How to identify pond wildlife

12 species for you to look for on your next pond-dipping adventure.

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All illustrations by Felicity Rose Cole

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Whirligig beetle Gyrinus substriatus (above)

Predator and scavenger. One of several small black beetle species that whizz about on the surface.

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Pond skater Gerris lacustris

Predator and scavenger. Glides across surface on long legs. Flies well; rapidly colonises new ponds.

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Great water boatman Notonecta glauca

Predator and scavenger; also known as the backswimmer. Rows under surface with oar-like legs.

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Water scorpion Nepa cinerea

A predatory bug with huge pincers and a long ‘sting’ (a breathing siphon). Lurks in weedy margins.

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Great pond snail Lymnaea stagnalis

Grazes algae and rotting matter. The largest pond snail; shell up to 50mm long, tapering sharply.

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Midge larvae Chironomus species

Feed on algae and decaying matter. Also known as bloodworms due to their bright red coloration.

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Damselfly Nymph Various species

Predator. Slender body, about 20mm long; three long, flattened ‘tails’ at the end of abdomen.

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Leech Glossiphonia complanata

Feeds on water snails. Body 30mm long when extended; pale grey or fawn with yellow spots.

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Great ramshorn snail Planorbis corneus

Grazes algae and rotting matter. The largest of several similar species; shell 30–35mm across.

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Dragonfly nymph Various species

Predator; especially fond of tadpoles. Very fat, stocky body, about 40mm long; lacks ‘tails’.

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Water hog-louse Asellus aquaticus

Feeds on decaying matter; also known as the water slater. Looks like a leggy woodlouse.

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Common black diving beetle Agabus bipustulatus

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Predator. Shiny black body, 10mm long; red antennae and front legs.