Water Scorpions are insects known as bugs because they have piercing and sucking mouth parts. They can be found throughout the country in ponds, lakes, shallow slow-flowing water and even in stagnant water. They are also known as ‘toe biters’ because they sometimes bite your toes. The bite is not really harmful, but it can be painful.
The Water Scorpion is often mistaken for a small dead leaf because it is flat and a blackish brown colour. It also keeps very still in water, just like a leaf. It has a long tail which the Water Scorpion sticks out of the water when it wants to breathe. It breathes through its tail. It has two large black eyes and three pairs of legs. Even though Water Scorpions live in water, they don’t really like swimming. They just like clinging onto water plants for most of the time.
Water Scorpions have tiny antennae on their heads which they use to feel their way around dark muddy waters. They also have two pairs of wings, but they very rarely fly because their wing muscles are often under developed. They eat tadpoles, water worms, water fleas, lice and also insect larvae. They suck the body fluids out of their prey with their piercing and sucking mouth parts.
YEAR 2 – Ages 6/7
Water Scorpions are insects that like to live in ponds and lakes. Even though Water Scorpions live in water they don’t like to swim. They like to keep as still as possible.
A Water Scorpion can often be mistaken for a dead leaf because it keeps so still. It has a very flat body which is a blackish brown colour. The length of the body is about twenty-five millimetres. The width of the body is between six to ten millimetres.
The Water Scorpion has quite a long tail. It is about ten millimetres in length. It uses its tail to be able to breathe. The head of the Water Scorpion is very small and triangular-shaped. The Water Scorpion has two large round-shaped eyes. The eyes are a black colour.
Water Scorpions have three pairs of legs. The first pair of legs is situated right at the front of the head. The front legs are very powerful. Water Scorpions use the front legs to catch food.
The second pair of legs is at the front part of the body and the third pair of legs is in the middle of the body. The second pair of legs is smaller than the third pair of legs. The Water Scorpion uses these legs to crawl on the ground in very shallow water.
YEAR 3 – Ages 7/8
Water Scorpions can be seen in ponds, lakes, stagnant waters and shallow slow-flowing water. Scorpions tend to float motionless very close to the surface of the water. They can easily be mistaken for dead leaves.
Sometimes Water Scorpions can often be seen clinging upside down onto water weeds or water plants. They very rarely venture into deeper waters because they need to take in air from above the surface of the water. Water Scorpions need to breathe in air. If a pond is shallow, they sometimes crawl very slowly at the bottom of the water.
The Water Scorpion’s tail has two breathing tubes that are closely pressed against each other. The Water Scorpion swims backwards to the surface of the water so it can extend the tip of its tail out of the water. When the tail is out of the water, the Water Scorpion breathes air into the breathing tubes before going under water again. The Water Scorpion uses its tail similar to how a human uses a snorkel. The Water Scorpion can stay under water for up to thirty minutes.
Water Scorpions sometimes swim short distances, but they only do this if they have been disturbed. Water Scorpions don’t really like swimming. When they swim, they move their front pair of legs up and down and they move the second and third pair of legs in an oar-like manner. They look quite jerky in water.
A Water Scorpion can bite. The bite is not really harmful, but it can be painful. Water Scorpions are also known as ‘toe biters’!
YEAR 4 – Ages 8/9
Water Scorpions are insects known as ‘bugs’. Bugs have piercing and sucking mouth parts. Water Scorpions prefer to live in slow-flowing water, especially amongst water weeds. They keep so still in water that they look like dead leaves. This camouflage helps them to catch prey quite easily.
Water Scorpions eat water fleas, tadpoles, water lice and larvae from mayflies, stoneflies and water beetles. They also eat freshwater shrimps and small water worms. Water Scorpions can hang upside down on water plants waiting for prey to come along. While they wait, they keep really still so prey don’t notice them.
A Water Scorpion clings motionless onto water weeds and onto other water plants by using its middle legs and hind legs. When an insect, tadpole or worm passes by, the Water Scorpion raises its hind legs so that the front part of the body is quickly pushed forward. It then uses its powerful front legs to grab its prey.
When the Water Scorpion has a firm grip of its prey, it pierces the prey with its ‘rostrum’. The rostrum is the long projecting part of its mouth. The Water Scorpion inserts its long mouth part into its victim and then releases a digestive fluid into the victim’s body. This fluid partially digests the tissues of the victim which allows the Water Scorpion to easily suck out the insides of its prey. The victim is almost left with an empty shell of a body by the time the Water Scorpion has finished eating it.
YEAR 5 – Ages 9/10
The Water Scorpion is a type of insect known as a bug. It has a body that is divided into three parts. The front part is the head, the middle part is the thorax and the back part is the abdomen.
The head of the Water Scorpion is very small and has a relatively long ‘rostrum’. The rostrum is the beak-like sucking and piercing part of the Water Scorpion’s mouth. The rostrum projects forward which gives the Water Scorpion the appearance of having a triangular-shaped head.
The Water Scorpion also has very tiny antennae which act as ‘feelers’ so that the Water Scorpion can feel its way around water and water plants. The antennae are situated under the Water Scorpion’s eyes. The eyes of the Water Scorpion are large, round and black.
The middle of the Water Scorpion’s body is called the thorax. The thorax has two pairs of legs connected to it. The front legs are shorter than the back legs. The Water Scorpion uses these legs when it wants to crawl on plants. The thorax also holds two pairs of wings. The front pair of wings is quite tough and hard and the second pair of wings is thin and flexible. The thin wings are folded underneath the tough wings. Even though Water Scorpions have wings, most Water Scorpions can’t fly because the wing muscles are under developed.
The Water Scorpion has three pairs of ‘pressure sensors’ on the underside of its abdomen. The pressure sensors look like dark oval discs. The pressure sensors let the Water Scorpion know when it is going to deep into water. It is important for a Water Scorpion not to venture too deep into water because it needs to regularly go to the surface to breathe in air. The Water Scorpion breathes in air through its tail.
YEAR 6 – Ages 10/11
The mating season for Water Scorpions is around April to late May. The male Water Scorpion tries to attract a female by making very quiet chirping sounds. The chirping sounds are produced by the male rubbing its forelegs against the front part of its thorax. The thorax is the middle part of the Water Scorpion’s body.
Shortly after the male and the female have mated, the female lays about thirty eggs on the stems of water plants or amongst algae just below the surface of the water. She usually lays her eggs at night. The eggs have seven long hairs which float freely on the surface of the water. These hairs are like little breathing pipes that supply air to the young inside the eggs. The young emerge from the eggs after about four weeks and they are called ‘nymphs’. Nymphs look like miniature wingless adults when they first emerge, even though they have very hairy bodies.
Nymphs go through a process called ‘incomplete metamorphisis’ to reach adult stage. Incomplete metamorphisis is the gradual growth of the nymph in size, but not necessarily in form. When a nymph grows, it sometimes looks like it has no tail because the tail grows at a different rate to the rest of the body.
To reach adult stage the nymphs have to go through a series of moults. When a nymph moults, it sheds its skin because as it grows it can’t fit into its old skin anymore. The stage between each moult is called an ‘instar’. The Water Scorpion goes through five instars before it turns into a mature adult. It takes around six to eight weeks for Water Scorpions to turn into fully-grown mature adults. Eventually when they get older, they too may have nymphs of their own and so the cycle of life begins again.