Do Giant Water Bugs Bite? Uncovering the Truth

folder_openHemiptera, Insecta
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Giant water bugs are fascinating creatures known for their size and predatory behavior. These insects can reach up to 2-3 inches in length, making them one of the largest insects in North America. Commonly found in ponds and ditches, they are equipped with strong pincer-like front appendages for capturing and holding prey.

While their appearance might suggest otherwise, giant water bugs are not typically aggressive towards humans. However, when handled or accidentally stepped on, they can inflict an excruciatingly painful bite. Due to this defensive behavior, they are also known as “toe-biters.” It’s essential to exercise caution around these insects and avoid handling them without proper protection.

Giant Water Bug Anatomy

Physical Characteristics

The Giant Water Bug is an oval-shaped insect, achieving lengths of up to 2-3 inches. They have powerful front appendages useful for capturing prey and flattened rear legs with tiny hairs, or cilia, for propelling through water.

  • Size: Up to 2-3 inches long
  • Shape: Oval and flattened
  • Color: Brownish-green

Piercing-Sucking Mouthparts

Rather than having jaws or mouthparts for chewing, Giant Water Bugs possess a needle-like rostrum for feeding. This structure injects enzyme-rich saliva into their prey, liquefying their insides which are then sucked up by the bug.

  • Needle-like rostrum
  • Enzyme-rich saliva
  • Liquefies prey’s insides

Breathing Tubes and Spiracles

Giant Water Bugs reside in aquatic environments, including ponds and ditches. They breathe through abdominal appendages, that act as breathing tubes, and spiracles which allow for gas exchange while submerged underwater.

  • Abdominal appendages for breathing
  • Spiracles for gas exchange
  • Aquatic habitats
Characteristics Giant Water Bug
Size Up to 2-3 inches
Shape Oval and flattened
Color Brownish-green
Mouthparts Needle-like rostrum
Feeding Mechanism Liquefying prey’s insides
Respiration Abdominal appendages & spiracles
Habitat Ponds and ditches

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Alligator Tick


giant water bug
Did you know that in Florida, giant water bugs are also called “alligator ticks”?

Thank you for the fascinating bit of information Fred. This is new for us.

Letter 2 – Bug of the Month: June 2008 – Giant Water Bug


Hoping you can help us to identify this bug. We were having a memorial day cookout, and someone almost stepped on it – looks to me like a type of cockroach, or maybe some flavor of click beetle, but I cannot figure it out for sure. Thanks for any tips/help 🙂 Seemed to have 2 sets of wings, with a leathery covering, and it would “bob” it’s head while we were checking it out. It was approximately 3-4 inches long.

Electric Light Bug
Unknown Beetle
We found this beetle on our deck. We have never seen one like this before and was wondering if we can let it go or if it is a hazard to this area. We live in Kitchener, Ontario Canada Thankyou
Dave Crawford

Dear Dan and Dave,
After receiving numerous requests for the identification of the Giant Water Bug, Lethocerus americanus, in the past week, we decided to make it the featured Bug of the Month for June 2008. We get requests for the identification of Giant Water Bugs throughout the year from around the world, including many from our forces in Iraq. We are writing this posting on Memorial Day, and can only hope that our letters from Iraq begin to taper off as our troops return home. It should be noted that letters sent to us from other places in the world are different species, but all Giant Water Bugs look very similar. In Thailand, where they grow very large, they are eaten, so you can find entries on them on our Edible Insect pages. One other common name for the Giant Water Bug is Electric Light Bug because they are attracted, sometimes in great numbers, to lights. They have been known to decend in swarms to outdoor sporting events and brightly lit parking lots. The common name Toe-Biter has just fallen out of favor with us after we were chastised by a reader for saying that the bite of the Giant Water Bug (and its relative the Water Scorpion) is painful. The bite is painful, but these insects only bite human occasionally. Equally streamlined in the water and in the air, the Giant Water Bug is quite clumsy on land.

Letter 3 – Giant Water Bug


Southern Saskatchewan toe-biter
Here’s some pictures of him, since you seem to like them. I noticed him out having a stroll on my deck. I do have a pond in the back yard but have never seen anything like this before. I was able to identify it by referencing pictures on your super awesome site! My shoe is a size 8 by the way.

