Key to Aquatic Macroinvertebrates in Utah - Hemiptera

Key to Macroinvertebrate Life in Ponds and Rivers in Utah

Water Bugs

The Hemiptera Order are "true bugs".  The name comes from Hemi meaning "half" and ptera meaning "wing".  The wings of Hemipterans are either entirely membranous or partially hardened (the name comes from the organisms with partially hardened wings).  Insects in this order have a specialized mouth part called a proboscis or rostrum which is used to pierce tissue (mostly plant tissue, however some members of this order are predators). 

Family Picture Description Habitat


toe biters, giant water bugs

Belostomatidae have large, raptorial front legs and slender, elongated hind legs. Their bodies are flattened and have strap-like respiratory appendages

length 2-12 cm

Occur in weedy ponds, and slow moving water such as beaver ponds.  They are fierce predators. 


water boatmen

Corixidae have oar-like hind legs and a scoop like tarsi on their front legs.  They have dark brown or black striations on their wings. 

length 3-12mm

In still, slow moving fresh water.  They are excellent swimmers.


toad bugs

Gelastrocoridae have a distinct toad-like look, protruding eyes, short antennae, raptorial short fore legs, and mottled color pattern.

length 5-10mm

Found in southern Utah in riparian and aquatic vegetation, mud, or sand.


water skaters, water striders

Gerridae have short front legs and elongate middle and hind legs.  The femur of the hind legs extends beyond the abdomen.  Their bodies are dark colored.

length 3-10mm

In still, slow moving fresh water, often found on top of the water.


marsh treaders, water measurers

Hydrometridae have greyish or pale brown, bodies, the head and legs are long and slender, eyes are located behind the middle of the head. 

length 8-11mm

Found in still water along the edges on vegetation. 


creeping water bugs

Naucoridae  have flattened, dark colored bodies that appear oval from above.  The forelegs are raptorial with an enlarged femora and single claw.

length 6-15mm

Found in slow moving water, typically hot springs and desert pools.


water scorpions

Nepidae have raptorial forelegs and a long slender respiratory tube at posterior end.  Their  bodies may be fat and squat or long and slender

length 15-50mm

Found in ponds, typically in northern Utah.



Notonectidae have oar-like hind legs without claws and a cylindrical body shape, often with ivory white color on body

length 8.5-16mm

In slow moving water and ponds.  They swim ventral side up.


broad shouldered water striders

Veliidae has a small, broad thorax.  They are similar to Gerridae, but the hind femur does not extend beyond the abdomen. 

length 2-10mm

Commonly found in slow moving waters, but can be found in rivers and streams, too. 

Typically found on the water surface.

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