The common pond skater (Gerris lacustris) is one of the most widespread British bugs. It is brownish-black in colour, with a narrow body. The forelegs are short and used for grasping and holding prey. The middle and hind legs are long and slender; the hind pair are used as 'rudders', while the middle pair of legs are used to propel the bug along the surface of the water (3) with either a rowing or a jumping motion (4). All true bugs have sucking mouthparts, known as a rostrum or 'beak' (3); this pond skater has a short, powerful rostrum (2). Both winged and wingless forms occur; in winged pond skaters the wings are held folded flat against the body (3).
Adults emerge after over wintering towards the end of April or in early May, and females lay eggs in May. The eggs take around 12 to 14 days to develop, but the time taken until hatching is dependent on the temperature. Bugs undergo a type of development known as incomplete metamorphosis in which the larvae or 'nymphs' progress through a series of moults. The stages between moults are known as 'instars'; in this species there are 5 instars, each one progressively longer than the last. It takes between 24 and 30 days for pond skater larvae to develop into adults, with winged forms taking longer to reach maturity (3).
Type of insect development (also known as hemimetabolous development) in which the adult form is reached via a series of moults. The larva (nymph) resembles a miniature wingless adult; the wings develop externally as the nymph grows.
Stage in an animal's lifecycle after it hatches from the egg. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but usually are unable to reproduce.
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