My family and I spent some time exploring the frozen pond/wetland at our prairie during the holiday break. We even got a couple days of great ice skating weather.
While we were on the ice, we found some great patterns (see earlier post), but we also found quite a few frozen insects. In particular, there seemed to be two species of insects – one bug and one beetle – encased in ice. The bug was a species of Corixidae, or water boatman. Its name comes from the fact that two of its legs are extra long and sport hairs that make the legs look and function like the oars on a boat. Water boatmen suck the juices from algae and plants through their long straw-like beak and are common inhabitants of just about any freshwater body around here. They are also frequently seen in the ice when those water bodies freeze up in the winter. Apparently, water boatmen can survive freezing and just start swimming again when the ice thaws. A pretty neat trick for an aquatic bug that lives in a temperate climate.
We had a two day period over the holidays during which the temperature briefly climbed up to about 60 degrees (Fahrenheit). The warmth didn’t last long enough to spell an end to our ice skating, but did melt some of ice along the edges of the pond. Apparently, the warm temperatures also encouraged a number of individuals of one particular beetle species to go exploring. Unfortunately, it appears quite a few of those beetles wandered out onto the ice and didn’t make it back. We didn’t see any of them on the ice before the warm spell, but found lots of them afterward.
I was curious to know whether those frozen beetles could do the same thaw-out-and-re-energize trick as the water boatmen, so I broke off a chunk of ice containing a frozen beetle and brought it home to thaw it. The beetle has been thawed out for more than a week now, and hasn’t moved, so I’m pretty sure it’s dead… The next question is: where were those beetles staying during the very cold weather earlier this winter, and how did they prevent themselves from freezing to death then?
Always more questions…
For more information on how water boatmen and other creatures weather the winter, see this earlier post from 2011.