Giant Water Bug vs Scorpion: Unveiling the Ultimate Insect Battle

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In the fascinating world of insects, two creatures that often pique people’s interest are the giant water bug and the scorpion. Though they share some similarities, these two insects possess unique features and behaviors that set them apart.

The giant water bug is a large aquatic insect, measuring up to 2-3 inches in length. It has a dark brown color and can be found in North America. Adapted to hunting in water, this insect has flattened rear legs covered in tiny hairs, enabling it to propel itself efficiently. On the other hand, scorpions are arachnids, with eight jointed legs and a distinct venomous stinger at the end of their tails. They are mostly terrestrial and can be found in various habitats, including deserts and forests.

Both giant water bugs and scorpions are known for their predatory behavior. The former uses its pincer-like front legs to capture and hold prey in water, while scorpions rely on their venomous stingers and grasping pair of pedipalps to immobilize and crush their prey on land.

Giant Water Bug and Scorpion Overview

Belostomatidae Family

The giant water bug, part of the Belostomatidae family, is a large predatory insect that can grow up to 2-3 inches in length, mostly found in Asia, North America, and Southeast Asia source. They belong to the Hemiptera order, commonly referred to as “true bugs.”

  • Dark brown in color
  • Banded raptorial legs for catching prey
  • Powerful front legs for holding prey

Scorpions and Arachnids

Scorpions belong to the Arachnid class, found primarily in Africa, Asia, and Southeast Asia. These creatures pose a greater threat to humans due to their venomous stings.

  • 8 legs
  • Segmented tail with stinger
  • Pincer-like front appendages
Giant Water Bug Scorpion
Class Insect (Hemiptera) Arachnid
Size Up to 2-3 inches Varies, typically 2-5 inches
Range Asia, North America, Southeast Asia Africa, Asia, Southeast Asia
Habitat Aquatic environments Terrestrial, often arid regions
Venom None Potentially harmful to humans

In summary, the giant water bug is a large aquatic insect from the Belostomatidae family, while the scorpion is a venomous arachnid most commonly found in Africa and Asia. Their appearances, habitats, and risks to humans differ significantly, with the scorpion posing a greater threat due to its venom.

Habitats and Distribution

Giant Water Bug Habitats

Giant water bugs are primarily found in freshwater ponds, marshes, and slow-moving pools in streams worldwide. Vegetation mats situated just under the water’s surface are their typical hiding spots. Some examples of their habitat might include:

  • Lily pad-covered ponds
  • Marshes with abundant cattails
  • Slow-flowing streams with overhanging vegetation

Habitat features:

  • Found in freshwater environments
  • Slow-moving water
  • Adequate vegetation for hiding

Scorpion Habitats

Scorpions can be found in a variety of habitats, such as deserts, forests, and grasslands. They sometimes live communally in burrows or beneath rocks, logs, and other natural debris in different geographical locations. For example:

  • Desert areas with sparse vegetation
  • Under rocks in a forest
  • Grassy areas with suitable hiding spots

Habitat features:

  • Found in various environments
  • Terrestrial habitats
  • Hidden spots for shelter
Giant Water Bug Scorpion
Habitat type Freshwater Various
Water Slow-moving No
Vegetation Abundant Depends
Hiding spots Essential Essential

Though both giant water bugs and scorpions have specific habitat preferences, they occupy distinctly different environments. Water bugs are primarily aquatic insects and require slow-moving freshwater to thrive, while scorpions are terrestrial creatures that can adapt to an array of ecosystems.

Physical Characteristics

Giant Water Bug Features and Adaptations

  • Size: Giant water bugs can exceed 12 cm (4.5 in) in length, making them among the largest insects in North America.
  • Color: They have a dark brown color, which helps them blend in with their aquatic environment.
  • Forelegs: With their pincer-like front appendages, giant water bugs capture and hold prey (source).
  • Breathing tube: These bugs get oxygen through a snorkel-like breathing tube that extends to the water surface (source).

Scorpion Features and Adaptations

  • Abdomen: Scorpions have a segmented abdomen, which includes a stinging venomous tail that is used for defense and capturing prey.
  • Forelegs: Scorpions possess a pair of powerful pincers called pedipalps used for sensing, capturing prey, and self-defense.
  • Antennae: Unlike insects, scorpions do not have antennae, but they do have a pair of sensory organs called pectines on their abdomen.
  • Spiracles: Scorpions have a respiratory system consisting of both book lungs and spiracles, which allow them to breathe in various environments.

Comparison Table

Feature Giant Water Bug Scorpion
Size Up to 12 cm (4.5 in) Varies by species
Color Dark brown Varies by species
Forelegs Pincer-like front appendages Powerful pincers (pedipalps)
Wings Present Absent
Antennae Absent Absent
Breathing Snorkel-like breathing tube Book lungs and spiracles
Aquatic Adaptation Yes No

Predatory Behaviors

Giant Water Bug Hunting Strategies

Giant water bugs are known for their predatory tactics, efficiently hunting various aquatic invertebrates and small fish. They have a few key techniques:

Scorpion Hunting Strategies

Scorpions employ different strategies, primarily targeting terrestrial invertebrates and occasionally small vertebrates like birds:

  • Active hunting: They use their pincers and venom-laden stingers to search for and immobilize prey.
  • Burrow ambush: Scorpions can dig burrows to hide in, lying in wait for prey to pass by.
Feature Giant Water Bug Scorpion
Primary Hunting Strategy Ambush Active hunting & burrow ambush
Habitat Aquatic Terrestrial
Prey Types Small fish and aquatic invertebrates Invertebrates & small vertebrates

Below are some characteristics of both predators:

  • Giant water bugs:
    • Capture prey with pincer-like, raptorial forelegs.
    • Use their rear legs to help propel them through the water.
  • Scorpions:
    • Utilize two pincers for capturing and immobilizing prey.
    • Possess a venom-filled stinger on the tip of their tail for defense and prey capture.

