Adults are 5-18 mm long, with an elongate oval and usually dark-gray body. These bugs are called water boatmen. They swim on their ventral surface and use the long posterior legs to move through the water. These insects inhabit freshwater ponds and lakes; one species occurs in brackish water. Most species feed on algae; a few are predators of aquatic invertebrates. Water boatmen obtain air at the water surface and carry a supply under the wings or around the body. The name of the typical genus, Corixa, is evidently from the Greek word coris, meaning a bug. It was probably used because these insects produce an odor similar to the bed bug.

Eggs are attached to the stems ofaquatic plants, sometimes by means of a glutinous substance. Corixa is a large genus and distributed nearly worldwide, and has species in diverse habitats. Adults are strong flyers and travel between favorable habitats. They can leap into the air from the water, take flight, and move between aquatic habitats at night. They often collect in large numbers at outdoor lights in summer. Masses of eggs from Arctocorixa abdominalis and A. mercenaria are collected and used as food by some Mexican people. Adult corixids are collected and used as food in Mexico and Egypt.

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