
Media
Water springtails congregate in water above soggy dead leaves
Species Types
Scientific Name
Podura aquatica
Description
In early spring, clusters of water springtails float on the surface of quiet waters, on muddy banks, and on protruding objects. Adults are bluish gray with reddish appendages.
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.