Water stick insect spotted during pond dipping

Pond dipping with the guests from Nuthatch Lodge turned up this little creature – a water stick insect.

It’s not quite the first time we’ve seen them here at Wheatland Farm – guests staying at Balebarn Lodge found one last June as they were getting the boats out.

Last time, it turned up on some dead twigs, just at the edge of the pond. Apparently, it can come out of the water to go hunting. This year, we found one amongst the weed we scooped up to search through for all sorts of invertebrates. This one was one of the more dramatic finds though, amidst the skaters and dragonfly nymphs, pond snails and tiny shrimpy things.

The water stick insect’s Latin name is Ranatra linearis. It’s a ‘lay in wait’ predator that takes small tadpoles and other creatures – tiny fish even! You can see that it looks a bit like a mantis – it catches its food with those front legs. It swims with its mid and rear legs, and ‘breathes’ through it’s long rear end ‘snorkel’. A water stick insect can even fly to new ponds, though you wouldn’t guess by looking at it here.

We submitted our record, and our picture, to irecord, as there aren’t many reports of this particular creature near us. In fact, it was ‘outside of its known range’. But that could just be that people aren’t spotting it (it certainly is well camouflaged, isn’t it), or that nobody else is bothering to submit records. So if you find something like this in your garden pond, or when out for a walk, consider taking a picture and adding it to irecord, and helping develop a better understanding of the UK’s wildlife. Such records are especially useful as climate changes and the biodiversity crisis continues to unfold – if we don’t know what’s there, we won’t know when we’ve lost it.