Posted by: Ross Gardner | November 7, 2013

How big is your pond?

There is often a mistaken assumption that to keep a wildlife pond in the back garden is to provide more hard work in prevent it from becoming a weedy mass in which the water can hardly be seen.  The truth is that barring a single late-autumn/winter operation of removing a proportion of the aquatic vegetation to prevent it from becoming over-crowded, that’s about it for a spring and summer of great enjoyment and considerable interest.

Having said that, another job for me is to cut back the plants around the pond (which I would be doing anyway – pond or no pond) in order to spread a net across to catch the leaves of the nearby cherry and birch trees as they colour and fall.  It was whilst doing this that a surprise was to be had – a new species no less for the garden list and an aquatic creature that I haven’t seen in the 10 or 12 years we’ve had the pond.  A surprise especially so far into the autumn.

The creature in question is the Water Measurer, a True Bug (Hemiptera) and a dweller of the water’s surface.  Forget the far more familiar Pond Skater for too many comparisons.  Both are leggy insects with elongated bodies, but they are quite different.  Water Measurer are smaller (never much more than a centimetre long) and very slightly built, slowly and deliberately stalking across the water, rather than jerking rapidly like their cousin, indeed as if they are measuring out the surface of the pond.  Like all True Bugs they have piercing mouth parts – a rostrum – which they use to stab beneath the surface film to capture water-fleas and other tiny invertebrates; they are incredibly sensitive to any movement beneath them.

It rather made me hanker from the busy days of spring when the pond is alive with small things, but the autumn and winter have their own, unique pleasures, so let the pond rest and prepare itself for the next time.

Water Measurer (Hydrometra stagnorum).  2013 Ross Gardner

Water Measurer (Hydrometra stagnorum). 2013 Ross Gardner

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Responses

  1. Neat, you seem to have knack for finding these this year!

    • I have seen a few, haven’t I. Critters you need to have your eye for. I forget how small they I until a find one again.


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