Where Do Giant Water Bugs Live? Exploring Their Natural Habitats

Giant water bugs are fascinating insects belonging to the family Belostomatidae. They are large, predatory aquatic insects known for their formidable hunting skills and impressive size, with some South American species reaching up to 4 inches in length.

These intriguing bugs thrive in freshwater ponds, marshes, and slow-moving pools in streams found worldwide. Typically, you can find them hiding in mats of vegetation just under the surface of the water. Their habitat provides them with the perfect conditions to ambush a surprising variety of aquatic life such as tadpoles, small fishes, insects, and other arthropods. So, if you happen to come across a quiet, shallow water body filled with plenty of vegetation, chances are you might just spot a giant water bug lurking beneath the surface.

Anatomy of Giant Water Bugs

General Characteristics

Giant water bugs belong to the family Belostomatidae and are one of the largest true bugs in the insect order Hemiptera. They can grow up to 4 inches in length and have a flat, oval, dark brown body. Their powerful raptorial front legs are designed to capture prey, while their flattened rear legs have tiny hairs (cilia) that help them swim through water.

Mouth and Feeding

These mighty insects possess piercing-sucking mouthparts, which include a sharp beak they use to inject venomous saliva and enzymes into their prey. This digestive cocktail liquefies the insides of their victims so they can easily suck out nutrients. Giant water bugs prey on various animals such as fish, frogs, and even small snakes.

Respiratory System

Giant water bugs are aquatic insects with a specialized respiratory system. They breathe through their two abdominal appendages that act as breathing tubes, allowing them to extract oxygen from the water. When they need to replenish their oxygen supply, they extend these appendages above the water’s surface.

Reproductive System

Female giant water bugs lay eggs on vegetation just above water level, and males will then guard the eggs until they hatch. This unique method of reproduction is known as paternal care and reflects the strong parental instincts of these insects.

Pain and Prevention

Giant water bugs can deliver a painful bite, causing swelling and discomfort. The bite can become more painful if not cleaned and treated promptly. To avoid confrontation, it’s best to steer clear of these insects in their natural habitat, especially in shallow, slow-moving waters with abundant vegetation.

Other Names

These bugs are also known by various common names such as toe-biter, electric light bug, and alligator ticks.

Notable Species

Some notable species within the Belostomatidae family include Lethocerus americanus, Lethocerus indicus, Lethocerus sp, Lethocerus uhleri, Abedus, and Benacus.

Defenses and Predators

Giant water bugs are fierce predators that rely on their powerful front legs, painful bite, and venomous saliva as defense mechanisms. However, they also face threats from predators such as larger aquatic animals and birds. To avoid detection, they often remain hidden among vegetation, and their dark brown color provides excellent camouflage.

Geographical Locations

North America

In North America, giant water bugs can be found in various aquatic habitats such as ponds, ditches, and slow-moving streams. They are most commonly found in the following regions:

  • Eastern and Central United States
  • Mexico
  • Canada

These hefty insects are quite large, reaching up to 2-3 inches in length.

Asia

Giant water bugs are not only native to North America, but can also be found in Asia. Some species of the giant water bug can reach up to 4 inches in length in South American regions. In Asian countries, they tend to inhabit paddy fields, shallow lakes, and ponds. These creatures are often found in:

  • Thailand
  • Cambodia
  • Vietnam
  • China
  • Japan

In some Asian countries, giant water bugs are considered a delicacy and are consumed by locals.

Africa

Giant water bugs can also be found in various African countries, such as:

  • South Africa
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe

These aquatic insects inhabit a range of different aquatic ecosystems on the continent, including ponds, marshes, and slow-moving streams. They play an essential role in the African food chain, as they help control populations of other insects and small aquatic creatures.

In summary, giant water bugs live in a wide range of geographical locations, including North America, Asia, and Africa. They inhabit various aquatic environments, playing a crucial role in maintaining the balance of local ecosystems.

Habitats

Freshwater Environments

In your search for giant water bugs, you’ll find them in various freshwater habitats. They are primarily found in ponds, streams, and lakes. These aquatic insects prefer locations that have calm or slow-moving water, as it allows them to easily catch their prey. Examples of ideal freshwater habitats include:

  • Freshwater ponds
  • Slow-moving streams
  • Shallow lakes

In these environments, giant water bugs hide in the vegetation near the water surface. They mainly feed on aquatic life such as tadpoles, small fishes, insects, and other arthropods.

Wetlands

Another common habitat for giant water bugs is marshes and other wetlands. These areas, like the freshwater environments mentioned above, provide an ideal setting for giant water bugs to thrive. Factors that make wetlands perfect for these bugs include:

  • Abundant vegetation for hiding
  • Ample prey availability
  • Shallow water

As a result, you can frequently spot giant water bugs in marshy regions or wetlands around the world. Keep an eye out for these fascinating creatures, and you may just find them in their natural habitats.

Diet

Aquatic Prey

Giant water bugs are known for their diverse diet, which primarily consists of aquatic insects and other invertebrates. For example, they often prey on tadpoles and small fish, capturing them with their powerful, clawlike forelegs. As an aquatic insect, they rely on their strong hind legs to swim and hunt in freshwater ponds, marshes, and slow-moving streams1.

Crustaceans

In addition to aquatic prey, giant water bugs also feed on a variety of crustaceans. They are capable hunters, using their raptorial legs to catch and consume crayfish, among other crustaceans2. These legs are well-adapted to hold and manipulate prey as the giant water bug feeds.

Additional Prey

Their diet is not limited to aquatic insects and crustaceans. Giant water bugs are opportunistic feeders, expanding their menu to include other animals such as frogs, snakes, and even small turtles3. They also prey on mosquito larvae, beetles, and snails, contributing to the control of some pest populations.

In conclusion, the giant water bug’s diet is fairly diverse, primarily preying on aquatic insects and crustaceans, but also including various other animals. Its adaptability and strong hunting abilities make it a significant predator in its habitat.

Behavior

Attraction to Light

Giant water bugs, also known as electric-light bugs, are often attracted to lights. They are commonly found around porch lights and other bright lights in outdoor spaces. This behavior can lead to encounters with humans in residential areas. Remember:

  • They are drawn to bright lights, like porch lights.
  • Electric-light bugs may venture into residential areas.

Swimming and Mobility

These aquatic insects are excellent swimmers. They use their strong legs to move through the water and grasp prey. Most of their time is spent hidden in mats of vegetation, just under the water’s surface. Thus, they are well-adapted for their underwater habitat. Key features include:

  • Strong legs for swimming and grasping prey.
  • Ability to hide in underwater vegetation.

Life Cycle

The life cycle of giant water bugs consists of several stages. Adult females lay eggs above the water’s surface on plants. Once the eggs hatch, nymphs emerge and begin to grow, molting several times as they develop into adults. Some interesting facts about their life cycle:

  • Eggs are laid above water on plants.
  • Nymphs undergo multiple molts before reaching adulthood.

In summary, giant water bugs are fascinating creatures with unique behaviors. They’re drawn to bright lights, efficient swimmers, and have an interesting life cycle involving nymphs and molting. While encounters with humans can occur, understanding their behavior can help you coexist with these captivating insects.

Role in Ecosystem

Giant water bugs play a significant role in their ecosystem. They are predatory insects and help maintain the balance of other aquatic species.

You might find giant water bugs in various freshwater habitats, such as ponds and ditches, where they can suspend below the surface. Due to their size and adaptability, they prey on a wide range of aquatic creatures, such as insects, tadpoles, and even small fish. Their clawlike forelegs are perfect for grabbing their prey.

As a part of their reproductive cycle, female giant water bugs lay eggs on aquatic plants or sometimes even on the backs of the males. This behavior ensures the next generation’s survival and introduces more predatory insects to keep their environment in balance.

Here are some key features of giant water bugs:

  • Predatory aquatic insects
  • Occupy various freshwater habitats
  • Prey on insects, tadpoles, and small fish
  • Lay eggs on aquatic plants or males’ backs

Remember that it’s essential to respect and preserve these creatures’ habitats, as they contribute positively to the ecosystem by regulating aquatic populations and ensuring a balanced environment.

Cultural Significance

Cuisine

Giant water bugs, belonging to the family Belostomatidae, have some interesting cultural significance, particularly in the realm of cuisine. These large insects can be found in various dishes in various countries, offering unique flavors and textures to adventurous eaters.

For example, in some regions of Southeast Asia, giant water bugs are considered a delicacy. They are used as ingredients in spicy salads, added to sauces for a distinct aroma, or even consumed whole after being deep-fried. If you’re feeling curious, you may want to try these dishes yourself and explore their unique taste profiles.

However, it’s vital to approach the consumption of giant water bugs with caution, as improper handling or cooking can lead to unpleasant experiences. It’s always best to approach new ingredients like these under the guidance of experienced chefs or locals who are familiar with their preparation.

In conclusion, the cultural significance of giant water bugs, especially in the area of cuisine, demonstrates how diverse and fascinating the world of insects can be. Whether you’re a gastronome looking for a unique culinary experience or simply interested in learning about different cultures, there’s certainly something to appreciate when it comes to these unusual aquatic insects.

Footnotes

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

  2. Giant Water Bug | Department of Entomology

  3. Giant Water Bugs | Missouri Department of Conservation

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 – Giant Water Bug from Arizona

 

What is this?
Location: Green Valley, AZ
April 16, 2012 4:53 pm
Could you please help identify this bug. It was found south of Tucson, AZ.
Signature: Josh O

Giant Water Bug

Hi Josh,
You have found a Giant Water Bug in the family Belostomatidae, the largest True Bugs in North America.  Most western species are smaller, and we rarely get reports from the west of members of the genus
Lethocerus, but that is what you have found.  BugGuide only reports one species from Arizona, and that is Lethocerus medius.  Giant Water Bugs are frequently called Toe-Biters because they can give a painful bite to swimmers that encounter them at the bottom of ponds, or Electric Light Bugs because they are frequently attracted to powerful lights.  Though they are aquatic, Giant Water Bugs are also strong fliers which suits them well if their ponds dry out.

Letter 2 – Toe-Biter from Canada

 

Beetle with big pinchers?
Location:  Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
September 29, 2010 5:10 pm
Hi! Found this beetle in a parking lot in Winnipeg, Manitoba around midnight around Sept. 19th. It was about 10oC or 50oF, and there were about 50 of the same bugs all over the lot. Wondering if you could identify it for me? Thanks!
Signature:  Emily F.

Toe-Biter

Hi Emily,
The Giant Water Bug or Toe-Biter is one of our most common identification requests, and it seems we must have close to 100 images of Toe-Biters posted to our site.  People frequently mistake this True Bug for a beetle.  We like to post a new image of a Toe-Biter  every once in awhile.

Letter 3 – Giant Water Bug or Toe-Biter from Australia

 

Giant Bug in Rockhampton, Australia
December 30, 2009
Hi! I just found this picture in my photos from my Australia trip this year, and this bug I just can’t figure out. It can definitely survive in water ( we fished it out of the pool after a few hours and it flew away ), and it must have gotten in there by itself so it can probably swim as well. It has pretty huge claws and makes a lot of noise, and flies and runs pretty fast. I know that a lot of locals didn’t know what it was either, so maybe it’s new to the area or doesn’t come out every year. We saw it in April as far as I can remember, and it started out with just a few and then we started to see them all over. I attached a picture with an australian ten cent coin for size info. I’ve been trying to figure out what it is but I can’t find it anywhere, help would be really appreciated 🙂
Maja Schubert
Rockhampton, Australia

Giant Water Bug
Giant Water Bug

Hi Maja,
This is a Giant Water Bug.  In the U.S., they are commonly called Toe-Biters.

Letter 4 – Giant Water Bug from Bolivia

 

Subject: Bolivian Bar Bug
Location: Trinidad, Bolivia
May 30, 2012 6:05 pm
Hi, I found this bug hiding on the floor in some bark when I was walking out of the toilet in an outdoor bar. It was pretty slow and completely non-agressive.
Signature: Kev Brady

Giant Water Bug

Hi Kev,
Perhaps you are more courageous when you are in your cups.  This is a Giant Water Bug and in North America, the somewhat smaller relatives to your specimen get the common name Toe-Biter because of the frequency of bites received by swimmers in the lakes and ponds that constitute the habitat for this impressive aquatic insect.  They are not aggressive toward humans, but we would not want to chance a painful bite because of careless handling.  Giant Water Bugs can fly from pond to pond.  It was probably attracted to the lights at the bar.

Giant Water Bug

 

Letter 5 – Toe-Biter from Mexico

 

Subject:  very large bug
Geographic location of the bug:  Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico
Date: 09/10/2018
Time: 10:24 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  My wife found this 9-10 cm big bug in an arroyo 2 days ago and we wanted to know what it is because my brother-in-law claims that it is very poisonous. Thanks!
How you want your letter signed:  Michael Patrick

Toe-Biter

Dear Michael,
This is a Giant Water Bug in the family Belostomatidae and there are similar looking individuals found all over the world.  Commonly called Toe-Biters in North America because of the painful bite they are able to inflict on bathers and waders in freshwater bodies of water, Giant Water Bugs are not considered poisonous, however, they do inject saliva that can cause a reaction in some people.  According to Research Gate:  “These insects have toxic saliva capable of provoking intense pain and paralysis in vertebrates. Victims experienced intense, excruciating pain and 1 manifested hypoesthesia in the forearm. Bites by Belostomatidae are often reported by clinicians working in areas where these insects live, but there are no detailed case reports in the medical literature. ”  According to Pest Wiki:  “Water bugs are referred to as Toe biters because they do bite.Water bugs are harmless to humans.They don’t seek for people to go and bite them up.Water bugs bite is considered to be most harmful and painful.They bite on rare occasions when we get scared, or they get terrified. Usually, there are initial symptoms, but rarely they may cause life-threatening allergic reactions.”

