Week of June 5, 2022 – June 11, 2022

staff member Anna Stunkel Environmental Educator

by Anna Stunkel, Environmental Educator

During the late spring season, aquatic creatures in our pond and streams meet many students visiting on field trips, homeschool and preschool children, and Syracuse students when the insects travel in buckets into the city with our Nature in the City program! Students have the opportunity to learn about the almost otherworldly adaptations that help insects to survive deep below the surface of the water.

In order to live underwater, these insects have evolved a variety of ways to breathe. Predaceous diving beetles and backswimmers carry air bubbles below the surface, like tiny scuba tanks. Other creatures such as dragonfly and damselfly nymphs use gills to breathe underwater. Dragonfly nymphs have these gills inside their abdomens, and they can push excess water out their back ends to zoom along via jet propulsion. In damselfly nymphs, the gills look like three feather-like “tails.” Giant water bugs and water scorpions use snorkel-like appendages that they lift to the water’s surface in order to breathe.

Aquatic insects also have many fascinating adaptations that allow them to hunt efficiently. Dragonfly nymphs have powerful jaws that extend forwards to capture their prey. Water scorpions and giant water bugs use strong front legs to grasp their prey, then inject digestive enzymes to consume their food.

Next time you visit a pond or stream, see if you can notice any of these busy creatures moving around. Below the calm water’s surface, a complex and active world of predators and prey can be found.