by Matthew Cobb
The insect in this picture (from Wikipedia) is a bug (and I *mean* bug – it’s a member of the order Hemiptera) that lives under water. This picture is taken just at the surface of the water – the insect is at the bottom, the reflection is at the top. The bug is variously known as a water boatman (in the UK), but also in the US as a backswimmer (for fairly obvious reasons).
Earlier this week, BBC Radio 4 broadcast a rather poetic account of the sounds to be heard underwater in Pollardstown Fen in Ireland (see below), in a programme entitled ‘The Song of the Water Boatman’, as part of its Nature series.
‘Acoustic ecologist and sound artist’ Tom Lawrence, who sadly died in October (eerily, his website gives no sign of this), spent over a year recording the noises made by various insect species in the fen, including the water boatman: ‘Tapping, knocking, hammering, drumming, clicking, creaking, cracking, croaking, buzzing, fuzzing, bleeping, winding, reeling, revving, puttering, pattering, humming, pulsing, squealing, shrieking’. Presented by Paul Evans, along with his pal Jim Schofield, this marvellous 30 minute programme will take you into another world. Put your headphones on, shut your eyes, and listen…
You can access the programme, from anywhere in the world, here.