Wow that was a very complete and useful description! Thank you so much.
I will recommend your website to everyone!

Letter 6 – Giant Water Bug from South Africa

 

Subject: scorpion roach?
Location: durban south africa
March 4, 2013 1:17 pm
Hello
I was on my way home last night when I saw this peculiar bug. It’s roughly 10cm long and moves with those large mandibles at the front. I am in durban in south africa. I’ve never seen anything like it.
James
Signature: james

Giant Water Bug
Giant Water Bug

Hi James,
This is a Giant Water Bug in the family Belostomatidae, and in North America they are commonly called either Electric Light Bugs because they are attracted to lights at night, or Toe-Biters because they can deliver a nasty bite to unwary swimmers in lakes and ponds.  Giant Water Bugs are aquatic predators that are capable of flight, a valuable skill when ponds dry out.

Letter 7 – Toe-Biter in post-Maria Puerto Rico

 

Subject:  What type of insect is this?
Geographic location of the bug:  Puerto Rico
Date: 10/24/2017
Time: 10:15 AM EDT
Hi, we have just experienced a large hurricane in Puerto Rico and all sorts of bugs I’ve never seen before are coming out, but this one is really interesting it was aprox 2 inches long. Can you help identify it.
Thanks
How you want your letter signed:  Mike

Toe-Biter

Dear Mike,
We on the mainland are well aware that Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, and we also understand that aid is progressing at a glacial pace.  Hurricanes frequently blow insects, as well as birds and other even larger creatures, to remote locations, so we researched if there are any local Giant Water Bugs or Toe-Biters native to Puerto Rico.  On page 35 of Insectos de Puerto Rico, we found an image of
Lethocerus annulipes, so unless the creature in your image is a different species that looks very similar, you encountered a local species.  Toe-Biters are aquatic, but they can also fly if their ponds dry out.

Letter 8 – Giant Water Bug from Greece

 

Subject: beetle?
Location: thassos, greece
May 20, 2013 12:27 am
Hi, we found it on the beach , I ’ve never seen so big insect around, can you determine it?
Signature: george

Giant Water Bug

Hi George,
This is a Giant Water Bug in the family Belostomatidae.  They are predatory aquatic insects that are also capable of flight when their habitat dries up.
  Giant Water Bugs are commonly called Toe-Biters in North America, because although they are not aggressive toward humans, they will give a painful bite if carelessly handled or accidentally encountered.

 

Letter 9 – Giant Water Bug from Brazil

 

Pre Historic Roach?
Sun, Nov 23, 2008 at 6:31 PM
This bug was found by my father in the laundry. We don’t have trees and bushes, nor earth in our house, but my neighbor has. Hmm.. this is all i know =[
Hope you can tell us what’s this bug! It really impressed us. Thanks
Reinaldo Hartmann
Brazil – Porto Velho – Ro

Giant Water Bug in Brazil
Giant Water Bug in Brazil

Hi Reinaldo,
This is actually a Giant Water Bug.  In the U.S., they are commonly called Toe-Biters since they have been known to bite people who swim in lakes and ponds.  They don’t aggressively bite humans, but they can deliver a very painful bite if carelessly handled.  Giant Water Bugs can fly quite well, and they are attracted to lights, hence the other common name Electric Light Bug.  Perhaps there was a light in the laundry room that attracted this specimen.

Letter 10 – Toe-Biter from Dominican Republic

 

Toe Biter On Beach!
Hello
Whilst holidaying in the Dominican Republic we came across this fella on the beach. When we got home we searched the Internet and found out from your (very good) site that it’s a Giant Water Bug. He/she was incredibly aggressive; when we went near it, it raised those pincers at us so we kept our distance but still managed to get this photo and a few others. Looking at your site it appears they live in freshwater; could this one have lived in the sea? There was no freshwater nearby. Even the locals looked intrigued at it!
Thanks very much
Neil Williams (Birmingham, England)

Hi Neil,
There are different species of Giant Water Bugs in many parts of the world. We are not sure if any will swim in salt water. As they can fly great distances, it is possible it flew from a pond several miles away.

Letter 11 – Toe-Biter found in New Orleans

 

Subject: cockroach??
Location: new orleans LA
March 15, 2015 9:53 am
saw this at the entrance to a winn dixie grocery store today, lloks like a cockroach but no antenae?.. looked on LSU ag site cant find anything… ideas?
Signature: Aaron Robinson

Toe-Biter
Toe-Biter

Dear Aaron,
This Giant Water Bug is a Toe-Biter, an aquatic, predatory True Bug, not a Cockroach which is an opportunistic scavenger, or at least the few species of Cockroaches that infest human homes are opportunistic scavengers.  Also known as Electric Light Bugs because they are often attracted to the bright lights of sporting events, especially those located near swamps, ponds and other fresh water bodies of water, Toe-Biters earned their more colorful common name because they frequently bite the toes of waders in natural bodies of water.  Though aquatic, Toe-Biters are powerful fliers as well, enabling them to fly to a new habitat if their pond dries out.  Larger relatives are eaten in Thailand.  Toe-Biters are one of our most common identification requests.

Fantastic quick response very grateful for that… Ive been in NOLA for 10 years and I thought I have seen most everything haha… very informative I appreciate your time…. is it odd to see them away from water especially in front of a grocery store?.. one last… are they dangerous if bitten.
thanks again for your time !!
Aaron R

Allegedly painful, but not dangerous, though it seems some people are allergic to most things these days.

 

Letter 12 – Toe-Biters in the Swimming Pool

 

Giant Water Bugs
We found some of these in our pool today when we were closing it up for the winter. How do we get rid of them so they won’t be there next year when we open it back up for the season?
Jay & Charline Everson
Gilmanton IW, New Hampshire

Hi Jay,
There is not much that you can do to keep your swimming pool from appearing desireable to Giant Water Bugs, or as we like to call them, Toe-Biters. Giant Water Bugs can fly quite well, so next year, you may get a whole new population when you uncover the pool.

Letter 13 – Giant Water Bug found in produce in UK

 

Subject: Beetle ??
Location: London UK
January 24, 2017 4:28 am
Found this gem ( not ) in my fruit from the supermarket. Never seen anything like it. Because it was in with imported fruit I’m guessing it’s not from here ( United Kingdom ). I thought it was a Cockroach, but no antennae . It’s almost 2 inches long.
Signature: Kd

Giant Water Bug

Dear Kd,
This is not a Beetle nor is it a Cockroach.  It is a True Bug and we feel quite certain it is a predatory Giant Water Bug in the family Belostomatidae.  You may be correct that it was imported with fruit as the family is not listed on the British Bugs site.

Thank you Daniel,
Was a bit of a shock finding it.  After receiving your email, I googled it and now know that the one I found is only half size  (( shudders )).
Thanks again
Kd

Letter 14 – Giant Water Bug from Iraq

 

Bug found in Iraq
Could you tell me what this bug is? Found while serving in Iraq.
Thanks
Fran

Hi Fran,
This is a Giant Water Bug. They are known as Toe-Biters stateside.

Letter 15 – Toe-Biter from Canada

 

Subject: Big Bug out of place?
Location: Charlottetown PEI Canada
January 30, 2016 8:24 pm
Have never seen a large bug like this before (saw it outside on sidewalk of my work building during the summer). I wonder if it might be far from home and wonder how it got to Charlottetown PEI.
Just curious.
Signature: Jenny K

Toe-Biter
Toe-Biter

Dear Jenny,
This Giant Water Bug or Toe-Biter is an aquatic predatory True Bug that is able to fly from pond to pond in the event that food runs out or the pond dries out.  Giant Water Bugs are also attracted to lights leading to the common name Electric Light Bug, and that might be the reason you found it near your work.  Though they are not aggressive toward people, Giant Water Bugs are reported to deliver a painful bite if accidentally stepped on by waders and swimmers.  The Toe-Biter is one of our most frequent identification requests.

Letter 16 – Giant Water Bug from Australia

 

wrongfully accused cockroach
Earlier today at the ungodly hour of 7:30 am when all sane people are just going to bed, my younger sister saw fit to burst into my room claiming she had just found a ‘giant cockroach’ on the driveway and required my assistance in removing it. I knew it was not a house cockroach as soon as I saw it, but any identification more precise than that evades me. The days of my etymological expertise (ages 6 through 12) are long gone now, so I felt I my need some assistance in naming this particular bug. I apologise if the photos are not as clear as they could have been, he is feeling a little camera shy and scurries to the other side of the ice-cream box whenever the camera flashes, so they are a little blurred. Thanks for your help,
Franko,
Queensland, Australia

Hi Franko,
In America, the Giant Water Bug is known as the Toe-Biter, a well earned name, but we were curious if any colorful local names are used in Australia, so we researched. The Wildlife os Sydney site uses another name common in America, the Electric Light Bug, but also calls it the Giant Fish Killer. Lethocerus insulanus is found in nearly all parts of Australia.
.

Letter 17 – Toe-Biter from Dominican Republic

 

Yucky wake up
Location:  Dominican Republic
October 5, 2010 9:58 am
I was just in the Dominican Republic on vacation. We stayed at a beautiful resort. I woke up early one morning to use the restroom and found this on the floor of the bathroom. The people at the resort didn’t even know what it was….
Signature:  Please help

Toe-Biter

We just love posting images of Toe-Biters or Giant Water Bugs from all around the world.

Letter 18 – Giant Water Bug from Croatia

 

Subject: What is this big bug?
Location: Dubrovnik, Croatia
October 29, 2013 10:22 pm
Hi. I saw this on the ground in Dubrovnik in Croatia in September. I would estimate it to be almost 6inches long. It was dead at the time but it looks like it might have wings. Many thanks
Signature: Mark Bates

Giant Water Bug
Giant Water Bug

Hi Mark,
This is a predatory, aquatic insect known as a Giant Water Bug.  In North America they are called Toe-Biters and they are eaten in Thailand.

Letter 19 – Toe-Biter Smashed after biting Child

 

This just stung/bit my baby! What is it??
August 7, 2009
This bug was in the pool and could swim, it was hiding on the tile and bit/stung my son. His hand is swelling up but I dont know what it is to even start treating it. Please help!
Nicole
Orlando Florida

Toe-Biter
Toe-Biter

I just identified this same insect that bit/stung my baby son this morning.  We were in the pool and he started shreaking.  I have googled for hours to find out how to treat this wound.
I need to know if its poisonous and if I should do something medically for my son.   Any information would be helpful
Thanks
Nicole

Toe-Biter: Dead after biting Child in Pool
Toe-Biter: Dead after biting Child in Pool

Dear Nicole,
We should begin this answer by stating that we are not scientists and any information that we provide, though we do research our replies as thoroughly as possible, is an amateur opinion.  Secondly, we are not trained in the medical profession and do not give medical advice for bites and stings.  Third, we do not normally provide parenting advice, but we feel you should have sought professional medical attention for your son immediately rather than to try to self diagnose on the internet.  Any information you receive on the internet, and that includes What’s That Bug?, should be considered questionable at best.
The bite of a Toe-Biter or Giant Water Bug is reported to be quite painful, and you son’s reaction to the bite would tend to support that notion.  Giant Water Bugs are not considered dangerous or venomous insects, but the swelling of your son’s hand may be cause for concern.  We would counsel you to seek medical attention.
We at What’s that Bug would like to use this encounter with the Toe-Biter as a cautionary tale that is instructive and might  reduce Unnecessary Carnage of bugs that appear menacing in the future.  Toe-Biters are not normally aggressive, but they will bite if threatened or carelessly handled.  This is not a reason to kill them when they are encountered as they perform a necessary function in a balanced ecosystem by preying upon other aquatic creatures.  It should also be noted that if a person is bitten by a questionable insect, spider, or scorpion, it is often helpful to have the actual specimen handy for experts to diagnose the potential need for venom antibodies.  So in this sense, we do not consider this particular dead Toe-Biter to be Unnecessary Carnage.
We wish your son a speedy recovery and hope his trauma is short-lived and that he will learn to appreciate the sometimes scary world of nature that abounds around him.

Unnecessary Carnage Comment
August 9, 2009
RE: unnecessary carnage
I love your site, and visit it several times a day. Many thanks for posting such lovely images and so much information (you helped me ID a one-eyed Sphinx moth here in Seattle)! I also love the fact that you tell folks when they have committed an act of unnecessary carnage, but sadly, you have been very hesitant to do so lately… Please don’t let one or two unhinged people keep you from providing a vital service- letting humans know that insects are innocent until proven guilty!
Leah S.

