Nature Q&A: How Do Water Striders “walk” on Water?

Guest post by Jennifer Bove. 
Watching_Magnifying_ Glass_LauraWhitehead_160x150Kids are full of questions about the world around them, and they expect parents to have the answers. I’ve been stumped more than once by my kids’ curiosity about nature. (And I’m a biologist!) So, it’s time to get smart—and get ahead of the game. Here are the answers to some common nature questions that your kids might bring to the kitchen table.

1. What are clouds made of?

2. How do birds stay cool in the summer?

3. How do water striders “walk” on water?

WaterStrider_ArendVermazeren_219x2193. How do water striders “walk” on water?
Water striders, those slim-legged insects that skim across the surfaces of streams and ponds, may look as if they’re performing a magic act. But there’s nothing magical about it. Instead, it’s all about the nature of water—and how the insects are able to take advantage of it.

The Water: Like most other things, water is made up of tiny structures called molecules. Water molecules cling to one another, forming a very thin but strong “skin” on the water’s surface.

The Striders: Water striders have tiny hairs on the tips of each leg, and each of those hairs has tiny grooves in it. These grooves trap even tinier air bubbles, which help keep the legs from breaking through the skin on the water’s surface.

If you’d like to go out and observe water striders in your area, look for quiet water along the edges of ponds, creeks, or even roadside ditches. Bring your camera — but first read these tips on photographing insects.


Jennifer Bové, mom and former field biologist, is an award-winning contributor to Your Big Backyard® and the editor of three anthologies including Wild With Child: Adventures of Families in the Great Outdoors. Jennifer’s blog is filled with timely tips and family fun. Stop by for a visit at