Prey and Feeding Mechanisms

Giant Water Bug Prey and Consumption

Giant water bugs are known for their predatory nature, feeding on a variety of small aquatic creatures. Some examples of their prey include:

  • Tadpoles
  • Snails
  • Fish

They use their pincer-like front appendages to capture and hold their prey, while their rear legs help propel them through the water. Giant water bugs inject their prey with a venomous digestive saliva containing enzymes that liquefies the insides of their prey. They then use their straw-like proboscis to suck out the digested tissue.

Scorpion Prey and Consumption

Scorpions are predators, primarily consuming insects, arachnids and other small creatures. Their diet usually consists of:

  • Insects
  • Spiders
  • Small vertebrates

Scorpions use their pedipalps to grasp their prey, while their venomous stinger immobilizes and kills their food. They also employ powerful digestive enzymes in their saliva to break down their prey’s tissue.

Giant Water Bug Scorpion
Prey Tadpoles, snails, fish Insects, spiders, small vertebrates
Feeding Mechanism Pincer-like front appendages, venomous digestive saliva Pedipalps, venomous stinger, digestive enzymes in saliva

Overall, both giant water bugs and scorpions are efficient predators with unique methods of capturing and consuming their prey. While they primarily feed on different types of organisms, their reliance on digestive enzymes and venomous saliva makes them equally formidable hunters in their respective habitats.

Reproduction and Life Cycle

Giant Water Bug Mating and Reproduction

Giant water bugs have a unique mating process. The female deposits her eggs on the male’s back, and he carries them until they hatch 1. This fascinating process includes:

  • Females depositing up to 100 eggs or more
  • Males stroking water over the eggs with their legs
  • This behavior aiding in the hatching success of the offspring2

In their life cycle, giant water bugs undergo simple metamorphosis, going through egg, nymph, and adult stages2.

Scorpion Mating and Reproduction

Scorpions have a noteworthy mating dance known as the “promenade à deux”3. Key aspects of scorpion mating include:

  • Male and female scorpions clasping their pincers
  • Performing a dance to locate a suitable spot for female to lay her eggs
  • Male depositing a spermatophore, which the female picks up to fertilize her eggs3

Scorpions undergo an incomplete metamorphosis, consisting of an embryonic stage inside the mother, followed by a post-embryonic stage when offspring resemble small adults4.

Giant Water Bug Scorpion
Mating Process Eggs deposited on male’s back Promenade à deux dance
Metamorphosis Stages Simple (Egg, Nymph, Adult) Incomplete (Embryonic, Post-embryonic)
Unique Characteristics Males carry eggs Offspring resemble small adults

Both giant water bugs and scorpions are effective predators in their respective environments and possess unique reproductive strategies, showcasing the fascinating diversity of life in the animal kingdom.

Human Interaction

Giant Water Bugs and Human Culture

Giant water bugs are large, predatory insects found in various freshwater habitats. In some parts of the world, their presence in garden ponds can be both beneficial and harmful.

  • Beneficial: They help control populations of other unwanted insects.
  • Harmful: They may prey on small fish, tadpoles, or other aquatic creatures.

In terms of cuisine, some cultures, particularly in Southeast Asia, consider giant water bugs to be a delicacy.

  • They can be eaten whole or used to flavor sauces.
  • They provide a unique, aromatic flavor profile.

Researchers study giant water bugs to better understand their behavior, habitat, and role within ecosystems.

Scorpions and Human Culture

Scorpions are arachnids with a venomous sting, often found in hot, arid environments. Human interaction with them varies across different cultures.

  • Scorpions in science: They are studied to understand their venom and potential medical applications.
  • In the context of garden ponds: They are less commonly found around ponds than giant water bugs, but still provide a similar role in controlling unwanted insects.

When it comes to cuisine, scorpions are also consumed in some cultures:

  • They can be eaten fried, boiled, or roasted.
  • They are seen as providing health benefits in traditional medicine.

Here is a comparison table of giant water bugs and scorpions in human culture:

Aspect Giant Water Bugs Scorpions
Garden Ponds Common presence Less common
Cuisine Delicacy, flavoring Fried, boiled
Science Behavior, habitat Venom, medical

Species and Variations

Giant Water Bug Species

Giant water bugs belong to the family Belostomatidae and are members of the order Hemiptera. They’re characterized by their oval shape and pincer-like front appendages, used to capture and hold prey 1. Here are some prominent species:

  • Belostoma: Commonly found on the water surface, these aquatic insects are typically smaller than other species in the family.
  • Lethocerus: A genus that includes the largest species of giant water bugs, such as:
    • Lethocerus indicus: This species can grow up to 12 cm (4.5 inches) 2.
    • Lethocerus americanus: Found in North America, they can reach lengths of 2-3 inches 3.