Hi Kris,
Thanks for sending us a nice sharp photo. We are getting Toe-Biter photos much later in the season this year, perhaps because of global warming.

Letter 4 – Australian Toe-Biter


Could you please identify the attached photo of a bug we found in Katherine, Northern Territory, Australia. The bug was six cm long, from the top of it’s nose to the tip of it’s tail, not including the other bits that stick out.
Thanks for your help bugman

This is a Giant Water Bug, also known as a Toe-Biter or Electric Light Bug. They are aquatic and also fly.

Letter 5 – Giant Water Bug


Large, dark brown, beetle-like bug with no antenae
We found this bug on the side of the brick house after dark on a warm September evening. My dog was trying to eat it, so we caught it and began trying to identify it without avail. Please help us identify this bug. Our children always like to find new things and learn about what they are. We have found many strange things where we live and love to find out what they are.
Curious family in Northern Utah
Brigham City, Utah (Box Elder County; Northern Utah)


Dear Curious Family,
Your visitor is a Giant Water Bug, also known as a Toe-Biter or Electric Light Bug.  There is a related species in Thailand that is even larger that is considered edible and frequently eaten. While our own local population would also be edible, until food prices become exorbitantly high, or until food shortages are such that our gluttonous population doesn’t have enough to eat, we doubt many homemakers will be adding Toe-Biters to the dinner menu despite them being high in protein and low in fat.

Letter 6 – Ferocious Water Bug


Subacuatic E.T.
Hello Lisa and Daniel:
What is this???? It was near a fresh water stream in Santa Rosa Canyon, northeast from Ensenada. When I tried to take the second picture the bug jumped to the water and disappeared. This insect was flat, very wide, almost rounded shape, and about two inches from head to tail. And, are those eggs?
Thank you!
Antonio Carbajal R.

Hi Again Antonio,
We see from a later email you have already identified your Ferocious Water Bug, Abedus species. This western species is interesting in that the female cements her eggs to the back of the male. Here is a website that includes information on raising this insect in an aquarium.

Letter 7 – Another Toe-biter from Canada


What kind of BEETLE is this???
Location:  New Brunswick, Canada
September 30, 2010 7:26 am
This BEETLE was found behind a Military Building at BASE GAGETOWN in New Brunswick, Canada. No one could indentify this fellow, except to say that it may be a Beetle from the STAG Family?? Can you help us identify our ”little” Friend?? He only stayed long enough for me to get his picture, then he was off to the races…
Signature:  Terry


Hi Terry,
Identification requests for Toe-Biters or Giant Water Bugs are pouring in from Canada.  Conditions must be right for flight as these aquatic insects spend most of their time under water hunting for prey.  Because they are attracted to lights, they are also known as Electric Light Bugs.

Letter 8 – ?Como se dice "Toe Biter" en Espa


Toe Biter?
We saw this frightening thing while vacationing in Ixtapa, Mexico. It was aggressive and about 5-6 inches long and found near the beach. Is it a toe biter? We have video if it would help!
Shawn & Steffy

Hi Shawn and Steffy,
This is most certainly a Giant Water Bug. We would love to know if there is a colorful Spanish name for the Toe Biter.

When we asked a local what it was, he said something along the lines of “cincero” or “cincera”, but we weren’t able to find a translation for it!

Letter 9 – Electric Light Bug


giant water bug?
I live in Dowagiac Michigan. About a hundred yards from Indian Lake. Their is a road between me and the lake. We found this big bug in our lawn. What is it? Our lawn is not watered and it has not rained in this part of Michigan for over two weeks. My book says it is a giant water bug, is it? I love your sight. I look here often to help me identify bugs I find in the woods. Thank you
Shirley Larson.

Hi Shirley,
We just recently removed the photo of a Giant Water Bug in the genus Lethocerus from our homepage since we received so few identification requests this summer and we needed the room. Normally, we get numerous requests for this distinctive insect, also known as an Electric Light Bug and the potentially misleading Toe-Biter. Toe-Biter implies that the Giant Water Bug stalks people for the purpose of biting, when in fact, bites occur when mishandling or accidentally through contact. The bite is painful enough to warrant the moniker Toe-Biter.

