4″ long big eyed bug in my flower garden
April 1, 2010
First I’d like to say thank you for providing this website. It gives very descriptive information on a wide variety of bugs from all over the world. Out of the 10-15 sites I visited this one is the best by far.
I live in Southern Ontario, Canada, in a rural area that is damp due to the numerous ponds located on my 170 acre property. It is springtime here and it is a warm sunny day with a temperature of 21degrees celsius.
I was pulling grass and weeds from my flower garden in front of my house and found this interesting bug hiding between a garden ornament and a rock. I gently pulled it out with my garden shovel and placed it on top of the rock in the sunlight so I could take a picture. It didn’t seem to like the sunlight or perhaps it was the warmth of the rock I put it on. It kept trying to crawl back to a dark and cooler place and it didn’t move too quickly. The body of this bug is 3″ long and 1″ wide with large black eyeballs and a flat profile. It’s body looks hard (I didn’t touch it with my hand) and is dark grey in colour with a black tear drop shaped marking near it’s tail end. I noticed a reddish spot on the tear drop shape but it almost looks like a scrape instead of a marking. It has two 2″ long, large legs at the front, stemming from under it’s head, that look claw-like. It also has four other legs which have thick fur on them. The two front legs each have one pointed cl aw at the end and the back four legs each have two claws at their end. They remind me of the toenails on a cat. Not sure if it has wings but it certainly looks as if it does because it’s upper body has a line down the center as if it could separate.
I’ve looked around your website but haven’t found this particular bug (unless I skipped a page) and I would greatly appreciate it if you could help me to identify it. I’ve attached two photos.
Thank you very much for your time.
Mrs. MJ Timmerman
(Southern Ontario) 30 kms North of Kingston, Ontario Canada

Giant Water Bug

Dear Mrs. Timmerman,
Your description in the subject line was so perfect, we actually identified your insect before even opening your letter.  We receive countless requests for the identification of your insect, the Giant Water Bug, also called a Toe-Biter or Electric Light Bug, and we have tagged it Top Ten.  This aquatic species is capable of flight, and it is often encountered far from a water source.  The common name Toe-Biter is due to the number of swimmers in lakes and ponds who are bitten on the toe when accidentally stepping on a Giant Water Bug.  The bite is reported to be quite painful, though we rarely get a report of a person actually being bitten.  We do caution our readership that though they are not aggressive, they should be handled with care.

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14 Responses to Toe-Biter

  1. Mrs. MJ Timmerman says:

    Thank you for getting back to me so quickly with the information about this bug.
    My 2 dogs sniffed at it and jumped back when it moved, giving me the impression that it may be a biter. I assumed right and am glad I didn’t aggravate it in any way.
    Now that you have posted this I see the large amount of messages and photos describing the Giant Water Bug. I guess I did skip a page, or 12. lol
    It makes sense as to why it is here with all the water we have around. It must have been drawn to my outside light which explains why it would be in the flowerbed closest to my house.
    I am a bit surprised that this is the first one I’ve seen at my home considering I’ve lived here for 14 years now. Preferably I won’t see another like it for at least that long. Only because I am not a bug lover and that’s one ugly bug. I would never kill anything, and did release this big guy to live out it’s life, hopefully unharmed.
    Kudos for creating and providing the BEST bug site on the internet!

  2. Trace says:

    I have one living in my pool and couldn’t wait to ID it. What doesn’t seem to be pictured in the other photos is that a “stinger” protrudes out the back and when Aggravated it splits to two and this “stinger” is usually curled upward like a scorpion. When it dives it pulls the stinger inside itself. Our bug is a least 2″ in length and over 2.5″ in width from point of longest leg to point of longest leg.

    • bugman says:

      Dear Trace,
      What you have mistaken for a stinger is actually a snorkel-like breathing tube.

  3. Ezzarat says:

    We get these Toe-Biters down at our local service station. I’m assuming they are attracted by the lights. When I first saw one I was fascinated but had no idea what it was. After browsing this website for a little while I found out what it was. I’ve been checking this website regularly ever since.

  4. Sarah says:

    Hi all,

    I was curious to know if anyone knows whether or not these guys can stay alive in ice? I work on a pond site which we freeze in the winter to create an ice skating area, and we were drilling into the 5″ thick ice and found one of these bugs, still alive! We put it in some bushes but it died shortly after.

    • bugman says:

      It is our understanding that Toe-Biters can pass the winter in water under the ice. According to Nature North: “Adult water bugs overwinter in water bodies.” No explanation is provided. We presume that the cold water lowers the metabolism, allowing the Toe-Biter to enter a state of suspended animation.

  5. Bern Grush says:

    I say one of these in the middle of Toronto (near Avenue Road and Lawrence Ave.), beside the sidewalk, on its back trying to right itself. I helped it flip itself (with a stick, not knowing anything about it), and it ambled off and flopped on its back again. I thought it might be dying, as it moved so slowly. Then it righted itself and continued on. Is it not unusual for such a creature to get so deep into a city?

  6. nick says:

    crazy i seen one of these in a parking lot and couldnt believe the size of it but now that im thinking about it , I seen of these when i was a kid and it scared me

  7. Andrea says:

    what could happen if they bite a dog?

  8. Trevor says:

    I Just had one of these suckers fly around inside my truck when I was driving down the Highway. I couldn’t get pulled over quick enough to let it out.

  9. Deb says:

    My dog just found one out in our backyard. I think it bit her as she jumped and yellped. She seems fine but I am not too sure about the bug. I brought her into our house and hope the bug was able to survive. We were just putting up our pool and I think it must have been attracted to the wet ground around it. Our dog seems fine. No after effects noted.

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