Scorpion Species

Scorpions belong to the order Scorpiones and are closely related to spiders, mites, and ticks. They are night-dwelling arachnids, and there are more than 1,700 known scorpion species. Here are a few examples:

  • Water Scorpions: Also known as needle bugs or water stick insects, they belong to the family Nepidae 4. They are not true scorpions but aquatic insects that resemble walking sticks.
  • Genus Ranatra: This category of water scorpions consists of 10 species in North America 5. Their unique, mantis-like “raptorial” forelegs are used for seizing small aquatic prey.
Features Giant Water Bugs Scorpions
Classification Order Hemiptera Order Scorpiones
Habitat Aquatic, water surface Terrestrial, some are aquatic
Size Up to 12 cm (4.5 inches) Varies, generally smaller
Hunting Method Pincer-like front appendages Stinger, venom
Example Species Belostoma, Lethocerus, Ranatra Waterscorpions, Benacus

References

The giant water bug and the scorpion are two distinct types of arthropods with unique characteristics and features. Here is a comparison between them:

Giant Water Bug:

  • A member of the Hemiptera order, found in freshwater habitats1.
  • Oval-shaped with pincer-like front appendages for capturing prey2.
  • Rear legs are flattened and have tiny hairs to help propel through water3.

Scorpion:

  • Belongs to the class Arachnida and the order Scorpiones.
  • Known for their venomous stingers and claws.
  • Primarily terrestrial arthropods.
Feature Giant Water Bug4 Scorpion5
Environment Freshwater6 Terrestrial7
Size Up to 8 cm8 Varies9
Appendages Pincer-like10 Claws11
Predation True predator12 Venomous13

While both arthropods have unique hunting abilities, they serve different roles within their respective habitats.

Factors to consider when encountering these creatures include:

  • The giant water bug resides in a freshwater environment and thus poses little threat to humans unless handled improperly14.
  • Scorpions should generally be avoided due to their venom, which can be harmful, especially for children and the elderly15.

Footnotes

  1. https://texasinsects.tamu.edu/water-bug/ 2 3

  2. https://fw.ky.gov/Fish/Documents/aquatic_insects.pdf 2 3 4

  3. https://www.desertusa.com/insects/scorpion-mating.html 2 3 4

  4. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/scorpion 2 3

  5. Water Scorpions Needle Bugs; Water Stick Insects; Waterscorpions | MDC 2

  6. Water Bug – Texas A&M University

  7. Water Scorpions Needle Bugs

  8. PDF Identifying Aquatic Insects From Your Pond

  9. Water Scorpions Needle Bugs

  10. Giant Water Bug – U.S. National Park Service

  11. Water Scorpions Needle Bugs

  12. PDF Identifying Aquatic Insects From Your Pond

  13. Water Scorpions Needle Bugs

  14. Giant Water Bug | Department of Entomology

  15. Water Scorpions Needle Bugs

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com 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 – Toe-Biter

 

Giant Water Bug
Location: Rochester, NY
March 27, 2012 11:34 pm
Dear WTB,
I found this beautiful Giant Water Bug lost in my garage a few nights back. I brought her in the house to take a few pictures and set her loose on my front porch. We normally leave the garage door closed with the lights off so I have no idea how or why she decided to come in but her visit made my night. I hope you like the picture!
Signature: Jenn K

Giant Water Bug

Hi Jenn,
Thank you for sending us your photograph.  We have been calling Giant Water Bugs by the name Toe-Biters for years, and it may be an undeserving name.  We don’t believe we have ever received a report of a person being bitten anywhere by a Giant Water Bug, much less on the toe.  That name allegedly originated from hapless swimmers being bitten while swimming in lakes and ponds.  Giant Water Bugs are also called Electric Light Bugs because they are attracted to lights.  Now that temperatures have risen, albeit unseasonably early in the eastern states, we expect the reports of Giant Water Bugs to come pouring in.

Letter 2 – Toe-Biter

 

I have never seen anything like this.
Location: Venice, FL
November 24, 2011 9:31 am
Found this insect in my boat in Venice, FL. Was about 3 inches long and strong as can be. Grabbed my boat hook hard enough I felt it grab it from the other end. Boat is parked near a Date Palm tree as well. Had wings tucked in, large front claws and a huge stinger. What is it?
Signature: Thanks, Jeff

Toe-Biter

Dear Jeff,
This is a Giant Water Bug or Toe-Biter.  It is an aquatic insect that can also fly quite well.  They can often be attracted to lights at night, sometimes in great numbers, and that has earned them another common name, Electric Light Bug.

Letter 3 – Toe-Biter

 

Large flying insect with claws
Location: Tacoma, WA, USA
April 10, 2012 12:34 am
I found this giant in our front yard at 8pm this evening (04/09/12). I spotted it darting through the air and thought it was a bird. Then it hit one of our windows and landed, belly up on our front porch. I’ve been looking through online insect photo databases with no luck at all. Other details: It is about 2.5 inches long. In the photo, it is sitting on top of a quarter (to add size perspective). This bug is alive and seems to be healthy and uninjured (I’m keeping it in a ventilated jar in our back yard, with plans to release it soon). It is dormant for long periods, but starts moving around a lot more whenever I bring it inside. On closer examination, I made out what look like two little claws at the end of each leg.
I would be so grateful if you could help me identify this thing! Could it be native to this area (Washington State)? If not, where is it from?!
Signature: Lacey

Toe-Biter

Dear Lacey,
This is a Giant Water Bug in the genus
Lethocerus, commonly called a Toe-Biter or an Electric Light Bug.  It is most likely Lethocerus americanus.  These are aquatic True Bugs that are found in ponds and other bodies of water with still water, but they are also quite adept at flight as you witnessed, a characteristic that serves them well if their habitat dries out.  For more information, see this online article by Paul M. Choate courtesy of the University of Florida.