Letter 10 – Giant Water Bug


found in our garage
My husband and his brother were working in our garage when they found this bug….thanks to your web site I was able to identify it. It scared them both! We live in Rochester, NY.
Traci and Jim

Hi Traci and Jim,
You had the photo labled Water Scorpion when this is in fact a close relative the Giant Water Bug, Lethocerus americanus. It is also commonly called a Toe-Biter.

Letter 11 – Electric Light Bug


big bug
My name is Chad, and i found this bug in Midland, Michigan last night. It was in a Walmart Parking lot. within 300 feet of a bunch of pallets of top soil, mulch, roses, etc. I am guessing it is not from this area, and was brought in with the pallets of mulch. can you help me identify it?

Hi Chad,
This is a Giant Water Bug, also known as an Electric Light Bug or Toe-Biter. Lethocerus americanus is capable of delivering a nasty bite if mishandled. It was probably attracted to the parking lot lights.

thanks, you have a great site. after looking for a while i came across some pictures of it on your site. I have already released it at the edge of the pond outside, it went straight for the water. seemed content there. later

Letter 12 – Electric Light Bug


another bug question
Hi again:
A friend just sent me a photo of a bug that showed up on the screen door at his cottage on Kahshe Lake in southern Ontario this weekend. He says it was almost as long as his hand. I can’t find a photo of it on the web and am hoping you can help us to identify it.
Thanks again
Wendy Moore

Hi Wendy,
I needed to open your email right away as we have a friend from way back with the same name. This is a Giant Water Bug or Toe-Biter, or Electric Light Bug. They get that last name from the fact that they are attracted to lights at night, probably the reason it was on your friend’s door. Watch out, they bite. They are excellent swimmers and very adept at flying despite their clumsy movements on land. Regarding your caterpillar question, we will probably wait the two years before your mom develops the film.

Letter 13 – Giant Water Bug


My dog found this in our front porch area, in central Oregon. It was in the rocks, near a deck. I have no idea what it is….can you help??
Thanks, No Bugs Allowed

Dear Barbers,
You don’t have a beetle, but a Giant Water Bug, also know as a Toe-Biter or Electric Light Bug. They can bite painfully, are the largest North American True Bug, and are equally at home in the air or in the water, but they are clumsy on the land.

Letter 14 – Giant Water Bug


Hello, My name is Tara and I have a large bug I need identified. It is about two inches long and an inch across. I can see that it has wings under its outer shell. It only has four legs but has two more things on its head and I didn’t know if they were legs or not. Thank you for your time in looking at my bug and I love your site it is really helpful.
Tara J.

Hi Tara,
Many people react with an “Eeeeewwww” when encountering a Giant Water Bug, also known as a Toe-Biter. They will bite more than just toes, though. Glad you were unscathed.

Letter 15 – Giant Water Bug


Beetle (?) found in Houston, Texas
Dear Bugman,
My 7 year old son found this monster on the patio last night. My husband and I have never seen anything like it, and we’re both native Houstonians. I’ve been through your site, but don’t see any other beetles that look like this one. Can you identify it?
The bug is enjoying his first day of 1st grade right now – my son took him for Show and Tell. My son’s teacher will take good care of him.
Thanks so much!
The Nance Family

Hi Nance Family,
Sorry for the delay. You have a Giant Water Bug, also known as an Electric Light Bug or the well deserved common name of Toe-Biter. They will bite and painfully.

Letter 16 – Giant Water Bug


Mystery Bug in Northern Vermont
This bug appeared on the porch screen of our cottage in Westmore, Vermont (Bald Hill Pond area) elevation ~1900 ft in July, 2003 any ideas what it is? It also has wings since it flew.
Allan MacDonald

Hi Allen
You have a Giant Water Bug or Electric Light Bug, also known as a Toe-Biter. They rightly earned all of their common names, and they can deliver a nasty bite.

Letter 17 – Giant Water Bug


Bug Identification
I live in Nova Scotia, Canada and I took this photo by a stream in my neighbourhood. I have looked on your site and it appears to be a giant water bug, but this one was only approximately the size of a thumb nail. I have grown up around brooks and lakes and this was the first and only time that I have ever seen one of these bugs. Is it possible that it’s just an immature bug or this is a different species altogether? Thanks.