Letter 20 – Giant Water Bug from South Africa

 

Subject: Giant Water bug
Location: Alrode / Gauteng
April 7, 2017 1:01 am
I found this water bug in the workshop.After searching the web ,I noticed that this bugs habitat is Durban Natal and that is +- 500 km from Alrode.
Signature: Piet

Giant Water Bug

Dear Piet,
Giant Water Bugs are found in many parts of the world, including Thailand where they are eaten, Australia, North America and South America as well as Africa.

Giant Water Bug

Letter 21 – Toe-Biter from Iraq

 

Toe Biter
I’m currently in Iraq on my 2nd tour and found this guy walking around our hanger. After snapping a few photos I went about the task of trying to identify it. Found out that its a toe biter. Good thing I didnt let my hands get to close. I set him free when I was done to prevent someone from killing him. Well the next night I came to work, I found him squished on the ground. I will keep looking for more now. We have Dung Beetles here too if you want a pic I will get one for your site.
Jerrad

Hi Jerrad,
Thanks for sending your photo of a Toe-Biter. We look forward to getting your Dung Beetle image. We also want to wish you a safe and speedy return home.

Request from a book publisher
photograph consent for ‘TOE BITER’
Location:  Iraq
September 7, 2010 3:04 am
Hello,
We are the educational publisher in Korea and going to publish Science book for children.  We were looking for the photograph for ’Toe Biter’ and found absolutely beautiful one from your site.  Would you give us the generous consent to use this photo?  Longing for the good answer from you.
Thank you and best wishes,
Judy JANG
Manager
Foreign Rights & Contracts Department
DCTY Co., Ltd.
943-1, DoGok-Dong, GangNam-Gu
Seoul, 135-270, KOREA
Phone: 82-2-529-7878 (Extension 215)
Fax: 82-2-572-0085
http://www.dctybooks.com
judybawdon@hotmail.com
judy@dcty.co.kr
Signature:  DCTY

Letter 22 – Giant Water Bug from Turkey

 

Subject: 6 legged giant
Location: Turkey, Balikesir
September 3, 2013 5:40 am
Hello Bugman,
I took the photo of this bug during my vacation.
I put my foot beside to the bug for estimating the size of it. (My shoe size is 9)
Can you please identify this one for me?
Best regards
Signature: Basar Turkay

Giant Water Bug
Giant Water Bug

Dear Basar Turkay,
This is a Giant Water Bug in the family Belostomatidae, a group with a nearly worldwide distribution.   They are aquatic predators and they are capable of biting if accidentally encountered or carelessly handled.  In North America, they are sometimes called Toe-Biters.

Letter 23 – Giant Water Bug from Peru

 

What kind of but is this?
Sat, Mar 14, 2009 at 6:32 AM
I was in Puerto Maldonado, Peru recently and came across this giant insect. A friend of mine there, a local, said that it was a cockroach. Though it sort of looks like one, I’m not convinced.
nate
Peruvian Amazon, Puerto Maldonado

Giant Water Bug
Giant Water Bug

Dear Nate,
People often write to us wanting to get buts identified.  This is actually a Giant Water Bug in the family Belostomatidae.  The family is well represented around the world.  In the U.S .  Giant Water Bugs are also known as Toe-Biters or Electric Light Bugs.  They are eaten in Thailand.

Letter 24 – Giant Water Bug from Australia

 

Subject: Is it a water scorpion?
Location: Sunshine Coast Queensland
February 19, 2016 5:24 am
Hello
So my Kindergarten group and I have decided to embark on an investigation of various bugs and insects I our area. One of the little cherubs have brought this one inand want to make it our class pet. Can you please identify it for me and give us some information that I can follow up on with them. Most importantly, where’s the best place for me to now release it?
Signature: Bugman

Giant Water Bug
Giant Water Bug

Though it is not a Water Scorpion, your Giant Water Bug, like a Water Scorpion, is an aquatic, predatory True Bug.  According to the Australian Museum:  “These bugs are formidable underwater predators. When hunting, Giant Water Bugs breathe using a syphon at their rear end which acts like a snorkel.”  Since they are aquatic, the best place to release it is a clean body of fresh water like a lake or pond.  You can also request that your “little cherub” return it back to from whence it came when it comes time to release your pet.  While it is a pet, you should keep it in a covered aquarium as it can fly.  Since it is a predator, it will need live food.  Though they would not normally comprise its aquatic prey, it will most likely feed on crickets from the pet store.

Letter 25 – Toe-Biter from Puerto Rico

 

Beetle from Puerto Rico
Location: Puerto Rico
May 18, 2011 8:44 pm
This picture was taken by my friend in Puerto Rico. We were curious what kind of beetle this is and if it is indigenous to the island.
Signature: Giancarlo

Toe-Biter

Dear Giancarlo,
This Toe-Biter is a Giant Water Bug, not a beetle.  In addition to being aquatic, they are capable of flight and they are attracted to lights.  It is indigenous to Puerto Rico.

Letter 26 – Giant Water Bug from Costa Rica

 

Subject: beetle
Location: Tortunguero, Costa Rica
January 15, 2013 1:36 pm
Here are a few pictures of a rather large beetle I saw in Costa Rica. It was swimminging a puddle following a heavy rain. It was about 2-3 in long. He is quite strong, I was able to pick him up after he grabbed the umbrella with his pinchers, He’s a pretty cool looking guy. I’d like to know what kind he is so I can include that in a picture book of our trip. Thanks
Signature: Steve

Giant Water Bug

Hi Steve,
This is not a beetle.  It is a Giant Water Bug.  Giant Water Bugs in Asia grow very large and they are the largest True Bugs in the world.  Giant Water Bugs are eaten in Thailand.  Giant Water Bugs are aquatic, but they also fly quite well.  They are reported to have a very painful bite and in North America, they are called Toe-Biters.

Giant Water Bug grabs Umbrella

 

Letter 27 – Giant Water Bug from India

 

Rain brought its surprise too..what would be this?
Jun 13, 2011
Dear Sir,
Its raining out here in Kerala, India. Rain brought its surprise too..what would be this?
Hope you could recognize this.
Regards
Ibrahim TMC
Kerala
India.

Giant Water Bug

Dear Ibrahim,
We get photos of Giant Water Bugs from all over the world, and they are easy to identify to the family level, though identifying species may present us with considerable difficulty because they all look so similar.  You did not indicate how large this Giant Water Bug is, but in nearby Thailand, they grow to five inches and they are eaten as culinary delights.  In North America, Giant Water Bugs are called Toe-Biters.

Giant Water Bug

Dear sir,
The waterbug which I sent earlier measured 7.5 cms.
Regards
Ibrahim TMC

Letter 28 – Toe-Biter with Mites

 

Help ID of Bug
Hi- Please help me identify this bug! It’s HUGE! It was 3 inches long when a ruler was placed next to him. I pulled him out of my pool filter- he’s still alive, and really creeped me out! He has some red stuff growing on him. Thanks!
Maria Juliano in New York

Hi Maria,
This is a Giant Water Bug also known as a Toe-Biter. The red growth are probably immature Mites. Here is a reader’s response the last time we got a photo of a Toe-Biter with Mites:

Mites on the toe-biter?
Hi Daniel and Lisa Anne,
About the email on the Toe Biter from Tom on (01/27/2007) who talks about having 12 red mites on his Toe Biter? I remember seeing mites on aquatic insects, looking suspicious, and so I looked it up, and it turns out that *all* of the more than 5,000 known species of aquatic mites (Hydracarina) are partly parasitic. When they are larvae, aquatic mites are parasitic on aquatic insects, but as adults the mites become free-swimming and predatory. Winged aquatic insects, such as the toe biters, fly around of course, and that way the mites are spread from one body of water to another. You can read a lot more interesting stuff about them at:
http://www.tolweb.org/Parasitengona
And at :
http://www.tolweb.org/Hydracarina
Best to you as always,
Susan J. Hewitt

Letter 29 – Toe-Biter

 

Big Icky Bug
Hey Bugman,
I am a student at Palm Beach Atlantic University here in West Palm Beach, Florida . One night not too long ago I was walking a young lady home and came across this monster looking beetle. I have never seen anything like it before in my life. After I convinced the young lady to stop screaming and even get a closer look, I snapped this picture with my phone. I’m sorry that the quality is not all that good. I tried to buff it up a little as far as the lighting goes but I didn’t want to alter the photo too much. Could you please tell me what in the world this beast is? I have asked several native Floridians and no one seems to know.
Yours truly,
Fred G. Krauer, Jr.

Hi Fred,
This is the infamous Toe-Biter, the Giant Water Bug, Lethocerus americanus, which is also known as the Electric Light Bug because it is attracted to lights. The common name Toe-Biter needs no explanation for anyone who has been bitten while swimming in a lake. The bite is very painful. These bugs are aquatic, but equally well adapted to flight. On land they are rather clumsy.

Letter 30 – Toe-Biter lives up to its name!!

 

We live in northern Wisconsin. My husband was in the lake (it has a mucky bottom) and felt something poke him in his big toe. When I looked at his toe it had a raised blister type mark. It resembled a sting mark with a very pronounced dot of where the bite/sting occured. The toe swelled and he experienced extreme pain. Do you know what type of a bug would live in the muck of a lake and sting? Thanks for your help.

Not to be funny, but it sounds like your husband was bitten by a Toe-Biter or Giant Water Bug.

Letter 31 – Giant Water Bug Swarm

 

Giant Water Bug swarm
Hi, great site.
I was at work last evening and dozens upon dozens of these insects began to swarm outside my workplace, attracted to the lights I suppose. There is a lake not far from where I work, but it was such a surreal experience to see a relatively uncommon insect in the area come flying in in droves. I captured a few, along with a predacious water beetle which was also crawling about the lot. Just a strange experience, all in all to see so many crawling about in one place.
Dave,
Timmins Ontario, Canada

Hi Dave,
Thank you for your first hand account which will serve as an explanation for the common name of Electric Light Bug for the Giant Water Bug, Lethocerus americanus. The other common name, Toe Biter, arises because of the occasional bite to swimmers, and not because the Giant Water Bug targets human toes. Though bites are occasional, they are reportedly painful, so the Giant Water Bug should be handled with care.

Letter 32 – Toe-Biter goes for the tennis shoes

 

How about this monster any help identifying?
I’ve been browsing through pictures and just haven’t found one like it yet. Any help would be appreciated! We found this guy out in the driveway last night…quite a surprise!
Mike

Hi Mike,
The Giant Water Bug is sometimes called an Electric Light Bug or a Toe-Biter. We feel compelled to include this recent letter in our response even though it concerns a different species. While this bug is known as a Toe-Biter, and while it can produce a painful bite, it is not an aggressive species.

Readers Comment: (05/12/2008) Giant water Beetle bites
Dear friends;
I’ve enjoyed your site immensely and have recently come across a specimen of Ranatra Fusca, the water scorpion. I was just thinking of how the public is terribly alarmed at insects that bite. I’ve never been bitten by an aquatic insect but I have cut my toe badly on a hidden piece of broken glass in the mud and have experienced nasty bites from a rabbit, cat, dog, a horse, and a ferret. A human, (Homo sapien or more commonly known as “ultimus stupidimus”) can deliver a very painful bite because the teeth are dull and have the same effect as clenching the flesh with a pair of pliers. The point here is that most of the smaller creatures are relatively defenseless and easily killed. This business of bites has to be seen in a larger, sensible context. As Mark Twain aptly stated, “Man can learn a lot from the higher animals.” All the best,
Paul Marshall
Barrie Ontario, Canada

Letter 33 – Toe-Biter from Iraq

 

Here are the picture of the toe-biter we found in our building one morning. I wrote you a week or so ago, but didn’t have the photos that we took. It looked like someone had stepped on him :-(. He was very awkward and slow. But it sounds like that is typical for this little guy. I’m not sure what he was doing so far from a water source, there is a river around here, but maybe 5 miles away. Thanks for having such a great site, you see a lot of strange critters in Iraq, and your website is very helpful. We actually saw a camel spider today, he was probably 4 inches long, and very fast! I have sent the video along as well in a separate email, the guys at work were having some fun with him, but he escaped under the port a potty. Have a good day!
Patricia Winn

Hi Patricia,
Thanks for sending us your Toe-Biter image. We get numerous images of Toe-Biters, also called Giant Water Bugs or Electric Light Bugs, from around the world, including the U.S. Please return home safely and soon.

Letter 34 – Toe-Biter: Sprayed with Insecticide

 

Spastic Attacker?
Hello Bugman,
i came into work this morning and this big bug was just waiting for me. He can fly, he is two and a half inches in length. He has claws that you can see in the picture what is he?????!!!! he ambushed me by flying but he was moving too fast and hit the garbage can. He then proceeded to walk around as in a daze. i ran to get the raid. so this is him dead,(sorry had too). We are located in South Florida, Sunrise to Be exact near the Everglades. we also use many chemicals in our facility…is this some weird mutation? whatever it is it scared the living crap out of me. Thank you,
Andy Kake

Hi Andy,
This impressive insect is a Giant Water Bug or Electric Light Bug, though our favorite name for it is a Toe-Biter. They will bite, and the bite is painful, but they are really harmless. In our mind, this is a case of Unnecessary Carnage. Toe-Biters are aquatic insects, and in the event you are interested, they are edible and considered delicacies in Thailand.

