Can Bugs Drown?

Many bugs can stay alive under water for quite a while, and of course some bugs are related to sea creatures like shrimp.

Can bugs drown? Yes, virtually all air-breathing bugs will drown (well, suffocate) eventually. Here are the basics:

  • Insects, like most other land-dwelling creatures, need oxygen to breathe. 
  • However, they also need air to float on the water’s surface. 
  • If an insect is trapped underwater and doesn’t have access to the surface, it will eventually drown. 

Here we’ll take a closer look at what happens when bugs drown, why it often seems like they can survive for ages underwater, and why they sometimes wind up in watery graves.


The Science Behind Bugs Drowning 

Bug drowning is a process that occurs when an insect or other small invertebrate is submerged in water and cannot escape. The water pressure becomes too great for the bug to fight against and eventually drowns.

Bug drowning is a process that occurs when an insect or other small invertebrate is submerged in water and cannot escape.

The science behind bug drowning is quite simple. Water molecules are attracted to each other and exert a force known as surface tension. This force acts like a sheet of rubber stretched over a drum and resists any object from penetrating it.

Bug bodies are relatively large compared to the size of water molecules, so they naturally push against the surface tension.

However, when a bug is submerged in water, the weight of the water above it becomes too great. The surface tension can no longer support the bug’s weight and sinks into the liquid. The water molecules keep attaching themselves, pushing against the bug’s body until it is overwhelmed.

The bug’s struggles are futile, it eventually runs out of air, and it suffocates or drowns.


Can Bugs Drown? Do They Die Instantly Once They Drown?

So, do bugs die instantly once they drown? Well, it depends on the bug.

There are bugs like water striders that can easily walk along the surface of the water, using the surface tension as support for their legs. It would be tough to drown these guys without somehow damaging their legs.

Many bugs, like water beetles and fearsome giant water bugs, can stay underwater for quite some time and will only die if they cannot surface for air. 

Other bugs, like dragonflies and damselflies, drown fairly quickly since they can’t hold their breath for very long.

In general, most bugs will drown within a few minutes if they’re submerged in water, and it will not take long before they die.

In general, most bugs will drown within a few minutes if they’re submerged in water, and it will not take long before they die.

But wait. How long does it take a bug to suffocate?

The time it takes for a bug to suffocate varies depending on the size of the bug and the amount of oxygen in the water. In general, it takes a few minutes for a bug to die from suffocation.

Bug Respiration

Most bugs do not have lungs like humans do, and use other organs for respiration. For example, cockroaches breathe through their legs through structures called spiracles.

And they can close off the air access points while in the water, enabling them to survive submersion for many minutes before running out of air.


What Happens to a Bug’s Body After It Drowns?

When a bug drowns, its body will first go into shock. This is because the water will cut off the oxygen to the brain and lose “consciousness” reasonably quickly. Once the bug’s body has stopped moving, the water will slowly fill its respiratory cavities, causing it to drown. 

Once it has drowned, the body will begin to decompose. This is because the water will speed up the process of bacterial decay. The process is accelerated by bacteria that thrive in waterlogged environments. 

Finally, the body will start to bloat and split open due to the gas produced by the bacteria. The bug’s body will eventually disintegrate, leaving behind only the exoskeleton. 


Why Do Bugs Sometimes Wind Up in Watery Graves?

There are a few possible explanations. 

  • One is that the bug flew too close to the surface of the water and got caught up in the surface tension.
  • Another possibility is that the bug fell into the water while flying and couldn’t get out. It’s also possible that the bug was resting on a leaf or branch that broke and fell into the water. 
  • The bug could also have been looking for a place to lay its eggs and mistakenly flew into the water. Some bugs, like dragonflies, will lay their eggs in ponds and other bodies of water.

Whatever the reason, if a flying bug finds itself fully in the water, it will often have a hard time escaping.

Many will eventually drown, though it can to take a surprisingly-long time.

So next time you see a poor little bug struggling in a puddle of water, remember that it’s not just trying to avoid getting wet – it’s fighting for its life.


Why Do Some Bugs Take So Long To Drown?

Sometimes it can seem like a bug is stuck in the water for hours, not dying but also unable to escape the water. Maybe you’ve got a fly that landed in your toilet, or a spider in your sink.

Sometimes these insects cannot escape the surface tension of the water, and eventually run out of energy to stay above water and finally die.


FAQs

1. Do all bugs take the same time to drown?

No, different bugs have different amounts of time they can spend underwater before drowning. For example, a water strider can stay on the water’s surface for a long time because it has hydrophobic hairs on its legs that repel water.

On the other hand, a ladybug can only stay submerged for a short time before it runs out of air and drowns.

2. How do scientists know how long different bugs can stay underwater?

Scientists put bugs in tubes filled with water and time how long it takes for them to drown. They also look at how much air is in the bug’s tracheal system, which is how insects breathe. The more air the tracheal system holds, the longer the bug can stay submerged.

3. Can all bugs swim?

No, not all bugs can swim. Some bugs, like the water strider, have particular adaptations for walking on water. Other bugs, like the beetle, sink to the bottom of the water and drown.


Conclusion 

The insect world is a strange place!

Bugs can live in some of the harshest environments on Earth, but they’re often not equipped to deal with something as simple as water.

When a bug falls into water, it will usually drown fairly quickly. This is because the weight of the water above it becomes too great, and the surface tension can no longer support the bug’s weight. 

While it’s not a common occurrence, yes! Bugs can drown. Insects, like most other creatures, need oxygen to breathe. However, they also need air to float on the water’s surface.

If a bug is trapped underwater and doesn’t have access to the surface, it will eventually drown.