Hi Lindsay,
Not only are there different species of Giant Water Bugs, there are different genera as well. This looks like a member of the genus Belostoma whose representatives are much smaller than those in Lethocerus.

Letter 18 – Electric Light Bug


Toe Biter
came across several of these guys in the parking lot of a local supermarket. Thanks for helping with the identification as Toe Biters – we had never seen such before and having them fly into you at speed before scuttling off was quite shocking. Usual for them to be out and about in upstate New York in mid October?
Lat: 41°56’48.77"N
Long: 73°54’1.63"W

Hi Andy,
We believe that Toe Biters will overwinter under the ice and fly on warm days, hence they are often spotted early in the year as well as late in the season. They are also called Electric Light Bugs, probably the reason they were in the parking lot.

Letter 19 – Electric Light Bugs


Hi bug man!
My name is Stephanie, and I live in a suburban neighborhood in Birmingham, Alabama. I have a question about a bug that I have noticed sitting at my front door every night for the past week. It only comes out at night, and boy is it hideous looking. For starters, this thing is huge. It appears to be black on its back, yet when turned over, seems to have a lighter-colored abdomen. Also, to make it even uglier, it has two long siphon-like extensions that come out of its (i guess) “head,” and these appear to be a color similar to its (?) abdomen. I have not yet been able to approach it, for I have a fear of strange insects (and some not-so-strange ones!)…so my details are few. It apparently likes our porch light, for, as I’ve said, it only comes out at night. A few nights ago, my fiance drove me home so he could take a look at it. He attempted to kill it, spraying it with Raid. It got very upset and flew all around my front porch, banging into the door and anything in its path. (sidenote: when it hit the door, it made a very “hard” sound, as if it were a rock) After about 5 minutes, it stopped flying around and landed by our front door mat, appearing to be dead. Wanting to investigate exactly what this strange bug was, I told my fiance not to pick it up and said that I would take a look at it the next day, when it would be light outside. So, the next day, I went down….and no bug. I assumed that possibly another animal of some sort had taken it and had it for supper, and that was that. Yet, tonight, again, as I returned home at around 1am, it was back in the EXACT same place that it had been the past 5 nights. I am so terrified of it, that I will not enter my parents’ house through the front door as long as this thing is there, guarding the door….so I go around to the back (where it’s dark) and enter there! If you could, please, please, please, tell me any information that you might have regarding what the heck this nasty-looking thing is. Thanks a bunch,
Dear Stephanie,
You have written such an amazing letter, I only hope I can help you. The siphon, as well the habit of being attracted to lights leads me to think it might be a Giant Water Bug,
Lethocerus americanus, sometimes called an Electric Light Bug. We have been getting several letters about them, especially from the South. They have a common name, “Toe Biters” due to their habit of biting the toes of swimmers. They are aquatic, and equally at home in the air or water. Here is a photo:

Letter 20 – Giant Water Bug


this bug?
Good day,
My Husband found these Bugs (about 12 of them) on our deck in Wynndel B.C.. I think they were attracted to our “Bug Light”. Could you please let us know what they are.
Thank you


Your insects are Giant Water Bugs, aquatic predators that also fly quite well.  They are also known as Electric Light Bugs because they are attracted to lights, sometimes in great numbers.  The other common name, Toe-Biter, speaks for itself.

Letter 21 – Drawing of a Toe-Biter


Bug in Southeast Georgia
Location: Southeast Georgia north Florida
November 7, 2010 5:25 pm
I moved to Camden county GA I work in Charlton County there is a Bug that no one can tell me the name of.
It looks like a big Roach the smallest one I have seen is about 1-1/2 inch to about 3 inch long about 1/2 inch to 1 inch wide with these big grabbers or claws in front sorry i am not a artist but it looks something like this
Signature: dove

Toe-Biter we presume

Dear dove,
There is little doubt in our mind that you have drawn a Toe-Biter or Giant Water Bug.  We are posting a photograph with your drawing and linking to the Bug of the Month posting of the Toe-Biter from 2008.