Letter 35 – Toe-Biters and other Insect Fast Food in Thailand

 

Rescuing fish…!
Hi Daniel,
Many thanks for sparing your time to identify my whipscorpion. The poor little thing was probably snoozing somewhere nice and dry under the big pot – I feel guilty now about putting it back in the waterlogged yard ! Looking at the all the whipscorpion pics, it looks like I found one of the less scary looking ones! On a slightly different tack, you mention elsewhere that toe-biters are a delicacy in Thailand, so I thought I’d send you a couple of photos of these tasty snacks at a roadside stall in Bangkok. Mmmm…Yummy ! ( Actually that’s me quoting somebody else. ) Also, I’ve just looked at the ‘ About WTB ‘ for the first time, and am delighted to find you’re not nerdy boffins, but outrageeous artists !! Love the I da Ho sweater ! Cheers,
Graham.

Hi again Graham,
Thank you so much for adding to our Edible Insect archive with your Toe-Biter Fast Food images.

Letter 36 – Toe-Biter Absconds with Quarter

 

Creeepy!
OK what is this thing. This jumbo sized beetle-thingy was going toe-to-toe with my cat for a while and the scary part is I wasn’t sure who was going to win. I managed to rescue the it once the cat backed off and put it outside but it seems to have taken some serious damage as it no longer wants to move or do much. But living up here in Maine I rarely see bugs this large.
Brent

Hi Brent,
This is a Giant Water Bug or Toe-Biter. This is one of several images we have received lately with what appears to be Toe-Biters making off with cash.

Letter 37 – Toe-Biter on a Dollar Bill

 

Giant Waterbug
Hey Bug man,
i saw all the pics of water bugs and thought i would send in my pic of the notorious "Laredo, Texas Toe Bitter". NO Bugs were harmed during photo shoot!
R.Brand

Hi R. Brand,
What an interesting use of scale to demonstrate the size of the Giant Water Bug or Toe-Biter.

Eric Eaton is also amused!!!
(08/13/2007)
Daniel: This just in: Super aggressive toe-biters are now assaulting humans and taking their money! Film at eleven. LOL! I love the image of the giant water bug on the dollar bill. I wonder if the submitter simply volunteered the money, or if the water bug was packing heat? Hahahaha! Have a great week. Oh, the field guide is going into a second printing. Already!
Eric

Letter 38 – Giant Water Bug from Kenya

 

Tarantula Eating Man Killer
Mon, Mar 23, 2009 at 1:15 AM
I am currently serving in a mission for my church in Kisumu, Kenya. One night during the time just before the rainy season (March) my companion and I were playing Rook when we heard a knocking at the door. We came out to inspect, but saw no one. So this happened several times and we finally got curious enough to investigate. We thought maybe it was some kids, but we were wrong. We saw this little thing on our porch. I was about to kill it when my companion suggested we take some pictures. I went to get the Rook card for scale and when I bent down to put the card next to the bug, it flew right at my face. I dodged it, more surprised than scared, and it flew into the door (And it made the knocking sound we were hearing) and fell on its back. While it was still dazed I took the card, set it next to the bug and took the picture. I have been wondering what it was. I swear that this thing is the biggest bug in the world! Besides maybe a tarantula. But this thing feeds on them! Well I don’t know for sure, but I think it could.
Elder Collyer
Kisumu Kenya

Giant Water Bug
Giant Water Bug

Dear Elder,
This is a Giant Water Bug in the family Belostomatidae.  In the U.S. they are also known as Electric Light Bugs since they are attracted to lights, and Toe-Biters because of the painful bite.  They are aquatic predators that do not eat tarantulas.  They are adept at flying as well as swimming, but are clumsy on the ground.  They are found around the world and are eaten in Thailand.

Letter 39 – Toe-Biter Snacks

 

Toebiters for dinner?
Sun, Apr 12, 2009 at 1:01 PM
They had these at the local Asian market
Daniel
St. Petersburg, Florida
http://www.shirtsofbamboo.com/

Product of Thailand:  Toe-Biters
Product of Thailand: Toe-Biters

Thanks for sending in the wonderful photo Daniel, but you neglected to tell us how many servings of this Thai delicacy you and Lisa had for dinner.

Letter 40 – Giant Water Bug from Argentina

 

What is this bug?
February 7, 2010
Hi there, I have seen this bug for the first time in my life and in the two years I have been living in my place. I live in an apartment, first floor with a patio and some plants in pots. No grass or dirt. Even thou I have seen pretty much variety of insects that took my attention several times. I have remembered this site and decided to start sending you pics of what I just find interesting to share. As you see the insect is dead but I have found one alive but took it away because I don´t really know if it can bite. We are in summer now and these ones appeared after 3 days of continuous rainy days. Thanks for you help.
Fred
Buenos Aires Argentina.

Giant Water Bug

Hi Fred,
This is a Giant Water Bug in the family Belostomatidae.  Most of the examples we see are from the genus Lethocerus, but your specimen is from one of the other genera, probably Belostoma, or possibly Abedus.  Giant Water Bugs are aquatic predators that can also fly quite well, a capability they use when their ponds dry out.  They are also attracted to lights, and that may be the reason it was attracted to your apartment.  Giant Water Bugs can bite painfully if provoked or carelessly handled, and in the U.S. they are commonly called Toe-Biters as well as Electric Light Bugs.

Giant Water Bug

Daniel, thanks a lot for you quick and great response. I really appreciate what you do and hopefully I will be able to send you new pics to share and find out what kind of bug is it.
Have a great week.
Fred.

Letter 41 – Toe-Biter from Argentina: death by trauma

 

Chinche Acuatica?
March 21, 2010
Fue hallada en zona del Río Quequén que separa la ciudad de Necochea con Quequén
38º 33′ 16′ 85 S
58º 43 41 95 w
Presumimos que se trata de una chinche acuática
Volaban mas de 10 por la zona
Bichos en Necochea
Necochea Buenos Aires Argentina

Toe-Biter Carnage

Hola,
Perdona porque nuestro Espanol no esta bueno.  Su insecto esta una chinche acuatica.  Your insect is an aquatic bug or Giant Water Bug, also known as a Toe-Biter or Electric Light Bug.
Alas, this appears to be unnecessary carnage.

Letter 42 – Toe-Biter from Argentina: Another image of the same dead bug!!!

 

Flying biting fly thing
March 22, 2010
I recently moved down to Argentina, and there was an attack on a person by these flying things. The people do not know what type of bug it is, so I thought I might ask here. I know it’s not North America, but maybe you can help. The attack happened by a river, and they bit the person.
Tanya
Necochea, Aegentina

Giant Water Bug

Hi Tanya,
We received another photo of this same dead bug yesterday, and the letter was in Spanish.  Giant Water Bugs are called Toe-Biters in the U.S. and they will bite if carelessly handled.  We are most curious about the details of the attack you mentioned.  Were there multiple insects involved?

Letter 43 – Toe-Biter from Uruguay

 

please help me identifying this bug!!!
Location: uruguay, la paloma
January 25, 2011 11:29 pm
Bugman,
i was staying for the weekend in la paloma, uruguay, and while chilling out outside my hotel bedroom, this strange bug fell near us. Neither me, my boyfriend or the hotel concierge could identify it, this man told us he never saw a bug like that on that area on his entire life. since then im trying to look it up on the internet but i cant find it, although some beetles looks like it.
please help me!
geographic location: LA PALOMA, URUGUAY
season: SUMMER
Signature: Natalie

Toe-Biter

Dear Natalie,
When we originally began writing What’s That Bug? as a print column in a photocopied zine American Homebody back in 1998, we thought we would have an easy time identifying large creatures that wandered into homes in Los Angeles, and then when What’s That Bug? became a column on the now defunct website AmericanHomebody.com in 1999, we figured we would still have the wherewithal to be able to deal with things on a more national level.  As we became more and more popular, and we became a unique website, things got more complicated and now we are often mistakenly regarded as scientific experts who are fully capable of identifying to the species level the most obscure and confusing creatures found throughout the far reaches of the world wide web and beyond.  That is simply not the case, but your insect is refreshingly easy for us to identify.  This is a Giant Water Bug, one of the aquatic predators in the family Belostomatidae.  It doesn’t matter if they are from California, Texas, Maryland, Costa Rica, Africa, Thailand or Australia, Giant Water Bugs in the family Belostomatidae are easy for us to classify to the family level, though an expert is required to narrow things to the species level.  Giant Water Bugs all look and act similarly.  They are aquatic predators and adults are quite capable of flying great distances.  They are attracted to lights, and in North America they are commonly called Electric Light Bugs, but we prefer the more scintillating name Toe-Biter because of the images it conjures up.  Many a swimmer has gotten a painful bite from an unfortunate encounter with a Toe-Biter.  In Thailand and in other parts of the world, they are considered delicacies and they may be purchased from street vendors.  They are even available in certain specialty grocery stores.

Letter 44 – Toe-Biter with Shoe for Scale

 

Unknown large bug
Location: 1026 Washington Ave. S. E. Mpls, MN
April 13, 2011 12:47 pm
Please identify.
Signature: Pauline Pipho

Toe-Biter

Ed. Note: Our original unposted response follows.
watch your feet.  It’s a toe-biter

Name it; can you give me more information?

Dear Pauline,
We did name it.  This is a Giant Water Bug and it is commonly called a Toe-Biter.  Just exactly how much more information do you want?  Your original message asked for an identification.  We were amused by the two photos you sent with the foot included as scale, hence our brief message.  As the weather across North America warms with spring, the number of email identification requests we receive daily rises greatly, so much so that our tiny staff is unable to even respond to every request.  Additionally, more and more identification requests are being delivered with cellular technology, and the quality of the grammar and spelling of the identification requests plummets as the word count drops.  We respond from a desktop computer each morning before leaving for a traditional job, so we fire off as many requests as possible in the time allotted.  A google search of Toe-Biter should provide you with all the information you desire.  We have read  that the bite of a Giant Water Bug is quite painful, yet we rarely hear that anyone is bitten.

Letter 45 – Toe-Biter results in argumental stalemate between spouses

 

Argument husband vs wife
Location: caledon, ontario, canada
August 13, 2011 12:29 pm
Good day,
Me and my husband are trying to identify a bug we found dead in the stairwell leading from our garage to the house. We are trying to determine if it is a beetle or a cochroache..hopefully you can end this argement.
Signature: Christine

Toe-Biter

Stop arguing Christine.  You are both wrong.  This is a Giant Water Bug, also known as a Toe-Biter or Electric Light Bug.  It is an aquatic predator that can also fly quite well.  Close relatives from Thailand are quite large and are considered delicacies.  They are sold on the street by food vendors there.  Toe-Biters are among our most frequent identification requests.

Letter 46 – Giant Water Bug from South Africa

 

Insect
Location: Ellisras (Limpopo)
December 12, 2011 11:51 pm
Good Morning
Can you tell me what insect this is.
Thank you
Signature: By email

Giant Water Bug

Dear By email,
Your insect is an aquatic Giant Water Bug.  The species found in North America  are commonly called Toe-Biters or Electric Light Bugs.  The giants found in Southeast Asia are eaten as delicacies.  Giant Water Bugs are found on all continents with the possible exception of Antarctica.

Letter 47 – Giant Water Bug from Canada

 

BIG BUG!
Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
May 6, 2012 11:17 pm
What is this?! I was found in a baseball field in early May…so late spring although we are having summer weather lately. There were four or five of them in the area. This is a smaller one. It’s not the best picture but I would describe it as a beetle/moth sort of mix. Maybe a large water bug? Any ideas?
Signature: SCARED!

Giant Water Bug

Dear SCARED!,
We really love your offbeat photograph of a Giant Water Bug, an aquatic insect that also flies quite well and is attracted to strong lights at night, like around a baseball field, and that has earned them another common name:  Electric Light Bug.  Giant Water Bugs are also called Toe-Biters, allegedly because of the number of people, probably mainly young boys, who step on them on the bottoms of ponds and swimming areas while barefoot.

Letter 48 – Giant Water Bug from Uganda

 

Subject: Strange bugs in Uganda
Location: Jinja, Uganda
September 12, 2012 5:30 am
I found these in my yard in Jinja, Uganda. Much larger than what I’ve seen around my home in Georia, USA. I can’t find much info on insects in Uganda on the internet; hence my query. Thank You!
Signature: Ugandan American Partnership Org.

Giant Water Bug

Dear Ugandan American Partnership Org.,
This is some species of Giant Water Bug in the family Belostomatidae.  Giant Water Bugs are found in many parts of the world and they are eaten in Thailand.  In the U.S.  Giant Water Bugs are frequently called Toe-Biters because they have been known to give careless swimmers a painful bite.  Though they are aquatic, Giant Water Bugs are capable of flying and they are often attracted to electric lights, providing them with another common name:  Electric Light Bug.  You can compare your photo to the images of North American species on BugGuide.