Wow, a giant water bug! Thank you so much for taking the time to get back to me. I really appreciate your response. I had no idea such an unusual bug even existed around here. Very exciting
Thanks again!
Lacey

Letter 4 – Toe-Biter

 


Me and a friend found this bug flying at us like a bullet. we were in some foot ball stands practicing for a band contest and it came at us.its missing a leg because of the scream of ohh my god don’t bite me then the 26′ drop to the ground. I now have it in a huge aquarium with a dead grasshopper he killed when we put it in there, and there’s a wasp at the top of the thing that the bug circles around. do you know what he eats because I would like to keep him as a pet. I live in Electra TX.
ps.his name is George

Add some water to George’s aquarium and he will really be happy. George is a Giant Water Bug, Lethocerus americanus, an aquatic predator that also flies quite well. George will suck the blood from anything, practically. In their natural habitat, shallow freshwater ponds and pools, Giant Water Bugs will feed on other insects and aquatic invertebrates as well as tadpoles, salamanders and small fish. He will eat feeder goldfish in captivity. Giant Water Bugs also go by the colorful common names of Electric Light Bugs since they are attracted to lights, probably the reason you found George in the stadium. An even more common name is Toe-Biter which needs no explanation. Any swimmer who has ever encountered a Toe-Biter while swimming in a pond will surely agree that the name is appropriate. The bite is very painful.

Letter 5 – Toe-Biter

 

giant water bug
I thought you might want a couple pictures of another Giant Water Bug. It was flying around my friends back porch. He has a very wet conservation area behind his house. We were able to identify it on your site. Luckily (as we now see) nobody got bitten. Thanks for the great info.
Thanks,
Ken

Hi Ken,
We always love getting great new photos of Toe-Biters. Giant Water Bugs, House Centipedes, Hummingbird Moths, Potato Bugs and Dobsonflies always attract attention and the curious must know what they are. That is why we are here.

Letter 6 – Toe-Biter

 

This big ol’ bug looking beetle
Location: Jackson, Michigan
November 10, 2011 8:29 pm
My friend found this bug outside of a Target parking lot and we can not find out what it was. It seems like a rather big and unusual bug. I have never seen anything like it before. Can you please help me figure out what it is?
Signature: N8

Toe-Biter

Toe-Biter

Hello,
I am not sure why, but I just received my email back with no answer or any other type of information submitted or requested.

Hi Nate,
Sometimes when we have numerous emails we are trying to respond to, we just send a brief identification.  You missed our response which was “Toe-Biter”.  A Toe-Biter is also called a Giant Water Bug or Electric Light Bug.  It is an aquatic insect that is also capable of flying.  A closely related and even larger species is considered a culinary delicacy in Thailand.

Letter 7 – Toe-Biter

 

Real World Silt Stridder?
Location: Pavement parking lot, Rochester NY
May 6, 2012 12:27 am
Hello,
I am a bug lover and this one certainly intrigued me! I found it just chilling in a parking lot at 3:00 in the morning. It was 4 inches long, and though it looks like a hard shell, I touched it and it seemed very soft. Its eyes were huge and it had what looked like fake claws. It did not move until I went to pick it up and it moved quite quickly for its awkward body structure; almost as it should be an underwater creature. The closest representation I can find is a Silt Strider, a mythical creature in a video game, haha! So your help would be greatly appreciated in identifying it for me, I would love to find out!
Thank you!
Signature: Jessica Carley

Toe-Biter

Hi Jessica,
This is  a Giant Water Bug, also known as a Toe-Biter or Electric Light Bug.  You were astute to recognize it as an aquatic species, and it is quite graceful when swimming.  It can also fly quite well.  We suspect you found it in the parking lot because it was attracted to the lights.  We are linking to an image of a Silt Strider on DeviantART.

Daniel,
Wow!  That is awesome, thank you so much for identifying this for me!  Your website is going to be my new favorite!
Thanks,
Jessica

Letter 8 – Toe-Biter

 

Subject: Beetle, but what kind?
Location: Brigham City, UT
August 6, 2012 10:37 am
My husband was ”tackled” by this bug last night, around midnight, in Brigham City, UT.
Whatever it is, it is HUGE!
Thank you for your help.
Signature: Karen

Toe-Biter

Hi Karen,
We never tire of posting images of Giant Water Bugs with feet for size reference because another common name for this insect is the Toe-Biter, a name that doubtless originated with youngsters getting bitten by this aquatic predator while swimming in ponds and lakes.

Letter 9 – Toe-Biter

 

Subject: North Dakota water roach?
Location: Grand Forks, North Dakota, USA
September 17, 2012 11:47 am
Found this guy sunning himself inbetween the shops. Pretty high traffic area so I’m surprised he wasn’t squashed. The picture doesn’t show quite how big he is, about 2 inches I’d say. So the question is, what is he?
Signature: sincerely, it’s not going to eat me, is it?

Toe-Biter

Dear sincerely, ingtem,ii?,
This Giant Water Bug will not eat you, however, if you carelessly handle it, it may bite you, but you can always exact revenge by eating it.  Toe-Biters, as they are commonly called, have piercing mouthparts designed to suck fluids from their prey.  In Thailand, they are considered a delicacy and they are eaten.