Letter 22 – Electric Light Bug flies into house


Subject: Weird Looking Insect
Location: Mission, Texas
December 17, 2012 9:53 pm
This bug flew into my kitchen while the door was open. It has a red belly and big black eyes, pretty weird and cool looking. Just curious as to what kind of insect it is because I have never seen one like this.
Signature: Daniel Rojas

Giant Water Bug

Dear Daniel,
You were visited by one of the aquatic Giant Water Bugs in the family Belostomatidae.  We cannot determine which species from your photograph.  Giant Water Bugs are capable of flight and they are often attracted to electric lights, hence the common name Electric Light Bugs.  We suspect this individual was attracted by your kitchen light.  Handle with caution as Giant Water Bugs can deliver a painful bite if carelessly handled or if accidentally encountered while swimming or wading, leading to another common name:  Toe-Biter.

Letter 23 – Electric Light Bug


Subject:  Large Bug/Beetle?
Geographic location of the bug:  South Central Kentucky
Date: 09/28/2019
Time: 01:21 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  I would really appreciate any info about this bug. It was about 2.5 inches and the weirdest thing was that its head moved in an in and out motion like it was vibrating. It also fluttered on the ground but never flew. It did not like light. It was kind of a green/gray color. Ive lived here for ten years and have never seen one before.
How you want your letter signed:  James

Electric Light Bug

Dear James,
The Giant Water Bug or Toe-Biter is also commonly called an Electric Light Bug because they are attracted to electric lights, often in large numbers in areas like outdoor football stadiums.

Letter 24 – Tolype species


Possible Tiger Moth?
Tue, Oct 14, 2008 at 8:26 AM
These pictures taken in South Western Ontario, in mid-August. Using a black light and blanket to attract insects. Wondering if these are from the Tiger Moth family based on the tuft of ‘fur’. But i cannot tell what species. Wingspan aproximately 1 – 1.25 inches
Bug-eyed Canadian
South Western Ontario, Canada

Tolype species
Tolype species

Dear Bug-Eyed,
Your moth is in the genus Tolype meaning it is not a Tiger Moth.  The genus is part of the family Lasiocampidae, theTent Caterpillar and Lappet Moths.  BugGuide shows five species of Tolype, and we don’t feel qualified to identify your specimen to the species level.  Though you didn’t request the information, the other insect in your photo looks like a Water Boatman in the family Corixidae.

Letter 25 – Toebiter


Bite From Toe Biter
Hi bug man,
In our pool in Cleveland there are many toe-biters like 7 or 8 swimming around and nobody dares to remove them becouse we don’t know wat they do if they bite. We do know it hurts like hell but does it suck blood from humans or inject any kind of liquid?
Thank you,

Hi Tom,
Giant Water Bugs, known as Toe-Biters, do not suck blood. They do not have poison, but they do inject anesthetic saliva to subdue their prey. A combination of the pointed beak and the saliva causes the pain.

Letter 26 – Toebiter


Subject:  scary big beetle in Utah
Geographic location of the bug:  Orem Utah
Date: 04/06/2021
Time: 08:44 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  This is the biggest beetle I have ever seen in Utah. I would have thought it was a kind of cockroach but we don’t have cockroaches this far north in Utah. I poked it with a big zip tie, to see if it was alive, and it was. The zip tie made the beetle look small in the picture but the zip tie is just really big. The beetle is approximately 2 and 1/8th or 1/4th  inches long. it has two big pinchers, or legs I can’t tell, when it was resting the pincher/legs were in front of it, and when I poked it lifted its self off the ground and held them up as seen here in the picture.
How you want your letter signed:  Addy Miller


Dear Addy,
This is not a Beetle but it is the largest True Bug in North America, the aquatic Giant Water Bug or Toe-Biter.  They are alleged to have a very painful bite and more than one swimmer has encountered a Toe-Biter while wading, justifying the common name.  Though clumsy on land, they are quite agile while swimming and catching prey like small fish and tadpoles as well as other insects, and when their ponds dry out, they are capable of flying great distances in search of more standing water.

Thank you, that is very helpful.

Letter 27 – Toebiter


Subject:  Insect in Mass.
Geographic location of the bug:  Western Massachusetts
Date: 04/19/2021
Time: 12:09 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Can you help identify this large insect. It was walking a crosswalk at night.
How you want your letter signed:  M Grybko


Dear M Grybko,
This is a Toebiter, also known as a Giant Water Bug or Electric Light Bug.  This is one of the most frequent identification requests we receive.

