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They get their name from swimming rapidly in circles when they feel threatened. There are approximately 700 different species throughout the world. They are interesting to watch. They can even swim under the water when alarmed.
Whirligigs have short, clubbed antennae, and two pairs of compound eyes. Some believe that one set can see above the water, while the other set can see below the water.
Their adult length is ¼” to ¾”. While they are small, they are carnivorous and scavenge cleaning the water of dead and dying insects. They also help to control other aquatic invertebrate populations. Some of the food fare for the whirligig consists of land-lubber bugs that stray into the water. Not only do they dine on dead bugs, but also on wounded ones as well. On the other side of the coin, their larvae are eaten by fish and other predators.
Predators of the whirligigs include fish, large mouthed bass especially like them, and birds. While they exude chemicals, especially testosterone, cortisone, and organic compounds that are distasteful. In small amounts it might not be so noticeable, but if several are downed, then it can become quite an obvious distasteful experience.
The whirligig beetle is found in ditches, canals, ponds, and other slow moving bodies of water. Because many wetlands are being drained, the food chain is, therefore, being affected.