Pond skaters

There are pond skaters (Gerris lacustris) on the little pond under the wooden bridge at Lambrok Meadow end of the tributary stream.

Recent research has shown that pond skaters legs are covered with thousands of microscopic hairs scored with tiny groves. The grooves trap air and make the insect’s legs so water resistant and buoyant that even in a rainstorm like the ones we have endured in recent summers it stays afloat, apparently standing on little dips in the water’s surface.

Like all insects, a pond skater has three pairs of legs. The front legs are short and adapted to allow the skater to grab prey on the surface of the water. The middle legs are used as paddles. The back legs are the longest and they provide additional power.

The little wooden bridge over the tributary stream

The water resistance and long legs make a skater very fast. Researchers have worked out out they can achieve speeds of a hundred body lengths per second. To match them, a human would have to swim at over 400 miles an hour.

Next time you cross the wooden bridge, pause and look over the rail for the pond skaters.

Another invertebrate:
Bloody nosed beetle

3 thoughts on “Pond skaters

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  1. Anonymous, please add a name (any name will do) to your very valid comment and submit it again. I am afraid it is our policy to delete anonymous comments and I can’t make any exception no matter how pertinent your point might be.

  2. That’s all very well but when I look over the bridge, I usually can’t see anything because dogs have stirred the water up. Dogs can easily get into all parts of the stream and pond and they disturb any wildlife that is there including the very rare Water Voles that live in the area.

    I go to the park to do bird watching but I can’t enjoy it as much as I normally would because I have to keep my eyes on the ground looking out for dog mess around the park. I like dogs but I wish the owners would keep an eye on them when they are off lead, because no doubt some dogs are fouling out of sight of their owners.

    Dogs off the lead are definitely impacting the wildlife in the park. I have seen a Heron on Village Green and in the pond on a couple of occasions, but dogs have come rushing into the pond and scared it off each time.

    I have never been to a Nature Reserve where dogs are allowed to run out of control and out of sight of their owners, potentially harassing and harming wildlife. I think that if the park is to be truly considered as a Nature Reserve, then the council need to take a long hard look at dog behaviour in the park.

    Christine Knight

    1. Thank you Christine, for reposting your comment. I think you have made a very valid point.

      Firstly, for many years before the park was a Local Nature Reserve (LNR), it was open fields and copses where people came to walk their dogs. Many of those dog walkers were/are very resistant to the idea of changing the park’s function and are reluctant to change their behaviour. The Countryside Team doesn’t want to post lists of rules at the entrance to the reserve but understands that it may come to that.

      Secondly, the county is supposed to be finding a SANG (Suitable Alterative Natural Greenspace) that they can use to direct dog walkers away from the ring of LNRs around Trowbridge – but so far seem to have done little to achieve this.

      My own opinion is that the two should not be incompatible. By all means walk your dog in the countryside (even an LNR) but if you can’t prevent it from destroying habitat or hunting wildlife then it should be on a leash. And wildlife should be protected from dogs everywhere, not just in LNRs.

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