Thank you for the quick response. I haven’t seen one before and I am over 50.

Letter 28 – Toebiter from Canada


Subject:  Huge black beetle
Geographic location of the bug:  Ontario Canada
Date: 05/26/2020
Time: 11:56 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  What is this bug?
How you want your letter signed:  Hello


This is not a Beetle.  It is anaquatic Giant Water Bug commonly called a Toe-Biter.


Letter 29 – Translation


Friends: I am writing from South America to congratulate you on your page and the task and effort you do. I’m taking the time to send you the enclosed photo of a Hemipteran (Toe-Biter) with genus and species that here we call the Gigantic Water Bed Bug.
Dr. Carlos Marzano

Letter 30 – "BIG BUG"


Hey Bugman!
My husband found a giant brown bug on our screen door. He was so impressed with it , that he brought it inside to show me and our daughter. It was 2 1/2-3 inches long. It was brown and looked like a large leaf-on it’s back and belly. It had 6 legs. The front legs almost looked like pinchers. We live in the bottom of the pan handle in Idaho. I’m from Kentucky and used to seeing big bugs-but this one blows my mind. Haven’t been able to find it on the internet-you’re my last chance. Help! Need to Know In Idaho

Dear Need to Know in Idaho,
That should be your state motto. I’m guessing a Giant Water Bug, also known as a Toe Biter or Electric Light Bug. We will soon be featuring it in a special Bug Biography section due to be posted in the next few days.

Letter 31 – Ferocious Water Bug


what is this bug/water beetle. I found it in Arizona in the Pinetop-Lakeside area.
glen b

Hi Glen,
This image is a first for our archive. This is a male Ferocious Water Bug, Abedus species. They are found in Mexico, California and Arizona. The female cements the eggs to the males back, just like in your photo. They are ferocious predators.

Letter 32 – Giant Fishkiller from Australia


big scary looking bug!!?!?!
Location: South Australia
April 3, 2011 5:45 pm
This bug was found in a container that was shipped to Bunnings (local hardware store in Australia). it is in a white bucket with base diameter approx 250mm. local quarantine guys came to pick it up and said it was a ”standard bug found in the waterways of Queensland…..” and took it away. The guy from bunnings said, ”the container didn’t even come from Queensland???”
Signature: ?????

Giant Fishkiller

Dear ?????,
This is a Giant Water Bug in the genus
Lethocerus, and they are found in many parts of the world, including Australia.  In North America, the common names include Electric Light Bug because they are attracted to lights at night, and Toe-Biter because they will bite if carelessly handled or accidentally stepped on while swimming.  The Australian Museum website provides another common name that is new to us, and perhaps unique to Australia:  Giant Fishkiller.  Giant Water Bugs are predatory and they will prey upon almost any small aquatic creatures they can catch, including small fish.  Your letter did not indicate the source of the container.

Letter 33 – Greek Entomythology by Artemis Ippotis


Hi Daniel
I sent you a copy of the book ‘Greek Entomythology’ which you should be getting about now and I just wanted to let you know that I’ve made arrangements to have the book go on an iPhone or iPad App, at a cost of $1.99 each.  It seemed sensible, as the books are so expensive that I don’t think anyone will buy one, and in addition the colours are brighter on the screen.  The App will also have a voice-over which you can apply or not, so that makes it much easier to read as the poetry can be a bit tricky.  (this isn’t ready yet –  I’m told 8 weeks but of course I’m hoping it might be in time for Christmas)
I hope you like the book, and that if you do, you will recommend it to your friends, either as hard copy or in the App version.
Kind regards

Heracles and the Nemean Lion

Hi Diana,
Thank you for sending What’s That Bug? a complimentary copy of Greek Entomythology by Artemis Ippotis.  When you asked permission to use one of our Toe-Biter images to represent Heracles so long ago, we couldn’t really visualize your project.  Since you did not provide an image to include with this posting, we took the liberty of scanning an image from the book to use as an illustration.  We chose the Toe-Biter battling the Tarantula (Heracles and the Nemean Lion).  We appreciate all the hard work and research that went into the making of Greek Entomythology and we wish you luck with bringing this project to the attention of the public.  Please feel free to comment to this posting when there is additional information that our readership may need should they want to order Greek Entomythology by Artemis Ippotis (ISBN 978-1-4269-0050-1  90000 9 781426 900501).

