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Backswimmer Life Cycle

By Mary Sharp ; Updated September 21, 2017
Backswimmers are aquatic insects found in freshwater ponds and streams in many parts of North America.

There are about 30 different species of the insects known as backswimmers. These native North American bugs usually complete their life cycle in about 6 months, making for two generations a year. After hatching from their eggs, backswimmers go through several periods of growth before emerging as adults.

Eggs

Female backswimmers lay their eggs on or around the stems of underwater plants. The eggs are elongated in shape and white in color. Some species of backswimmer inject their eggs into holes they bore into underwater plant stems. The backswimmer eggs hatch after several weeks and will have red eyes and white bodies.

Instars

Backswimmers undergo several growth stages from the time they hatch from their eggs to the time they are adults. These stages, during which the backswimmer molts and grows, are called “instars.” Backswimmers undergo five instars that last about 7 to 14 days each.

Nymphs

From the time backswimmers hatch from their eggs to the time that the backswimmers undergo their final instar stage, they are known as “nymphs.” While adult backswimmers feed on different types of aquatic insects, backswimmer nymphs are cannibalistic, often feeding on other nymph backswimmers.

Adults

Adult backswimmers usually appear around the month of July. During this time they'll live up to their name by swimming upside-down. According to a Texas A&M study, the backswimmer will use its long hind legs as oars. They will also adopt a counter shade, with the upper half of the body being lighter than the bottom half. This gives the insect an advantage when it's swimming upside down since it's harder for predators to see it. Males are thought to use a stridulatory apparatus on their body in order to attract female backswimmers during the insect's lone breeding season.

Old Age

Adult backswimmers usually top out at a measurement between 4 to 10 mm in length. They only live a couple of months, often dying soon after mating and laying eggs.