Giant Water Bug

Letter 49 – Toe-Biter from India

 

Subject: Bug Indentiticatio
Location: Vasai, Maharashtra, India
October 4, 2012 10:18 am
Hi,
I found this huge bug just outside my office. The stray dogs were trying to kill it, but it was giving them a fight back so they backed off. So clicked a few pics and wanted to know what kind of bud it is. Help Appreciated… Thanks
Signature: Anyhow

Toe-Biter

Dear Anyhow,
We can’t help but to wonder if youngsters in India have a colorful name for the Giant Water Bug, an aquatic True Bug that American children, especially those in the south, call Toe-Biters. 
These Hemipteran behemoths have been reported to have bitten waders in freshwater lakes and ponds.  The Toe-Biter in your photo appears to be watching the camera.  We hope you weren’t bare-footed on those tiles.

Letter 50 – Giant Water Bug from Gambia

 

Subject: Identify an insect
Location: Kotu Beach Hotel, The Gambia
December 9, 2012 5:07 am
I found this bug near the swimming pool of the hotel I was staying in at Kotu. It was found at about 0600hrs in the morning.The medication aerosol was used for size comparison, the bug measured 6 – 7cm long and 2.25cm wide.
Signature: Ed Owen

Giant Water Bug

Dear Ed,
This is a Giant Water Bug in the family Belestomatidae, and it is an aquatic predator that is capable of flying from one body of water to another.  Perhaps it was attracted to the hotel pool, or perhaps it was attracted to the hotel lights.  Giant Water Bugs are the largest True Bugs in the world.  They have mouthparts that are designed for piercing the body of their prey and sucking fluids.  Though they do not prey upon humans, they will bite if provoked, threatened or carelessly handled.  In North America they are commonly called Toe-Biters because they will produce a painful bite if they are accidentally stepped on by swimmers or waders.  They are also called Electric Light Bugs because they are frequently attracted to lights, sometimes in great numbers.  Giant Water Bugs are found in many parts of the world.

Letter 51 – Giant Water Bug from Namibia

 

Subject: Namibian creature
Location: Namutonia, Etosha, namibia
January 3, 2013 4:10 pm
What is this?
Signature: Ward

Giant Water Bug

Dear Ward,
This is a Giant Water Bug in the family Belostomatidae and they are the largest True Bugs in the world.  They are aquatic predators that are also capable of flight.  In North America, they are commonly called Toe-Biters because they sometimes bite swimmers and waders, and the bite is reported to be very painful.

Letter 52 – Toe-Biter from Canada

 

Subject: Palmetto beetle
Location: Central Canada
April 26, 2013 5:02 am
Please help me identify the creature found in springtime in Quebec, Canada (not a hot climate)…it’s about 2” in length…
Signature: Marie

Toe-Biter
Toe-Biter

Dear Marie,
A Palmetto Bug is a common name for the large American Cockroaches found in the south.  This is a Giant Water Bug, a common name for a predatory aquatic True Bug.  Giant Water Bugs are sometimes called Toe-Biters because of the painful bite they can inflict on unwary swimmers and waders.

Letter 53 – Giant Water Bug from Afghanistan

 

Subject: Saw this bug flying in Afghanistan
Location: Afghanistan
June 4, 2013 2:06 pm
Bugman,
Saw this flying and found it on the ground to take a picture. Not sure what it is but I would like to know. I am in Afghanistan in Laghman Province. It has 6 legs looked like a proboscis type mouth, front legs and head swivels like a mantis similar to mantis type back looks like a roach. underside of the thorax moves like it is breathing. it was aggressive toward the same species and it looked like there were 2 stingers that came out the end of it.
Signature: Joshua

Giant Water Bug
Giant Water Bug

Hi Joshua,
This is an aquatic predator known as a Giant Water Bug.  It uses is raptorial front legs like a mantis to grasp prey.  They have a painful bite and stateside they are commonly called Toe-Biters.

Letter 54 – Toe-Biter found in Coffin!!!

 

Subject: What’s this bug
Location: Jacksonville fl 32225
December 2, 2013 8:55 am
Hi, we found this bug in a coffin we were moving for a new business purchase, can you tell us what it is?
Signature: Sport Johnston

Toe-Biter
Toe-Biter

Dear Sport,
This is a Giant Water Bug or Toe-Biter, a predatory aquatic True Bug that is capable of flying from one pond or water source to another.  We cannot fathom why it was in a coffin.

Letter 55 – Toe-Biter, NOT Water Strider

 

Subject: Giant Water Strider
Location: Flux Canyon, Arizoa
March 7, 2014 1:32 pm
I see that you already have many good photos of the giant water strider ….I saw this fellow March 5th…at night in the desert near the town Patagonia.
There are no sizable bodies of water nearby but there were some heavy rains here that may have carried him to this house.
I recognized that he was a water strider but it made no sense that he was sitting on a sidewalk in the desert with no water nearby.
I researched and these bugs seem to leave the water during their mating cycle.
I stared right into the face of this fellow….Some pics if you wanty to post them
Signature: Susan Warner

Toe-Biter
Toe-Biter

Dear Susan,
We are thrilled to post your images, however, they are of a Toe-Biter or Giant Water Bug, NOT a Giant Water Strider, which is a very different looking Aquatic Bug.  Both Water Striders and Giant Water Bugs are capable of flying some distance to a new body of water.  Giant Water Bugs are also called Electric Light Bugs because they are attracted to porch lights and other nighttime sources of illumination.

Giant Water Bug
Giant Water Bug

March 9, 2014 11:16 am
Thanks for giving me the correct identification of the “Toe-Biter”…..of course that chunky big bug would not be skating across the water surface!
Thanks…………………………….
Signature: Susan Warner

 

Letter 56 – Toe-Biter from Canada

 

Subject: Found Bug
Location: Surrey, BC Canada
April 10, 2014 8:03 am
Found this bug outside @ my work in Surrey, BC Canada. Just wondering what it is.
Signature: Kelly

Toe-Biter
Toe-Biter

Hi Kelly,
Our response to you yesterday was just a quick identification that this is a Toe-Biter, and we would like to elaborate a bit now that we have a moment.  Toe-Biters or Giant Water Bugs are also called Electric Light Bugs since they are attracted to lights.  They are aquatic predators that are capable of flying from pond to pond if the habitat dries up.  The bite is reported to be quite painful, and many a wader has encountered a Giant Water Bug with painful results, hence the common name of Toe-Biter.  Because of their large size and unusual appearance, the Toe-Biter is one of our most frequent identification requests.  As a side note, Giant Water Bugs are edible and their larger Asian cousins are considered a delicacy in Thailand.

Toe-Biter
Toe-Biter

Letter 57 – Toe-Biter found in pool

 

Subject: Two inch long horned beetle?
Location: Found in water
May 8, 2014 7:12 pm
I live in West Virginia and I found this bug in my pool. It was 1 1/2 inches to two inches long it had long horn looking things and a very thick hard shell I would love to know what it is I’ve never seen anything like it!
Signature: Annie Faye

Toe-Biter
Toe-Biter

Dear Annie,
Though they are aquatic, we very rarely get reports of Giant Water Bugs or Toe-Biters that are found in the water.  They are also capable of flight and they are attracted to lights, so most encounters occur on the land.  As the common name implies, Toe-Biters should be handled with care as they are capable of delivering a painful bite.

Letter 58 – Giant Water Bug from West Africa

 

Subject: Large African Flying Beetle
Location: Burkina Faso (West Africa)
June 28, 2014 11:38 am
Hey Sir, I am a Marine stationed out here in Africa and saw the weirdest looking beetle outside my house. I have never seen anything like it on discovery channel. The things was huge and aggressive. Not only did it have huge claws to grab stuff with but it fly’s also! It wasn’t even scared of me it actually tried to attack me. I didn’t squish the monster he took off and caught a moth in flight. Hopefully you can help me identify this guy.
Signature: Zachary Staman

Giant Water Bugs
Giant Water Bugs

Hi Zachary,
It is easy to mistake this Giant Water Bug in the family Belostomatidae for a beetle, but closer inspection will reveal that instead of mandibles adapted to chewing like the beetles, the Giant Water Bug has a mouth designed to pierce and suck fluids from its prey, consistent with the mouths of Heteropterans, the True Bugs.  Giant Water Bugs from North America are often called Toe-Biters because unwary waders have frequently received a painful bite if they step on one of these aquatic predators, or otherwise carelessly handle them.  

Letter 59 – Unknown True Bug is Toe-Biter

 

Subject: BUG ID
Location: Rochester, NY
September 7, 2014 6:14 pm
Can you ID this bug which was found in our garage. Runs fast. Possibly soldier bug ?
Thank you,
Veronica
Signature: Veronica

True Bug, but which one???
Distorted image of Toe-Biter

Dear Veronica,
We wish your image had more detail.  We are relatively confident that this is a True Bug in the suborder Heteroptera, but at this time, we cannot provide any additional information.  It most closely resembles the Narrow Stink Bugs in the genus Mecidea that are pictured on BugGuide, but we do not believe that is a correct identification, especially as there are no sightings in the northeast.  Can you please tell us how large this insect was and also send additional images if you have any.  Meanwhile, we are going to seek a second opinion from Eric Eaton.

Eric Eaton provides an obvious ID
Daniel:
Kinda funny that it *ran* fast considering this is actually an aquatic insect that *swims* fast.  LOL!  This is a giant water bug in the genus Belostoma, family Belostomatidae.  They fly well and are sometimes attracted to lights at night.  Well, you know that already, and know they are also called “toe-biters.”
Eric

Interesting Eric.  We are no strangers to Toe-Biter identifications, and at first we thought this might be a Water Scorpion.  The image appears to be distorted, and that threw us off, combined with the “runs fast” comment.

Comment
This reminds me quite a bit of a Belostomatid, but it looks like a somewhat stretched picture. If you vertically compress the picture a little bit, it’s easier to see. Then again, it could be something completely different! I look forward to hearing what Mr Eaton says. The true bugs are my favorite group to work with, there’s always surprises.
sccabrian

Dear sccabrian,
You are correct.  See Eric’s response and our reply.

Hemipteran Corrected Perspective
Hemipteran Corrected Perspective

Ed. Note:  We feel really stupid because our first thought was aquatic bug, but it just did not look right.  We never suspected altered perspective.  Of the Toe-Biters in the genus Belostoma, BugGuide states much of fascination, including “overwinters as an adult; mating and egg laying occurs in late spring or early summer” and “Females cement their eggs to the backs of males, who swim with the eggs attached, providing aeration and protection until the eggs hatch.”  This is one of the few examples in the Insect Class where the presence of the male improves the chances of survival of the young, AKA paternal behavior.  We believe the male Sexton Beetles contribute to the care of the larvae.

Thank you Daniel. Unfortunately we have no other images. We think he is about an inch long +/- a bit. I know we are horrid
describers !

Letter 60 – Toe-Biter in Canada

 

Toe-Biter
Toe-Biter

Subject: Huge Canadian Bug
Location: Nova Scotia, Canada
October 9, 2014 5:18 pm
Hi!
I was out hunting in the woods today and accidentally stepped on this huge bug (God bless)! I’m very curious as to what it was. The current temperature is around 10 degrees Celsius as we’re right into the fall season.
Signature: Logan

Giant Water Bug
Giant Water Bug

Dear Logan,
This impressive creature is a Giant Water Bug or Toe-Biter.  Toe-Biters are aquatic predators that can also fly, so they can move from pond to pond or seek a new watery habitat if their home dries out.

Letter 61 – Giant Water Bug from Argentina

 

Subject: Hola from Buenos Aires!
Location: Buenos Aires, Argentina
August 22, 2015 2:30 am
My son sent me this picture of a beetle he found on his way home from work lat night. He lives in Olivos, which is a suburb of Buenos Aires, Argentina. He couldn’t identify it, but we offered a guess that it was some type of cicada. Do you guys agree with our assessment?
Thanks!
Signature: Rich Williams

Giant Water Bug
Giant Water Bug

Dear Rich,
This is NOT a beetle or a Cicada.  It is a Giant Water Bug, an aquatic True Bug that is also capable of flying.  They are frequently attracted to lights and in North America they are sometimes called Electric Light Bugs, but more commonly they are called Toe-Biters because waders are sometimes surprised by a painful bite if they step on them in shallow water.  Giant Water Bugs are aquatic predators with mouths designed to pierce the prey and suck the fluids from the body.  Though painful to humans, the bite is not considered dangerous.

Letter 62 – Toe-Biter from Canada

 

Subject: Beetle crawling on foot on porch
Location: Southwestern Ontario, Southwest Middlesex county.
October 7, 2015 7:53 pm
This beetle was crawling across my foot on my porch at night with my light on. We live in an old overgrown orchard prolific with deer and turkey etc as well as a small fresh spring area far from the house. There are no ponds or other water areas nearby. There are corn fields and other wooded areas around our 18 acres.
Signature: Cathleen

Toe-Biter
Toe-Biter

Dear Cathleen,
This large insect is not a beetle, but rather an aquatic True Bug known as a Toe-Biter because of the alleged frequency with which fresh water waders are bitten while in the water.  Though the bite of the Toe-Biter is alleged to be quite painful, and though we probably have over 100 images of Toe-Biters on our site, we cannot recall a single instance of a person reporting being bitten.  Toe-Biters can also fly quite well and they are attracted to electric lights, hence another common name Electric Light Bug.