Letter 34 – In Captivity


Giant Water Bug…Pet?
Greetings, from Calgary, Alberta!
I enjoy your site very much, and hope you continue to operate it for a lengthy time yet. It is most enjoyable and highly informative. I would like to benefit from your substantial practical knowledge, and inquire about the feasibility of keeping a Giant Water Bug as a pet. We have some colossally large giants just outside the city, in proximity to wetlands. (I have measured many specimens well in excess of 7 centimetres!) Since the bugs are easily, albeit carefully, caught, and magnificent to watch, I propose keeping one in a small aquarium. I would include water and ‘dry land’, and would aerate the water for the benefit of the water bug’s lunch; feeder goldfish or guppies. I would cover the aquarium with a screen mesh lid to keep the fellow from exploring the house and terrorizing the bulldog, not to mention my somewhat squeamish husband.

Is it possible to keep giant water bugs as pets? Will it likely survive in captivity? Can they be fed crickets, feeder fish, and the like? Do they require any special husbandry besides safe containment and food? Any idea how long they live? Is there any noticeable sexual dimorphism? It would be all the more interesting to include a male and a female and observe the whole life cycle, that is if they don’t kill each other first… What thinkest thou, oh guru of bug information?
Stephanie Barnes
Calgary, Alberta

Hi Stephanie,
You are so our kinda gal. Go for it. I think a 5 gallon aquarium will suffice, but larger is probably better. We would do all water about 3/4 full with maybe a few twigs projecting out. Water plants would be nice. Small fish are an excellent meal choice. Forget the crickets though. I think swimming prey is preferable. Don’t expect your pet to live much more than a year. Sexing we can’t really help you with. Two Toe-Biters in one tank should work though and you might get lucky. Please send in a photo of your aquarium when you create it. By all means, keep the cover secure.

Letter 35 – Male Predatory Water Bug with Eggs


Toe Biter?
Not sure but I guess its a Toe Biter.All the pics I saw didn’t have any eggs so Im sending you this cool pic. Found it in a pond in Gulfport Mississippi.
David Cox
Gulfport MS

Hi David,
This is a Predatory Water Bug and it has many of the same common names as the more commonly photographed genus Lethocerus, including Giant Water Bug, Electric Light Bug and Toe-Biter. This is however a different genus, Belostoma. Males of this genus carry the eggs which the female cements onto his back.

Letter 36 – Tango with a Bug in Florida


Hey bugman,
I was recently vacationing in Orlando, FLA visiting the mouse that lives there with the family. Anyhow, we ate out one night in Kissimmee and came across an interesting bug. I would estimate it at about 3 inches long excluding pinchers or claws (whatever you want to call them). It was blakc and reminded me of a large roach or long beetle. Anyhow, at it head extended 2 long pinchers or claws. They were jagged and pointed at the end. Dumby me though the bug was interesting and dcided to toe it a little with my sneaker to get it to move. It moved away but seemed a little aggressive. Anyhow that sucker, after enough stupid taunting by me, latched onto my sneaker and wouldnt let go!!! My wife, with open toed shoes ran like hell into the resteraunt swearing at me the whole way…LOL.. Do you have any idea what bug I was dancing with?
Description : Black , I believe 6 legs, long curved and jagged pinchers (claws) about 3/4 body length extending from head area, 2 -3 " in length, fairly flat insect Anyhow, thanks for reading this and I hope you can tell me what it was. I apoligize for ticking him off too…LOL!

Hi Rick,
I don’t believe I ever answered your question, and have been in the process of posting new letters, despite the whatsthatbug site being down for heavy traffic. You have encountered a Giant Water Bug also known as a Toe Biter. As you know, they deserve their name.

Letter 37 – Louse??? No: Gnat Bugs or Unique-Headed Bugs


Leaf-litter denizens
Bugman, I am stumped by this one. Hopefully you can provide an ident. I collected several of these guys from leaf-litter samples using a Berlese funnel . Along with the usual smattering of mites and springtails. They range in size around 1mm in length. Three tagma, three pair legs, possible sucking mouthparts (hypostome). Magnification is 100X and 400X respectively. Thanks.

