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Water Scorpion

Scientific name: Nepa cinerea
The Water Scorpion is not a true scorpion, but it certainly looks like one! An underwater predator, it uses its front pincer-like legs to catch its prey. Its tail actually acts as a kind of 'snorkel', rather than a sting, so it can breathe in the water.

Species information

Statistics

Length: 3.5cm

Conservation status

Common.

When to see

January to December

About

An underwater predator, the Water Scorpion hides among dead leaves where it waits to ambush its prey (such as tadpoles and small fish) with its grabbing pincer-like legs. It is known to bite, but its not very painful for humans. It lives in still-water ponds and lakes, and is common around the shallow edges of garden ponds. It is not a true scorpion and is a poor swimmer, preferring to move by walking. Mating takes place in spring and the females lay their eggs at night among algae or plants just below the surface of the water. The larvae hatch and progress to adulthood through a series of moults known as an 'incomplete metamorphosis'.

How to identify

The Water Scorpion is dark brown with large, pincer-like front legs, a flattened, leaf-shaped body, and a long 'tail', giving it the appearance of its namesake.

Distribution

Widespread.

Did you know?

The long 'tail' of the Water Scorpion is actually a siphon used for breathing: it protrudes above the water's surface and acts just like a snorkel.

How people can help

Whether you live in town or country, you can help to look after garden wildlife by providing food, water and shelter. To find out more about encouraging wildlife into your garden, visit our Wild About Gardens website: a joint initiative with the RHS, there's plenty of facts and tips to get you started. To encourage invertebrates, amphibians and other wetland wildlife into your garden, try having a wildlife-friendly pond and leaving piles of logs for hibernating animals. To buy bird and animal food, feeders and homes, visit the Vine House Farm website - an award-winning wildlife-friendly farm which gives 5% of all its takings to The Wildlife Trusts.