Toe-Biter
Toe-Biter

Thank you very much for the identity of my midnight crawler. It is greatly appreciated and I am truly thankful for your website and expeditious response to my question.
Thank you.
Cathleen
Wardsville, Ontario, Canada

Letter 63 – Toe-Biter on a bed of nails

 

Subject: What’s this?!
Location: Penticton bc Canada
October 27, 2015 10:49 am
Hi! My boyfriend recently found this gigantic bug of some sort… Hoping you can help us figure out what it is!
Signature: Jenn

Toe-Biter
Toe-Biter

Dear Jenn,
That Toe-Biter looks almost like a Centipede with those nails resembling too many legs for an insect.  We will be post-dating your submission to go live on Halloween while we are out of the office.

Letter 64 – Giant Water Bug from Australia

 

Subject: What is this demon
Location: Newcastle, NSW Australia.
March 18, 2016 1:31 am
This huge bug was found and after taking a beating from a broom was still alive. It was greyish in colour on the back and a lot bigger but unfortunately after a degreaser bath seemed to shrink a little and change colour.
Signature: I need an exorcist!

Toe-Biter
Toe-Biter

Giant Water Bugs like the one you “degreased” are commonly called Toe-Biters in North America.  According to the Australian Museum, other common names include Electric Light Bug and Giant Fishkiller.  A Queensland Museum pdf fact-sheet-water-bugs-water-scorpions indicates it is the largest true bug in Australia and that Toe-Biter is also an acceptable name down under.   Wannabee Entomologist has a fun posting.

Letter 65 – Giant Water Bug from Oman

 

Subject: What is this big insect
Location: Oman
March 27, 2016 1:26 pm
What is this big insect
Signature: Ahmed

Giant Water Bug
Giant Water Bug

Dear Ahmed,
This is a Giant Water Bug in the family Belostomatidae.  This is an aquatic predator that can also fly.  They are reported to give a painful bite if carelessly handled or accidentally encountered in still waters.  In North America, they are called Toe-Biters and swimmers and waders should exercise caution to avoid a painful, but not dangerous bite.

Letter 66 – Toe-Biter from Canada

 

Subject: Flying bug
Location: Camrose, Alberta , Canada
September 6, 2016 7:14 pm
Hope you can identify this bug. You can see how big it is compared to the thumb next to it. It flew into the building at night., maybe attracted to the lights.
Signature: Patricia Wilcox

Toe-Biter
Toe-Biter

Dear Patricia,
This Giant Water Bug has several other common names, including Toe-Biter, because of the number of waders who have been surprised while in the water, and Electric Light Bug because of their propensity for being attracted to artificial lights.

Letter 67 – Giant Water Bug from Brazil

 

Subject: Is this T. infestans?
Location: Vitoria da Conquista, Bahia, Brazil
December 19, 2016 10:00 pm
Hi Bugman!
Can you tell me what bug this is? I think it is related to T. infestans, but my dear daughter disagrees, and thinks it more related to some sort of cockroach.
Help us put our disagreement to rest.
Love your blog!
Signature: Tenney Naumer

Giant Water Bug
Giant Water Bug

Dear Tenney,
This is a Giant Water Bug in the family Belostomatidae, and it is not related to the Cockroach.  Giant Water Bugs are aquatic predators that can also fly.  In the U.S. they are commonly called Toe-Biters.

Letter 68 – Toe-Biter from Argentina

 

Subject:  What is THIS?
Geographic location of the bug:  Buenos Aires
Date: 09/19/2017
Time: 08:58 AM EDT
I want to know what is this and if its dangerous . Its almost 15cm long
How you want your letter signed:  Natalia

Toe-Biter

Dear Natalia,
This is a predatory Giant Water Bug, commonly called a Toe-Biter in North America.  Though it is not considered dangerous, the common name Toe-Biter is a reference to the number of waders who have accidentally stepped on a Giant Water Bug in the shallows and the painful bite that resulted.

Letter 69 – Toe-Biter from Canada

 

Subject:  Large beetle
Geographic location of the bug:  Ottawa ontario canada
Date: 04/25/2018
Time: 07:30 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  We saw this bug casually crossing a busy street on April 24 2018. The crab like front legs and bulging eyes kind of creeped us out. We put something in the frame to measure by.
How you want your letter signed:  Gabrielle

Toe-Biter

Dear Gabrielle,
This is not a Beetle.  It is an aquatic True Bug commonly called a Giant Water Bug or Toe-Biter.

Letter 70 – Toe-Biter

 

Subject:  Beetle
Geographic location of the bug:  Central Maine
Date: 10/01/2021
Time: 08:06 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Early October evening
How you want your letter signed:  Bobcat

Toe-Biter

Dear Bobcat,
The Toe-Biter is a predatory aquatic True Bug that can also fly.  It is not a Beetle.

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 – Giant Water Bug from Arizona

 

What is this?
Location: Green Valley, AZ
April 16, 2012 4:53 pm
Could you please help identify this bug. It was found south of Tucson, AZ.
Signature: Josh O

Giant Water Bug

Hi Josh,
You have found a Giant Water Bug in the family Belostomatidae, the largest True Bugs in North America.  Most western species are smaller, and we rarely get reports from the west of members of the genus
Lethocerus, but that is what you have found.  BugGuide only reports one species from Arizona, and that is Lethocerus medius.  Giant Water Bugs are frequently called Toe-Biters because they can give a painful bite to swimmers that encounter them at the bottom of ponds, or Electric Light Bugs because they are frequently attracted to powerful lights.  Though they are aquatic, Giant Water Bugs are also strong fliers which suits them well if their ponds dry out.

Letter 2 – Toe-Biter from Canada

 

Beetle with big pinchers?
Location:  Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
September 29, 2010 5:10 pm
Hi! Found this beetle in a parking lot in Winnipeg, Manitoba around midnight around Sept. 19th. It was about 10oC or 50oF, and there were about 50 of the same bugs all over the lot. Wondering if you could identify it for me? Thanks!
Signature:  Emily F.

Toe-Biter

Hi Emily,
The Giant Water Bug or Toe-Biter is one of our most common identification requests, and it seems we must have close to 100 images of Toe-Biters posted to our site.  People frequently mistake this True Bug for a beetle.  We like to post a new image of a Toe-Biter  every once in awhile.

Letter 3 – Giant Water Bug or Toe-Biter from Australia

 

Giant Bug in Rockhampton, Australia
December 30, 2009
Hi! I just found this picture in my photos from my Australia trip this year, and this bug I just can’t figure out. It can definitely survive in water ( we fished it out of the pool after a few hours and it flew away ), and it must have gotten in there by itself so it can probably swim as well. It has pretty huge claws and makes a lot of noise, and flies and runs pretty fast. I know that a lot of locals didn’t know what it was either, so maybe it’s new to the area or doesn’t come out every year. We saw it in April as far as I can remember, and it started out with just a few and then we started to see them all over. I attached a picture with an australian ten cent coin for size info. I’ve been trying to figure out what it is but I can’t find it anywhere, help would be really appreciated 🙂
Maja Schubert
Rockhampton, Australia

Giant Water Bug
Giant Water Bug

Hi Maja,
This is a Giant Water Bug.  In the U.S., they are commonly called Toe-Biters.

Letter 4 – Giant Water Bug from Bolivia

 

Subject: Bolivian Bar Bug
Location: Trinidad, Bolivia
May 30, 2012 6:05 pm
Hi, I found this bug hiding on the floor in some bark when I was walking out of the toilet in an outdoor bar. It was pretty slow and completely non-agressive.
Signature: Kev Brady

Giant Water Bug

Hi Kev,
Perhaps you are more courageous when you are in your cups.  This is a Giant Water Bug and in North America, the somewhat smaller relatives to your specimen get the common name Toe-Biter because of the frequency of bites received by swimmers in the lakes and ponds that constitute the habitat for this impressive aquatic insect.  They are not aggressive toward humans, but we would not want to chance a painful bite because of careless handling.  Giant Water Bugs can fly from pond to pond.  It was probably attracted to the lights at the bar.

Giant Water Bug

 

Letter 5 – Toe-Biter from Mexico

 

Subject:  very large bug
Geographic location of the bug:  Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico
Date: 09/10/2018
Time: 10:24 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  My wife found this 9-10 cm big bug in an arroyo 2 days ago and we wanted to know what it is because my brother-in-law claims that it is very poisonous. Thanks!
How you want your letter signed:  Michael Patrick

Toe-Biter

Dear Michael,
This is a Giant Water Bug in the family Belostomatidae and there are similar looking individuals found all over the world.  Commonly called Toe-Biters in North America because of the painful bite they are able to inflict on bathers and waders in freshwater bodies of water, Giant Water Bugs are not considered poisonous, however, they do inject saliva that can cause a reaction in some people.  According to Research Gate:  “These insects have toxic saliva capable of provoking intense pain and paralysis in vertebrates. Victims experienced intense, excruciating pain and 1 manifested hypoesthesia in the forearm. Bites by Belostomatidae are often reported by clinicians working in areas where these insects live, but there are no detailed case reports in the medical literature. ”  According to Pest Wiki:  “Water bugs are referred to as Toe biters because they do bite.Water bugs are harmless to humans.They don’t seek for people to go and bite them up.Water bugs bite is considered to be most harmful and painful.They bite on rare occasions when we get scared, or they get terrified. Usually, there are initial symptoms, but rarely they may cause life-threatening allergic reactions.”

Wow that was a very complete and useful description! Thank you so much.
I will recommend your website to everyone!

Letter 6 – Giant Water Bug from South Africa

 

Subject: scorpion roach?
Location: durban south africa
March 4, 2013 1:17 pm
Hello
I was on my way home last night when I saw this peculiar bug. It’s roughly 10cm long and moves with those large mandibles at the front. I am in durban in south africa. I’ve never seen anything like it.
James
Signature: james

Giant Water Bug
Giant Water Bug

Hi James,
This is a Giant Water Bug in the family Belostomatidae, and in North America they are commonly called either Electric Light Bugs because they are attracted to lights at night, or Toe-Biters because they can deliver a nasty bite to unwary swimmers in lakes and ponds.  Giant Water Bugs are aquatic predators that are capable of flight, a valuable skill when ponds dry out.

Letter 7 – Toe-Biter in post-Maria Puerto Rico

 

Subject:  What type of insect is this?
Geographic location of the bug:  Puerto Rico
Date: 10/24/2017
Time: 10:15 AM EDT
Hi, we have just experienced a large hurricane in Puerto Rico and all sorts of bugs I’ve never seen before are coming out, but this one is really interesting it was aprox 2 inches long. Can you help identify it.
Thanks
How you want your letter signed:  Mike

Toe-Biter

Dear Mike,
We on the mainland are well aware that Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, and we also understand that aid is progressing at a glacial pace.  Hurricanes frequently blow insects, as well as birds and other even larger creatures, to remote locations, so we researched if there are any local Giant Water Bugs or Toe-Biters native to Puerto Rico.  On page 35 of Insectos de Puerto Rico, we found an image of
Lethocerus annulipes, so unless the creature in your image is a different species that looks very similar, you encountered a local species.  Toe-Biters are aquatic, but they can also fly if their ponds dry out.

Letter 8 – Giant Water Bug from Greece

 

Subject: beetle?
Location: thassos, greece
May 20, 2013 12:27 am
Hi, we found it on the beach , I ’ve never seen so big insect around, can you determine it?
Signature: george

Giant Water Bug

Hi George,
This is a Giant Water Bug in the family Belostomatidae.  They are predatory aquatic insects that are also capable of flight when their habitat dries up.
  Giant Water Bugs are commonly called Toe-Biters in North America, because although they are not aggressive toward humans, they will give a painful bite if carelessly handled or accidentally encountered.

 

Letter 9 – Giant Water Bug from Brazil

 

Pre Historic Roach?
Sun, Nov 23, 2008 at 6:31 PM
This bug was found by my father in the laundry. We don’t have trees and bushes, nor earth in our house, but my neighbor has. Hmm.. this is all i know =[
Hope you can tell us what’s this bug! It really impressed us. Thanks
Reinaldo Hartmann
Brazil – Porto Velho – Ro

Giant Water Bug in Brazil
Giant Water Bug in Brazil

Hi Reinaldo,
This is actually a Giant Water Bug.  In the U.S., they are commonly called Toe-Biters since they have been known to bite people who swim in lakes and ponds.  They don’t aggressively bite humans, but they can deliver a very painful bite if carelessly handled.  Giant Water Bugs can fly quite well, and they are attracted to lights, hence the other common name Electric Light Bug.  Perhaps there was a light in the laundry room that attracted this specimen.

Letter 10 – Toe-Biter from Dominican Republic

 

Toe Biter On Beach!
Hello
Whilst holidaying in the Dominican Republic we came across this fella on the beach. When we got home we searched the Internet and found out from your (very good) site that it’s a Giant Water Bug. He/she was incredibly aggressive; when we went near it, it raised those pincers at us so we kept our distance but still managed to get this photo and a few others. Looking at your site it appears they live in freshwater; could this one have lived in the sea? There was no freshwater nearby. Even the locals looked intrigued at it!
Thanks very much
Neil Williams (Birmingham, England)

Hi Neil,
There are different species of Giant Water Bugs in many parts of the world. We are not sure if any will swim in salt water. As they can fly great distances, it is possible it flew from a pond several miles away.

