There are many varieties of the creatures, but they are all classified simply as water mites.
Water mites are members of the spider family, but with one distinct difference.
Whereas spiders have two separate portions to their bodies, these mites have only one.
Their smooth, flat bodies appear as specks in the water; sometimes near the surface as they come up for air, other times at the bottom of the water.
Some of these creatures are excellent swimmers, smoothly gliding through the water as their eight legs work furiously to propel them.
Others are content to poke among plant debris on the water's floor.
Plant life provides a great playground for all mites, as they can frequently be found crawling around on the leaves whether on the surface or submerged.
The larvae of water mites can be considered to be quite the traveler.
As parasites, a host is required for them to live; attaching themselves to the host which is not only a food source for the larvae, but also a means of transportation.
The host will be an aquatic larva of some sort; often, fly, mosquito, dragonfly and stone fly will be the target.
As adults, most of the water mites are carnivorous and predatory in nature; seeking out and feasting upon worms and insects.
Since they do not have the ability to chew, mites attach themselves to their chosen host using their piercing mouthparts and proceed to extract the life juices from that host.
Some types of mites are more similar to dust mites; non-threatening to any species, and feeding only on discarded casts or organic material.
Because of the numerous species of water mites, it is difficult to detail a single life cycle span that applies to all.
They all begin as eggs, hatch out to parasitic larvae and transform into two separate and consecutive nymph stages before emerging as adults.
It is the time period for each stage to occur that remains a mystery for many water mites.
The eggs are lain in the water; either on leaves or on clams, mussels or sponges, where they will hatch somewhere within a six week period depending on the temperature of the water and the mite species.
Water mites act as a source of food for many predators, as well.
Small fish, water insects, water fleas and more feed freely on the vast numbers of mites.
While there are many different varieties of the creature, each with their own characteristics and habits, those small specks in ponds and streams are all part of the family of water mites.