Letter 10 – Toe-Biter

 

Subject: This flew into my front door
Location: NW Montana
October 17, 2012 4:21 pm
I live up in NW Montana, and have never seen this bug before. It flew into my front door on a cold october night. It hit so hard I thought it was my cat trying to come in! It’s very large, and one of the interesting parts about it is that it has been so cold that most bugs are dead by now. Thanks for the info ahead of time!
Signature: Mariah

Toe-Biter

Hi Mariah,
This is a Giant Water Bug, commonly called a Toe-Biter.  Since they are attracted to lights, they are also known as Electric Light Bugs, and we suspect this individual was attracted to the light by your front door.

Letter 11 – Toe-Biter

 

Subject: Large insect found
Location: Arcata, CA
April 3, 2013 11:22 pm
I found this in a parking lot at 11:00PM. Its body is 2.5” from head to tip of abdomen. It has one hell of a grip, but with some gentle coaxing it came on to my sleeve.
Signature: Brandon

On Wed, Apr 3, 2013 at 11:22 PM, Whats That Bug? <bugman@whatsthatbug.com> wrote:
Thank you for submitting your identification request.
Please understand that we have a very small staff that does this as a labor of love. We cannot answer all submissions (not by a long shot). But we’ll do the best we can!

Nevermind, it’s a Giant Water Bug! I’m really glad it didn’t bite me now that I’ve read about them.

Toe-Biter
Toe-Biter

Hi Brandon,
We are happy you identified your Giant Water Bug without our assistance.  We like the common name Toe-Biter.
  Giant Water Bugs are found in many places thoughout the world, including Bolivia, Costa Rica, India, Namibia and Australia where they are called Fish Killers.

Letter 12 – Toe-Biter

 

Subject: What is this very large bug?
Location: upstate new york
April 11, 2013 1:43 pm
Found this in upstate new york walking along the sidewalk at 3:00 pm on April 11th 2013. When it flipped over it had a hard time rolling back, it had wings but also very large scorpion like claws. What is it!!!???
Signature: bug

Giant Water Bug
Giant Water Bug

This is a Giant Water Bug and it is commonly called a Toe-Biter.

Letter 13 – Toe-Biter

 

Subject: Curious what this bug is
Location: North Central Pennsylvania
April 15, 2013 9:42 am
I have a friend trying to identify this bug and have looked all around and cant seem to figure out what it is. Can you help?
Signature: Eric

Toe-Biter
Toe-Biter

Hi Eric,
This is a Giant Water Bug or Toe-Biter.

Letter 14 – Toe-Biter

 

Subject: what is this?
Location: marietta, ohio
July 3, 2013 3:38 am
what kind of bug is this and is it harmful?
Signature: doesnt matter

Toe-Biter
Toe-Biter

This is a Toe-Biter or Giant Water Bug.  It is a beneficial predator, however, it has been known to bite swimmers or waders who accidentally contact it or folks foolish enough to try to pick one up carelessly.  They are not considered to be harmful, though the bite is reported to be quite painful.

Letter 15 – Toe-Biter

 

Subject: What is this, please?
Location: Wilmington, NC
October 7, 2013 7:38 am
We found this not so little guy in the warehouse the other day and didn’t know what in the world it was . . . we caught him and released him . . . hopefully he doesn’t wreak havoc on the eco-system.
Signature: James

Toe-Biter
Toe-Biter

Hi James,
This Giant Water Bug is an aquatic predator that is commonly called a Toe-Biter.  Handle with caution.  The bite is reported to be painful, but not dangerous.  It is native and an important part of the natural aquatic ecosystem.

Thank you, that’s what my research had led me to believe it was.

Letter 16 – Toe-Biter

 

Subject: Scary new species?!?
Location: South Texas Coastal Bend
December 16, 2013 9:47 pm
Found our cat Lucy playing with this interesting fellow. Nothing we’ve ever seen around here. Found here in the South Texas Coastal Bend just a couple of days ago. Looked somewhat cockroach in nature, the horns at the top of the head moved slightly. Did not try to fly, And i couldn’t really count the legs since Lucy had been playing with it, Not sure if she damaged it in anyway. An identification would be greatly appreciated. No one around here has seen anything it.
Signature: Mrs Garcia

Toe-Biter
Toe-Biter

Hello Mrs. Garcia,
Because of their large size and unusual appearance, Toe-Biters or Giant Water Bugs frequently attract attention.  They are also attracted to lights, which increases their visibility.  Giant Water Bugs are aquatic predators and they are not related to Cockroaches.  Handle with care as they might deliver a painful bite.

Letter 17 – Toe-Biter

 

Subject: Weird bug
Location: Lake Arthur, la
December 19, 2013 9:43 pm
We saw this bug in the pArking lot and was wondering wat it wAs.
Signature: Kaci bourgeois

Toe-Biter
Toe-Biter

Hi Kaci,
This aquatic predator is commonly called a Giant Water Bug or Toe-Biter.