Letter 11 – Toe-Biter found in New Orleans

 

Subject: cockroach??
Location: new orleans LA
March 15, 2015 9:53 am
saw this at the entrance to a winn dixie grocery store today, lloks like a cockroach but no antenae?.. looked on LSU ag site cant find anything… ideas?
Signature: Aaron Robinson

Toe-Biter
Toe-Biter

Dear Aaron,
This Giant Water Bug is a Toe-Biter, an aquatic, predatory True Bug, not a Cockroach which is an opportunistic scavenger, or at least the few species of Cockroaches that infest human homes are opportunistic scavengers.  Also known as Electric Light Bugs because they are often attracted to the bright lights of sporting events, especially those located near swamps, ponds and other fresh water bodies of water, Toe-Biters earned their more colorful common name because they frequently bite the toes of waders in natural bodies of water.  Though aquatic, Toe-Biters are powerful fliers as well, enabling them to fly to a new habitat if their pond dries out.  Larger relatives are eaten in Thailand.  Toe-Biters are one of our most common identification requests.

Fantastic quick response very grateful for that… Ive been in NOLA for 10 years and I thought I have seen most everything haha… very informative I appreciate your time…. is it odd to see them away from water especially in front of a grocery store?.. one last… are they dangerous if bitten.
thanks again for your time !!
Aaron R

Allegedly painful, but not dangerous, though it seems some people are allergic to most things these days.

 

Letter 12 – Toe-Biters in the Swimming Pool

 

Giant Water Bugs
We found some of these in our pool today when we were closing it up for the winter. How do we get rid of them so they won’t be there next year when we open it back up for the season?
Jay & Charline Everson
Gilmanton IW, New Hampshire

Hi Jay,
There is not much that you can do to keep your swimming pool from appearing desireable to Giant Water Bugs, or as we like to call them, Toe-Biters. Giant Water Bugs can fly quite well, so next year, you may get a whole new population when you uncover the pool.

Letter 13 – Giant Water Bug found in produce in UK

 

Subject: Beetle ??
Location: London UK
January 24, 2017 4:28 am
Found this gem ( not ) in my fruit from the supermarket. Never seen anything like it. Because it was in with imported fruit I’m guessing it’s not from here ( United Kingdom ). I thought it was a Cockroach, but no antennae . It’s almost 2 inches long.
Signature: Kd

Giant Water Bug

Dear Kd,
This is not a Beetle nor is it a Cockroach.  It is a True Bug and we feel quite certain it is a predatory Giant Water Bug in the family Belostomatidae.  You may be correct that it was imported with fruit as the family is not listed on the British Bugs site.

Thank you Daniel,
Was a bit of a shock finding it.  After receiving your email, I googled it and now know that the one I found is only half size  (( shudders )).
Thanks again
Kd

Letter 14 – Giant Water Bug from Iraq

 

Bug found in Iraq
Could you tell me what this bug is? Found while serving in Iraq.
Thanks
Fran

Hi Fran,
This is a Giant Water Bug. They are known as Toe-Biters stateside.

Letter 15 – Toe-Biter from Canada

 

Subject: Big Bug out of place?
Location: Charlottetown PEI Canada
January 30, 2016 8:24 pm
Have never seen a large bug like this before (saw it outside on sidewalk of my work building during the summer). I wonder if it might be far from home and wonder how it got to Charlottetown PEI.
Just curious.
Signature: Jenny K

Toe-Biter
Toe-Biter

Dear Jenny,
This Giant Water Bug or Toe-Biter is an aquatic predatory True Bug that is able to fly from pond to pond in the event that food runs out or the pond dries out.  Giant Water Bugs are also attracted to lights leading to the common name Electric Light Bug, and that might be the reason you found it near your work.  Though they are not aggressive toward people, Giant Water Bugs are reported to deliver a painful bite if accidentally stepped on by waders and swimmers.  The Toe-Biter is one of our most frequent identification requests.

Letter 16 – Giant Water Bug from Australia

 

wrongfully accused cockroach
Earlier today at the ungodly hour of 7:30 am when all sane people are just going to bed, my younger sister saw fit to burst into my room claiming she had just found a ‘giant cockroach’ on the driveway and required my assistance in removing it. I knew it was not a house cockroach as soon as I saw it, but any identification more precise than that evades me. The days of my etymological expertise (ages 6 through 12) are long gone now, so I felt I my need some assistance in naming this particular bug. I apologise if the photos are not as clear as they could have been, he is feeling a little camera shy and scurries to the other side of the ice-cream box whenever the camera flashes, so they are a little blurred. Thanks for your help,
Franko,
Queensland, Australia

Hi Franko,
In America, the Giant Water Bug is known as the Toe-Biter, a well earned name, but we were curious if any colorful local names are used in Australia, so we researched. The Wildlife os Sydney site uses another name common in America, the Electric Light Bug, but also calls it the Giant Fish Killer. Lethocerus insulanus is found in nearly all parts of Australia.
.

Letter 17 – Toe-Biter from Dominican Republic

 

Yucky wake up
Location:  Dominican Republic
October 5, 2010 9:58 am
I was just in the Dominican Republic on vacation. We stayed at a beautiful resort. I woke up early one morning to use the restroom and found this on the floor of the bathroom. The people at the resort didn’t even know what it was….
Signature:  Please help

Toe-Biter

We just love posting images of Toe-Biters or Giant Water Bugs from all around the world.

Letter 18 – Giant Water Bug from Croatia

 

Subject: What is this big bug?
Location: Dubrovnik, Croatia
October 29, 2013 10:22 pm
Hi. I saw this on the ground in Dubrovnik in Croatia in September. I would estimate it to be almost 6inches long. It was dead at the time but it looks like it might have wings. Many thanks
Signature: Mark Bates

Giant Water Bug
Giant Water Bug

Hi Mark,
This is a predatory, aquatic insect known as a Giant Water Bug.  In North America they are called Toe-Biters and they are eaten in Thailand.

Letter 19 – Toe-Biter Smashed after biting Child

 

This just stung/bit my baby! What is it??
August 7, 2009
This bug was in the pool and could swim, it was hiding on the tile and bit/stung my son. His hand is swelling up but I dont know what it is to even start treating it. Please help!
Nicole
Orlando Florida

Toe-Biter
Toe-Biter

I just identified this same insect that bit/stung my baby son this morning.  We were in the pool and he started shreaking.  I have googled for hours to find out how to treat this wound.
I need to know if its poisonous and if I should do something medically for my son.   Any information would be helpful
Thanks
Nicole

Toe-Biter: Dead after biting Child in Pool
Toe-Biter: Dead after biting Child in Pool

Dear Nicole,
We should begin this answer by stating that we are not scientists and any information that we provide, though we do research our replies as thoroughly as possible, is an amateur opinion.  Secondly, we are not trained in the medical profession and do not give medical advice for bites and stings.  Third, we do not normally provide parenting advice, but we feel you should have sought professional medical attention for your son immediately rather than to try to self diagnose on the internet.  Any information you receive on the internet, and that includes What’s That Bug?, should be considered questionable at best.
The bite of a Toe-Biter or Giant Water Bug is reported to be quite painful, and you son’s reaction to the bite would tend to support that notion.  Giant Water Bugs are not considered dangerous or venomous insects, but the swelling of your son’s hand may be cause for concern.  We would counsel you to seek medical attention.
We at What’s that Bug would like to use this encounter with the Toe-Biter as a cautionary tale that is instructive and might  reduce Unnecessary Carnage of bugs that appear menacing in the future.  Toe-Biters are not normally aggressive, but they will bite if threatened or carelessly handled.  This is not a reason to kill them when they are encountered as they perform a necessary function in a balanced ecosystem by preying upon other aquatic creatures.  It should also be noted that if a person is bitten by a questionable insect, spider, or scorpion, it is often helpful to have the actual specimen handy for experts to diagnose the potential need for venom antibodies.  So in this sense, we do not consider this particular dead Toe-Biter to be Unnecessary Carnage.
We wish your son a speedy recovery and hope his trauma is short-lived and that he will learn to appreciate the sometimes scary world of nature that abounds around him.

Unnecessary Carnage Comment
August 9, 2009
RE: unnecessary carnage
I love your site, and visit it several times a day. Many thanks for posting such lovely images and so much information (you helped me ID a one-eyed Sphinx moth here in Seattle)! I also love the fact that you tell folks when they have committed an act of unnecessary carnage, but sadly, you have been very hesitant to do so lately… Please don’t let one or two unhinged people keep you from providing a vital service- letting humans know that insects are innocent until proven guilty!
Leah S.

Letter 20 – Giant Water Bug from South Africa

 

Subject: Giant Water bug
Location: Alrode / Gauteng
April 7, 2017 1:01 am
I found this water bug in the workshop.After searching the web ,I noticed that this bugs habitat is Durban Natal and that is +- 500 km from Alrode.
Signature: Piet

Giant Water Bug

Dear Piet,
Giant Water Bugs are found in many parts of the world, including Thailand where they are eaten, Australia, North America and South America as well as Africa.

Giant Water Bug

Letter 21 – Toe-Biter from Iraq

 

Toe Biter
I’m currently in Iraq on my 2nd tour and found this guy walking around our hanger. After snapping a few photos I went about the task of trying to identify it. Found out that its a toe biter. Good thing I didnt let my hands get to close. I set him free when I was done to prevent someone from killing him. Well the next night I came to work, I found him squished on the ground. I will keep looking for more now. We have Dung Beetles here too if you want a pic I will get one for your site.
Jerrad

Hi Jerrad,
Thanks for sending your photo of a Toe-Biter. We look forward to getting your Dung Beetle image. We also want to wish you a safe and speedy return home.

Request from a book publisher
photograph consent for ‘TOE BITER’
Location:  Iraq
September 7, 2010 3:04 am
Hello,
We are the educational publisher in Korea and going to publish Science book for children.  We were looking for the photograph for ’Toe Biter’ and found absolutely beautiful one from your site.  Would you give us the generous consent to use this photo?  Longing for the good answer from you.
Thank you and best wishes,
Judy JANG
Manager
Foreign Rights & Contracts Department
DCTY Co., Ltd.
943-1, DoGok-Dong, GangNam-Gu
Seoul, 135-270, KOREA
Phone: 82-2-529-7878 (Extension 215)
Fax: 82-2-572-0085
http://www.dctybooks.com
judybawdon@hotmail.com
judy@dcty.co.kr
Signature:  DCTY

Letter 22 – Giant Water Bug from Turkey

 

Subject: 6 legged giant
Location: Turkey, Balikesir
September 3, 2013 5:40 am
Hello Bugman,
I took the photo of this bug during my vacation.
I put my foot beside to the bug for estimating the size of it. (My shoe size is 9)
Can you please identify this one for me?
Best regards
Signature: Basar Turkay

Giant Water Bug
Giant Water Bug

Dear Basar Turkay,
This is a Giant Water Bug in the family Belostomatidae, a group with a nearly worldwide distribution.   They are aquatic predators and they are capable of biting if accidentally encountered or carelessly handled.  In North America, they are sometimes called Toe-Biters.

Letter 23 – Giant Water Bug from Peru

 

What kind of but is this?
Sat, Mar 14, 2009 at 6:32 AM
I was in Puerto Maldonado, Peru recently and came across this giant insect. A friend of mine there, a local, said that it was a cockroach. Though it sort of looks like one, I’m not convinced.
nate
Peruvian Amazon, Puerto Maldonado

Giant Water Bug
Giant Water Bug

Dear Nate,
People often write to us wanting to get buts identified.  This is actually a Giant Water Bug in the family Belostomatidae.  The family is well represented around the world.  In the U.S .  Giant Water Bugs are also known as Toe-Biters or Electric Light Bugs.  They are eaten in Thailand.

Letter 24 – Giant Water Bug from Australia

 

Subject: Is it a water scorpion?
Location: Sunshine Coast Queensland
February 19, 2016 5:24 am
Hello
So my Kindergarten group and I have decided to embark on an investigation of various bugs and insects I our area. One of the little cherubs have brought this one inand want to make it our class pet. Can you please identify it for me and give us some information that I can follow up on with them. Most importantly, where’s the best place for me to now release it?
Signature: Bugman

Giant Water Bug
Giant Water Bug

Though it is not a Water Scorpion, your Giant Water Bug, like a Water Scorpion, is an aquatic, predatory True Bug.  According to the Australian Museum:  “These bugs are formidable underwater predators. When hunting, Giant Water Bugs breathe using a syphon at their rear end which acts like a snorkel.”  Since they are aquatic, the best place to release it is a clean body of fresh water like a lake or pond.  You can also request that your “little cherub” return it back to from whence it came when it comes time to release your pet.  While it is a pet, you should keep it in a covered aquarium as it can fly.  Since it is a predator, it will need live food.  Though they would not normally comprise its aquatic prey, it will most likely feed on crickets from the pet store.