Hi George,
We really don’t know what this is but we will post it on our Louse page in the hopes that someone can identify it.

Update (02/27/2006)
Hello Lisa and Daniel,
I was looking at your “what’s that bug” website and think I have some answers for your pages: On your louse page, the leaf litter critter is a heteropteran (true bugs) in the family Enicocephalidae (gnat bugs or unique-headed bugs). They are thought to be the most primitive heteropteran family (with fully membranous wings in the winged forms).I hope this helps! Matt Bertone
Entomology Graduate Student
Insect Molecular Systematics
North Carolina State University
Department of Entomology


  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

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  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

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Tags: Giant Water Bug

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19 Comments. Leave new

  • thecochenille
    August 12, 2010 10:15 pm

    I saw this picture and think it is an Aenictopecheidae, which is a family of the Enicocephalomorpha.

  • I go out almost every night here in Ohio to see what bugs are attracted to our backyard floodlight. I noticed that large moths and insects come most often when its overcast or close to a new moon. Must be pretty confusing when they come across parking lot lights.

  • waterfallhunter
    July 10, 2011 8:17 am

    I grew up in south Florida on the edge of the everglades, before the big development boom and remember those bugs, and yes, we called them Aligator Ticks. I remember some as large as 4-5 inches. There’s another bug even bigger that I’m curious about. It basically looked like a giant 6 inch fly with transparent delta wings and big eyes. I will post query.

  • Yes, in Florida we have a type of water bug called alligator ticks, or Alligator Fleas. They are bigger than other water bugs (Up to 5 inches) due in part to our climate. Our ones here in Florida have the most painful bite of any insect in the state.
    Great info and some pics here;

  • Yes, in Florida we have a type of water bug called alligator ticks, or Alligator Fleas. They are bigger than other water bugs (Up to 5 inches) due in part to our climate. Our ones here in Florida have the most painful bite of any insect in the state.
    Great info and some pics here;

  • Belostomátidos or Chiches acuáticas gigantes.

  • Gilbert Valdez
    November 22, 2014 8:15 am

    We were visting my inlaws in Comanche texas when we heard it hit the window. We went to investigate and found him on the screen upon further investagaing he got aggressive so we left him alone I had never seen this kind of bug.

  • I’ve got 3 so far this past WK I like to call/describe them as a eye fluid sucking mutant because of it’s long articulating front legs they look like there designed to grab an eyeball lm hoping to keep a few on their toes with this for a while! By the way it wasn’t hard to convince them when the bug was opening the lid of the container I had it in with weight on top, incredible strength and agility I’ll be sending live photos thnx. TAZ Matsqui B.C Canada

  • We were going up the Amazon a one of these landed on my wife’s shoulder,she controlled herself really well! Are they harmful?

  • Uruguayan Gringo Gaucho
    April 7, 2016 10:05 pm

    Well the good thing about these, as scary as they look (and especially popular with the ladies out there) is that they are edible. Cooking is recommended.

  • I live in B.C. Canada…I live amidst 3 wetlands…. Giant Water Beetles in big numbers. I was told it’s the girls who fly, looking for other water space to diversify the gene pool. I have never been bitten. they pinch however, with their big front legs. they are also difficult to remove from clothing, as they are velcro-like. Also difficult to remove from hysterical humans, they have landed on. They are terrible flyers.. bombadiers.

    • Thanks so much for providing your personal experience with Giant Water Bugs. Our only correction is that they are not beetles, but rather aquatic true bugs.

  • Gator ticks are all over All-Star

  • Thank you for notifying me so fast!

    Happy Thanksgiving.

  • Thank you for notifying me so fast!

    Happy Thanksgiving.

  • My husband and I have both found a very large six legged jumping bug that was brown mottled. It had very long (about 4-5 inches) antennae and three needle like things protruding from the back of it- not its back but behind it. It also jumps. I have no clue what it is. We have two small children in the house and I want to make sure this isn’t a problem.

  • Beth Moulton
    April 10, 2021 4:26 am

    We found large beetles falling around our house. I have a video of one. I have asked online and am being told ‘water beetle’ but from what I can tell it doesn’t look like them at all. It is shiny and oval shaped. Seemed only to crawl, no flying. I would love to send you the video and see what you think.


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