Letter 18 – Toe-Biter

 

Subject: Strange Large Injured Beetle
Location: Northern burbs of Atlanta
May 13, 2014 1:28 pm
Spotted this large fellow last night outside my kids’ karate studio. I’ve never seen anything like it and I’m always on the watch for interesting insects. I’m assuming based on body type, number of legs and what look like two sets of wings this is a type of beetle. The front two legs looked like pincers. He was distressed on his back at first. When I flipped him he hobbled and seemed injured on his back leg. We move him out of the way of over-reacting karate kids and parents and hope he was able to make a recovery. My kids and I would love help identifying this large insect.
Signature: Resa

Toe-Biter
Toe-Biter

Hi Resa,
Commonly called a Toe-Biter, this Giant Water Bug is an aquatic predator, and it is classified as a True Bug, not a Beetle.  Though aquatic, Toe-Biters are capable of flying from location to location, which is helpful when vernal ponds begin to dry out.  Because of your efforts to rescue this impressive creature, we are tagging this posting with the Bug Humanitarian Award.

Letter 19 – Toe-Biter

 

Subject: Large Beetle I have never seen before
Location: North Western Pennsylvania
May 28, 2014 6:17 am
Bugman the photos I have attached are of a large beetle that I have never encountered. Living on a farm in North western Pennsylvania we see a multitude of insects but nobody in our area has seen on of these, I am hoping you can identify it. The beetle is approx. 3 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide. It flew into the side of our swimming pool and sounded like a baseball it hit so hard. It appears to have multiple sets of wings and looks even larger when in flight. Unfortunately its navigation error ended it’s life.
Signature: Mark

Toe-Biter
Toe-Biter

Hi Mark,
This is not a Beetle, but rather, a Giant Water Bug, commonly called a Toe-Biter.  Giant Water Bugs are aquatic predators that are capable of flying from pond to pond to swimming pool.  The bite of a Toe-Biter is reported to be quite painful, but not dangerous to humans.

Letter 20 – Toe-Biter

 

Subject: Killer Palmeto?
Location: Florida
March 16, 2015 7:43 pm
I keep seeing these and they gross me out and now I’m just plain curious what I’m running across
Signature: KP

Toe-Biter
Toe-Biter

Dear KP,
This Giant Water Bug or Toe-Biter is not even remotely related to a Palmetto Bug.  The Toe-Biter is an aquatic predator.

Letter 21 – Toe-Biter

 

Subject: SE Oregon in March
Location: Near Malheur Basin in Burns, OR
March 27, 2015 10:10 am
Found this crawling across a parking lot in Burns, OR. Looks almost cockroach-like, but doesn’t have antennae.
Signature: Visiting in Burns

Toe-Biter
Toe-Biter

Dear Visiting in Burns,
This is a Giant Water Bug or Toe-Biter, an aquatic predator that can also fly from pond to pond in search of prey.
  The Giant Water Bug was our featured Bug of the Month in June 2008.

Letter 22 – Toe-Biter

 

Subject: Big bug
Location: Northern WV on the Ohio Valley
April 19, 2015 7:58 am
This morning I rescued this bug out of my pool. It is about 2.5 inches long and looks pretty scarey. It looks like it has wings. I live in WV and we are just starting to warm up for spring. I have never seen a bug like this before.
Signature: David

Toe-Biter
Toe-Biter

Hi David,
This aquatic, predatory True Bug is commonly called a Toe-Biter.  Handle with caution as the bite, though not dangerous, is reported to be quite painful

Letter 23 – Toe-Biter

 

Subject: What is this Bug?
Location: Bedford PA
November 5, 2015 12:13 pm
Hello bugman,
We found this bug in our dealership located in Bedford PA. We were just wondering if you knew what it was. Thank you!
Signature: Donald T. Rice

Toe-Biter
Toe-Biter

Dear Donald,
Even though this is one of our Top 10 identification requests, we never tire of posting images of Toe-Biters.

Letter 24 – Toe-Biter

 

Subject: What is this?
Location: MA
December 12, 2015 6:55 am
Found in Marshfield, MA
It appears to have large eyes and an armored outside body
Signature: Jen

Toe-Biter
Toe-Biter

Dear Jen,
This is a Giant Water Bug or Toe-Biter, an aquatic predator that is also capable of flying from pond to pond.  They are also attracted to lights and sometimes they are called Electric Light Bugs.

Letter 25 – Toe-Biter

 

Subject: Bug
Location: Seattle
April 12, 2016 8:45 pm
Seen this bug 3 places 3 different times in last 2 weeks
Signature: Will

Toe-Biter
Toe-Biter

Dear Will,
The Toe-Biter is an aquatic predator that is capable of flying from pond to pond, which helps during years of drought.  The Toe-Biter should be handled with caution as it is reported to have a painful, but not dangerous bite.

Letter 26 – Toe-Biter

 

Subject: Identify this bug
Location: Kalamazoo Michigan united States of America
April 17, 2016 10:43 pm
Found this bug on top of a parking garage. Figure its a beetle but i have never seen one so big before. If i could get a reply asap on the specific type it is and where it originates and maybe its diet i would be much appreciated. And if its dangerous.
Thank you for your time.
Signature: Troy Root

Toe-Biter
Toe-Biter

Dear Troy,
This is a Toe-Biter, a predatory, aquatic True Bug.  It is not a beetle.  It will prey on aquatic insects, and it is also capable of capturing small fish and tadpoles.  Though they might bite if carelessly handled or if encountered while wading in fresh water ponds, the bite is not considered dangerous.

