Lesser water boatman

Lesser Water Boatman

Lesser Water Boatman ©Les Binns

Lesser water boatman

Scientific name: Corixa punctata
Similar to the Common backswimmer, the Lesser water boatman has oar-like legs to help it swim, but it does not swim upside-down. It is herbivorous and can be found at the surface of ponds, lakes and ditches.

Species information


Length: up to 1.5cm

Conservation status


When to see

January to December


The Lesser water boatman is one of a number of water boatmen species in the UK. It is common and widespread in weedy ponds, lakes and ditches. Like the Common backswimmer, it has long, oar-like legs to help it swim at the surface of the water, but it does not swim upside-down. It is also herbivorous, eating algae and detritus, unlike the carnivorous Common backswimmer. Like other aquatic bugs, Lesser water boatmen need to breathe at the water' surface, but they have developed an ingenious trick to allow them to remain under water for longer: they hang upside-down, collecting air from the water's surface and then carry it around as a bubble on their body. During warm weather the adults may take flight.

How to identify

The Lesser water boatman is dark brown with yellow, close-set stripes. It has powerful oar-like, hairy hind legs, which it uses as paddles as it swims. Its body resembles the shape of a boat, hence it's common name. The various species of water boatmen are very difficult to tell apart from each other, but can be easily distinguished from backswimmers because they do not swim upside-down.



Did you know?

There are many different species of 'water boatmen' in the UK, which fall into the families: Corixidae (lesser water boatmen); and Notonectidae and Pleidae (backswimmers or greater water boatmen). Males of some species stridulate or 'sing', making grasshopper-like noises to attract mates; these songs may be heard during the summer, especially at night.

How people can help

Whether you live in town or country, you can help to look after garden wildlife by providing food, water and shelter. To find out more about encouraging wildlife into your garden, visit our Wild About Gardens website: a joint initiative with the RHS, there's plenty of facts and tips to get you started. To encourage invertebrates, amphibians and other wetland wildlife into your garden, try having a wildlife-friendly pond and leaving piles of logs for hibernating animals. To buy bird and animal food, feeders and homes, visit the Vine House Farm website - an award-winning wildlife-friendly farm which gives 5% of all its takings to The Wildlife Trusts.