Notonecta maculata


Up to nearly 2 cm in size, and commonly called backswimmers because they swim upside down and are often seen at the surface of the water. Notonecta maculata is light brown in colour with a number of dark markings and large reddish eyes.  It is  distinguished from other members of the genus by mottled brick-coloured forewings. It often looks silvery as air becomes trapped in a layer of bristles covering the lower surface. The powerful oar-like hind legs are modified for swimming; they are long, flattened and fringed with hairs.

Similar Species

There are four UK Notonecta species and whilst they look broadly similar they can all be separated in the field from the different elytral markings. See ID Aids below.

Identification difficulty
Identification aids



Water dwelling, in ponds, cattle troughs, etc.

When to see it

All year round.

Life History

Backswimmers are predators that attack prey as large as tadpoles and small fish. The forelegs, which are short and strong, are used for grabbing prey.

UK Status

Widespread but less frequent than the Common Backswimmer, Notonecta glauca.

VC55 Status

Fairly frequent in Leicestershire and Rutland.

Leicestershire & Rutland Map


Yellow squares = NBN records (all known data)
Coloured circles = NatureSpot records: 2020+ | 2015-2019 | pre-2015

UK Map