Bugs are beautiful. Multi-legged creepy crawlies are not everyone's cup of tea but I think they're fascinating.
The Junior Rangers and I found an excellent bug together at Leliyn a few years back.
At several centimetres long with a wide oval body, big claw-like front legs and a big long tail it was quite a sight when it was tipped out of our collecting net.
Our bug was a Water Scorpion, an air breathing aquatic insect that is quite harmless to humans. They live on the edges of shallow pools or creeks and are found around mainland Australia. Its name suggests that it belongs to a sinister group of arachnids, or eight legged critters, however our little mate had only six legs.
The Water Scorpion got its name because of the long thin structure attached to its rear end. This isn't used for defence; it's actually used for breathing, a bit like a snorkel. The Water Scorpion breathes by trapping an air bubble in tiny water-repellent hairs between its forewings and abdomen. The hairs connect to the snorkel and when the air bubble is almost finished the Water Scorpion returns to the surface and pokes its snorkel out. Air seeps into the snorkel through a process called diffusion and replenishes the air bubble.
IN warmer water the Water Scorpions bubble gets used up quickly and it has a nifty trick to make sure it doesn't run out. It has three pressure sensors, visible as small dark disks on the underside of its body. The deeper it goes in the water, the more pressure it feels, reminding it to stay close to the surface.
The Water Scorpion is harmless to humans but for critters more blessed in the leg department they are a terror to behold!
Water Scorpions are ambush hunters that hide under vegetation in shallow water, holding on to the water weed with their back legs with their front legs pointed towards deeper water. When a tiny fish, smaller bug or little freshwater prawn swims by it lashes out, pincer-like, and grasps the unsuspecting animal with its front legs. While dinner is held fast the Water Scorpion plunges its rostrum or 'nose' into the body, injecting enzymes which partially digest the prey. The Water Scorpion then sucks the resulting goo up through its rostrum.
Water scorpions are said to be particularly fond of mosquito larvae making them excellent backyard buddies if you have a pond.