Letter 27 – Toe-Biter

 

Subject: Giant alien-like bug
Location: Deerfield, New York
May 27, 2016 8:21 pm
I came across this huge insect in our local grocery store’s parking lot late at night (11:30pm EST) in Deerfield, NY. It had a mission as it wobbled right along. What is it? Scared the heck out of me! Such a strange looking thing. My pic is the second attachment but my friend took a pic (first attachment) of what I believe to be the same bug I encountered and she lives not too far from where I saw mine. Hope to hear from you soon as I’m very curious!
Signature: Erica W.

Toe-Biter
Toe-Biter

Dear Erica,
This is a predatory Giant Water Bug, commonly called a Toe-Biter.

Letter 28 – Toe-Biter

 

Subject: Giant Water Bug?
Location: Madison, Ohio
October 4, 2016 5:28 am
Hello! I am writing from Northeastern Ohio, very near Lake Erie.
This morning as I was coming home from taking my daughter to school, I pulled into the garage & pushed the button to close it. Something activated the safety sensor, and the door rolled back open.
Upon investigation, I find this guy, flopping around. I scooted him nicely away from the sensor, snapped a picture and was then able to close the garage door. My younger daughter couldn’t believe how big he was!! Thanks to your site, I was able to search thru and find out just what kind of bug he was. Thank you for this awesome resource!!
Signature: Marge Oldbotom

Toe-Biter
Toe-Biter

Dear Marge,
Giant Water Bugs or Toe-Biters are quite impressive, and shockingly large for folks who are encountering them for the first time.  They are the largest True Bugs in North America.

Letter 29 – Toe-Biter

 

Subject: What is this bug
Location: NE Pennsylvania l
May 24, 2017 5:26 pm
Is this a giant waterbug? The bug pictured is almost 3in in length.
Regards,
Signature: Mike

Toe-Biter

Dear Mike,
This is indeed a Giant Water Bug, commonly called a Toe-Biter.

Letter 30 – Toe-Biter

 

Subject: Crazy bug
Location: North LOUISIANA
May 30, 2017 1:52 pm
What is this?!
Signature: Amansa

Toe-Biter

Dear Amansa,
This is a Giant Water Bug, sometimes called a Toe-Biter or Electric Light Bug.  It is an aquatic predator that is capable of flying and is frequently attracted to lights.  It should be handled with caution as it is capable of giving a painful bite.

Letter 31 – Toe-Biter

 

Subject:  Found this at work
Geographic location of the bug:  Northern lower peninsula Michigan
Date: 09/01/2017
Time: 07:20 AM EDT
Found this at work we’ve been trying to figure out what it is it’s about3.5″-4″ inches long and an inch wide
How you want your letter signed:  Nathan Hillis

Toe-Biter

Dear Nathan,
The Toe-Biter or Giant Water Bug is one of our most common insect identification requests.

Letter 32 – Toe-Biter

 

Subject:  What is it?
Geographic location of the bug:  Central California
Date: 10/05/2017
Time: 11:18 PM EDT
We found this in the yard…never seen it before
How you want your letter signed:  Casey

Toe-Biter

Dear Casey,
This is an aquatic predator known as a Giant Water Bug or Toe-Biter, and as its name implies, the painful bite inflicted on countless waders and swimmers through the years has resulted in its very descriptive common name.  Though aquatic, they are also capable of flying from pond to pond, and they are attracted to lights, leading to yet another common name, Electric Light Bug.

Letter 33 – Toe-Biter

 

Subject:  Large Insect – Central Oregon
Geographic location of the bug:  Central Oregon
Date: 10/28/2017
Time: 10:21 PM EDT
This big ol’ bug was found outside on the ground.
How you want your letter signed:  NA

Toe-Biter

Giant Water Bugs in the family Belostomatidae are frequently called Toe-Biters.

Letter 34 – Toe-Biter

 

Subject:  Large bug found on the road
Geographic location of the bug:  Loleta CA
Date: 11/23/2017
Time: 01:03 PM EDT
My friend found this bug on the road in front of our houses. It had been run over but still able to identify it.  It is a huge bug for our area.
Is this of the Cockroach family?
How you want your letter signed:  darlene

Giant Water Bug

Dear Darlene,
This aquatic predator is a Giant Water Bug, commonly called a Toe-Biter.  It is not related to a Cockroach.

Wow, is that from our area?

They are native to California as well as the rest of North America and many other parts of the world.

Thank you! Good to know these things.It was so big it was just a surprise to see one that big in the road.

Letter 35 – Toe-Biter

 

Subject:  ???
Geographic location of the bug:  North Carolina USA
Date: 07/31/2018
Time: 03:50 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  What the heck is it been in NC my whole life never seen it before
How you want your letter signed:  Hey Joe your bug.

Toe-Biter

Hey Joe,
We can’t believe it is the beginning of August and this is just the second Toe-Biter or Giant Water Bug image we are posting this year.  The Toe-Biter is an aquatic predator that also flies quite well and is attracted to electric lights.

Letter 36 – Toe-Biter

 

Subject:  What is this thing??
Geographic location of the bug:  Around the centralia missouri area
Date: 08/18/2018
Time: 09:18 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  This guy pulled into my work and this bug was in the back of his truck back in July.  He said he had been working out in the woods but never said where. If you could find out what this is, I’d be very interested in know. Thank you!
How you want your letter signed:  The Eagle Stop Karaoke Girl

Toe-Biter

Dear Eagle Stop Karaoke Girl,
This is a Giant Water Bug or Toe-Biter in the family Belostomatidae, and based on this BugGuide image, it might be the Eastern Toe-Biter,
Benacus griseus.

So it was supposed to say centralia not entralia XD Thank you so much!

Letter 37 – Toe-Biter

 

Subject:  Big fly looking bug
Geographic location of the bug:  Minnesota State fair 2018
Date: 08/25/2018
Time: 08:29 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hi Mr/Ms  Bug person .
I was walking to my car and  tripped over this Hugh bug. I’m sure  it fell off a out of state vehicle, I can only pray.
I’ve  never seen a bug in MN  like this big.
How you want your letter signed:  Curious in Minnesota

Toe-Biter

Dear Curious in Minnesota,
Last we checked, Minnesota is still called The Land of 10,000 Lakes, so there is plenty of habitat for this aquatic, predatory Giant Water Bug or Toe-Biter.  We are pretty certain it is a local species for you.

Letter 38 – Toe-Biter

 

Subject:  What in the world is this?
Geographic location of the bug:  Myrtle Beach, SC
Date: 06/15/2021
Time: 07:05 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hi Bug man. My son found this creature out on the beach after a small storm came through. Nobody in our hotel has ever seen anything like it. What could it be? Thank you!
How you want your letter signed:  A. Page

Toe-Biter

Dear A. Page,
This is a Giant Water Bug, the largest true bug in North America.  It is an aquatic predator that can fly from pond to pond should its home dry up.  Though it can swim and fly quite well, it is clumsy on land.  Many a swimmer and wader has been bitten after stepping on a Giant Water Bug, earning it the common name Toe-Biter.

Letter 39 – Toe-Biter

 

Subject:  What is this?
Geographic location of the bug:  Manchester, Michigan
Date: 09/28/2021
Time: 09:21 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  I found this scary looking bug in my garage this morning.  About 3 inches long.
How you want your letter signed:  Sue

Toe-Biter

Dear Sue,
This is an aquatic predatory True Bug known as a Giant Water Bug, and it is generally found not far from a source of water.  Toe-Biter is a common name because of the large number of swimmers and waders who have been bitten while in the water.  Because they are attracted to electric lights, often in great numbers, they are also called Electric Light Bugs.

Thank you for answering on the water bug.  I had never seen one before.  Scary looking.

Authors

  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com 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.

    View all posts
  • 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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15 Comments. Leave new

  • May I just say what a comfort to uncover somebody who truly knows what they are talking about on the web.
    You certainly understand how to bring an issue to light and
    make it important. More and more people have to read this and understand this side of the story.

    I can’t believe you’re not more popular given that you certainly possess
    the gift.

    Reply
  • Interesting that around the globe April is the season for “toe biters” or “giant water beetles” are they more active when its wet- ie being attracted to lights on land than say in the dry? I would love to know…

    Reply
  • Hey guys,
    have you thought about putting a small picture strip across the top of the page with say 5 of the most common ID’s like toe biter, mole cricket, luna moth, bed bugs and sesame seeds 🙂
    Might save a lot of enquiries for the same thing over and over.

    Reply
    • Hi Trevor,
      Are you joking? We have had a scrolling feature bar on the site for well over a year, but Daniel the webmaster just removed it. He is trying a few changes because we have lost our high google rating recently. Traffic has also dropped and he is trying to figure out why. We get a lot more comments since the mobile compatibility feature, but apparently less traffic.

      Reply
  • Only about the sesame seeds. I noticed the scrolling bar was gone but it was linked to current stories. I was thinking more just like a fixed set of images about 40mm square each with the ones that get asked for the most and hyperlinked to a description. Save having to post an ID for them over and over. Don’t know why you would suddenly be getting less traffic, maybe set some meta tags for keywords? Haven’t done any site design for a long time so just a thought.

    Reply
  • may I ask a question ? On 4th of July you usually already hear Katydids in the trees in central NC but not this year ! We had lots and lots of rain and can that maybe delay their appearance ? Thanks so much !

    Reply
    • Weather conditions do affect the rate at which insects develop and mature. That is one possible reason for the delay in the maturing of your local Katydids.

      Reply
  • I have personally seen these in northern Pennsylvania.. It is called a Giant Waterbug!

    Reply
  • Here is the belly:

    Reply
  • I hate these things!! They growl at you too.

    Reply
  • Burns has a huge lake…

    Reply
  • July 09 2016. Found Lk Stevens Wa. The night before
    Was a heavy rain.

    Reply
  • In Brookshire TX, an agricultural community outside of Houston, I lived in a small subdivision surrounded by rice fields. My roommate had a juvenile Doberman who hadn’t yet decided when he should be sure of himself and when he shouldn’t. One night in the back yard he began barking very intently at something on the ground. I went out to check, and he had found one of these Toe Biters, an amazingly large bug I had never seen before. My initial instinct was to rescue the bug from the dog, but it quickly became clear that this wasn’t necessary. This bug was fierce! Each time the Doberman would get his nose close enough, the bug would “box” at him with those front arms, and the dog would yelp and jump back. This went on for some time, and in the end, the Toe Biter’s fearlessness and boxing skills won out over the Doberman. It was an amazing event to witness.

    Reply
  • Carol Norris
    July 6, 2020 8:17 pm

    My dog’s found this in my living room and I almost had a heart attack !! So after looking it up and seen that it’s actually something that should be pretty common considering I live in south Louisiana in the swampy marsh area, I got a couple of pics then let her free away from the dog’s!!

    Reply

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