Letter 25 – Toe-Biter from Puerto Rico

 

Beetle from Puerto Rico
Location: Puerto Rico
May 18, 2011 8:44 pm
This picture was taken by my friend in Puerto Rico. We were curious what kind of beetle this is and if it is indigenous to the island.
Signature: Giancarlo

Toe-Biter

Dear Giancarlo,
This Toe-Biter is a Giant Water Bug, not a beetle.  In addition to being aquatic, they are capable of flight and they are attracted to lights.  It is indigenous to Puerto Rico.

Letter 26 – Giant Water Bug from Costa Rica

 

Subject: beetle
Location: Tortunguero, Costa Rica
January 15, 2013 1:36 pm
Here are a few pictures of a rather large beetle I saw in Costa Rica. It was swimminging a puddle following a heavy rain. It was about 2-3 in long. He is quite strong, I was able to pick him up after he grabbed the umbrella with his pinchers, He’s a pretty cool looking guy. I’d like to know what kind he is so I can include that in a picture book of our trip. Thanks
Signature: Steve

Giant Water Bug

Hi Steve,
This is not a beetle.  It is a Giant Water Bug.  Giant Water Bugs in Asia grow very large and they are the largest True Bugs in the world.  Giant Water Bugs are eaten in Thailand.  Giant Water Bugs are aquatic, but they also fly quite well.  They are reported to have a very painful bite and in North America, they are called Toe-Biters.

Giant Water Bug grabs Umbrella

 

Letter 27 – Giant Water Bug from India

 

Rain brought its surprise too..what would be this?
Jun 13, 2011
Dear Sir,
Its raining out here in Kerala, India. Rain brought its surprise too..what would be this?
Hope you could recognize this.
Regards
Ibrahim TMC
Kerala
India.

Giant Water Bug

Dear Ibrahim,
We get photos of Giant Water Bugs from all over the world, and they are easy to identify to the family level, though identifying species may present us with considerable difficulty because they all look so similar.  You did not indicate how large this Giant Water Bug is, but in nearby Thailand, they grow to five inches and they are eaten as culinary delights.  In North America, Giant Water Bugs are called Toe-Biters.

Giant Water Bug

Dear sir,
The waterbug which I sent earlier measured 7.5 cms.
Regards
Ibrahim TMC

Letter 28 – Toe-Biter with Mites

 

Help ID of Bug
Hi- Please help me identify this bug! It’s HUGE! It was 3 inches long when a ruler was placed next to him. I pulled him out of my pool filter- he’s still alive, and really creeped me out! He has some red stuff growing on him. Thanks!
Maria Juliano in New York

Hi Maria,
This is a Giant Water Bug also known as a Toe-Biter. The red growth are probably immature Mites. Here is a reader’s response the last time we got a photo of a Toe-Biter with Mites:

Mites on the toe-biter?
Hi Daniel and Lisa Anne,
About the email on the Toe Biter from Tom on (01/27/2007) who talks about having 12 red mites on his Toe Biter? I remember seeing mites on aquatic insects, looking suspicious, and so I looked it up, and it turns out that *all* of the more than 5,000 known species of aquatic mites (Hydracarina) are partly parasitic. When they are larvae, aquatic mites are parasitic on aquatic insects, but as adults the mites become free-swimming and predatory. Winged aquatic insects, such as the toe biters, fly around of course, and that way the mites are spread from one body of water to another. You can read a lot more interesting stuff about them at:
http://www.tolweb.org/Parasitengona
And at :
http://www.tolweb.org/Hydracarina
Best to you as always,
Susan J. Hewitt

Letter 29 – Toe-Biter

 

Big Icky Bug
Hey Bugman,
I am a student at Palm Beach Atlantic University here in West Palm Beach, Florida . One night not too long ago I was walking a young lady home and came across this monster looking beetle. I have never seen anything like it before in my life. After I convinced the young lady to stop screaming and even get a closer look, I snapped this picture with my phone. I’m sorry that the quality is not all that good. I tried to buff it up a little as far as the lighting goes but I didn’t want to alter the photo too much. Could you please tell me what in the world this beast is? I have asked several native Floridians and no one seems to know.
Yours truly,
Fred G. Krauer, Jr.

Hi Fred,
This is the infamous Toe-Biter, the Giant Water Bug, Lethocerus americanus, which is also known as the Electric Light Bug because it is attracted to lights. The common name Toe-Biter needs no explanation for anyone who has been bitten while swimming in a lake. The bite is very painful. These bugs are aquatic, but equally well adapted to flight. On land they are rather clumsy.

Letter 30 – Toe-Biter lives up to its name!!

 

We live in northern Wisconsin. My husband was in the lake (it has a mucky bottom) and felt something poke him in his big toe. When I looked at his toe it had a raised blister type mark. It resembled a sting mark with a very pronounced dot of where the bite/sting occured. The toe swelled and he experienced extreme pain. Do you know what type of a bug would live in the muck of a lake and sting? Thanks for your help.

Not to be funny, but it sounds like your husband was bitten by a Toe-Biter or Giant Water Bug.

Letter 31 – Giant Water Bug Swarm

 

Giant Water Bug swarm
Hi, great site.
I was at work last evening and dozens upon dozens of these insects began to swarm outside my workplace, attracted to the lights I suppose. There is a lake not far from where I work, but it was such a surreal experience to see a relatively uncommon insect in the area come flying in in droves. I captured a few, along with a predacious water beetle which was also crawling about the lot. Just a strange experience, all in all to see so many crawling about in one place.
Dave,
Timmins Ontario, Canada

Hi Dave,
Thank you for your first hand account which will serve as an explanation for the common name of Electric Light Bug for the Giant Water Bug, Lethocerus americanus. The other common name, Toe Biter, arises because of the occasional bite to swimmers, and not because the Giant Water Bug targets human toes. Though bites are occasional, they are reportedly painful, so the Giant Water Bug should be handled with care.

Letter 32 – Toe-Biter goes for the tennis shoes

 

How about this monster any help identifying?
I’ve been browsing through pictures and just haven’t found one like it yet. Any help would be appreciated! We found this guy out in the driveway last night…quite a surprise!
Mike

Hi Mike,
The Giant Water Bug is sometimes called an Electric Light Bug or a Toe-Biter. We feel compelled to include this recent letter in our response even though it concerns a different species. While this bug is known as a Toe-Biter, and while it can produce a painful bite, it is not an aggressive species.

Readers Comment: (05/12/2008) Giant water Beetle bites
Dear friends;
I’ve enjoyed your site immensely and have recently come across a specimen of Ranatra Fusca, the water scorpion. I was just thinking of how the public is terribly alarmed at insects that bite. I’ve never been bitten by an aquatic insect but I have cut my toe badly on a hidden piece of broken glass in the mud and have experienced nasty bites from a rabbit, cat, dog, a horse, and a ferret. A human, (Homo sapien or more commonly known as “ultimus stupidimus”) can deliver a very painful bite because the teeth are dull and have the same effect as clenching the flesh with a pair of pliers. The point here is that most of the smaller creatures are relatively defenseless and easily killed. This business of bites has to be seen in a larger, sensible context. As Mark Twain aptly stated, “Man can learn a lot from the higher animals.” All the best,
Paul Marshall
Barrie Ontario, Canada

Letter 33 – Toe-Biter from Iraq

 

Here are the picture of the toe-biter we found in our building one morning. I wrote you a week or so ago, but didn’t have the photos that we took. It looked like someone had stepped on him :-(. He was very awkward and slow. But it sounds like that is typical for this little guy. I’m not sure what he was doing so far from a water source, there is a river around here, but maybe 5 miles away. Thanks for having such a great site, you see a lot of strange critters in Iraq, and your website is very helpful. We actually saw a camel spider today, he was probably 4 inches long, and very fast! I have sent the video along as well in a separate email, the guys at work were having some fun with him, but he escaped under the port a potty. Have a good day!
Patricia Winn

Hi Patricia,
Thanks for sending us your Toe-Biter image. We get numerous images of Toe-Biters, also called Giant Water Bugs or Electric Light Bugs, from around the world, including the U.S. Please return home safely and soon.

Letter 34 – Toe-Biter: Sprayed with Insecticide

 

Spastic Attacker?
Hello Bugman,
i came into work this morning and this big bug was just waiting for me. He can fly, he is two and a half inches in length. He has claws that you can see in the picture what is he?????!!!! he ambushed me by flying but he was moving too fast and hit the garbage can. He then proceeded to walk around as in a daze. i ran to get the raid. so this is him dead,(sorry had too). We are located in South Florida, Sunrise to Be exact near the Everglades. we also use many chemicals in our facility…is this some weird mutation? whatever it is it scared the living crap out of me. Thank you,
Andy Kake

Hi Andy,
This impressive insect is a Giant Water Bug or Electric Light Bug, though our favorite name for it is a Toe-Biter. They will bite, and the bite is painful, but they are really harmless. In our mind, this is a case of Unnecessary Carnage. Toe-Biters are aquatic insects, and in the event you are interested, they are edible and considered delicacies in Thailand.

Letter 35 – Toe-Biters and other Insect Fast Food in Thailand

 

Rescuing fish…!
Hi Daniel,
Many thanks for sparing your time to identify my whipscorpion. The poor little thing was probably snoozing somewhere nice and dry under the big pot – I feel guilty now about putting it back in the waterlogged yard ! Looking at the all the whipscorpion pics, it looks like I found one of the less scary looking ones! On a slightly different tack, you mention elsewhere that toe-biters are a delicacy in Thailand, so I thought I’d send you a couple of photos of these tasty snacks at a roadside stall in Bangkok. Mmmm…Yummy ! ( Actually that’s me quoting somebody else. ) Also, I’ve just looked at the ‘ About WTB ‘ for the first time, and am delighted to find you’re not nerdy boffins, but outrageeous artists !! Love the I da Ho sweater ! Cheers,
Graham.

Hi again Graham,
Thank you so much for adding to our Edible Insect archive with your Toe-Biter Fast Food images.

Letter 36 – Toe-Biter Absconds with Quarter

 

Creeepy!
OK what is this thing. This jumbo sized beetle-thingy was going toe-to-toe with my cat for a while and the scary part is I wasn’t sure who was going to win. I managed to rescue the it once the cat backed off and put it outside but it seems to have taken some serious damage as it no longer wants to move or do much. But living up here in Maine I rarely see bugs this large.
Brent

Hi Brent,
This is a Giant Water Bug or Toe-Biter. This is one of several images we have received lately with what appears to be Toe-Biters making off with cash.

Letter 37 – Toe-Biter on a Dollar Bill

 

Giant Waterbug
Hey Bug man,
i saw all the pics of water bugs and thought i would send in my pic of the notorious "Laredo, Texas Toe Bitter". NO Bugs were harmed during photo shoot!
R.Brand

Hi R. Brand,
What an interesting use of scale to demonstrate the size of the Giant Water Bug or Toe-Biter.

Eric Eaton is also amused!!!
(08/13/2007)
Daniel: This just in: Super aggressive toe-biters are now assaulting humans and taking their money! Film at eleven. LOL! I love the image of the giant water bug on the dollar bill. I wonder if the submitter simply volunteered the money, or if the water bug was packing heat? Hahahaha! Have a great week. Oh, the field guide is going into a second printing. Already!
Eric

Letter 38 – Giant Water Bug from Kenya

 

Tarantula Eating Man Killer
Mon, Mar 23, 2009 at 1:15 AM
I am currently serving in a mission for my church in Kisumu, Kenya. One night during the time just before the rainy season (March) my companion and I were playing Rook when we heard a knocking at the door. We came out to inspect, but saw no one. So this happened several times and we finally got curious enough to investigate. We thought maybe it was some kids, but we were wrong. We saw this little thing on our porch. I was about to kill it when my companion suggested we take some pictures. I went to get the Rook card for scale and when I bent down to put the card next to the bug, it flew right at my face. I dodged it, more surprised than scared, and it flew into the door (And it made the knocking sound we were hearing) and fell on its back. While it was still dazed I took the card, set it next to the bug and took the picture. I have been wondering what it was. I swear that this thing is the biggest bug in the world! Besides maybe a tarantula. But this thing feeds on them! Well I don’t know for sure, but I think it could.
Elder Collyer
Kisumu Kenya

Giant Water Bug
Giant Water Bug

Dear Elder,
This is a Giant Water Bug in the family Belostomatidae.  In the U.S. they are also known as Electric Light Bugs since they are attracted to lights, and Toe-Biters because of the painful bite.  They are aquatic predators that do not eat tarantulas.  They are adept at flying as well as swimming, but are clumsy on the ground.  They are found around the world and are eaten in Thailand.

Letter 39 – Toe-Biter Snacks

 

Toebiters for dinner?
Sun, Apr 12, 2009 at 1:01 PM
They had these at the local Asian market
Daniel
St. Petersburg, Florida
http://www.shirtsofbamboo.com/

Product of Thailand:  Toe-Biters
Product of Thailand: Toe-Biters

Thanks for sending in the wonderful photo Daniel, but you neglected to tell us how many servings of this Thai delicacy you and Lisa had for dinner.

Letter 40 – Giant Water Bug from Argentina

 

What is this bug?
February 7, 2010
Hi there, I have seen this bug for the first time in my life and in the two years I have been living in my place. I live in an apartment, first floor with a patio and some plants in pots. No grass or dirt. Even thou I have seen pretty much variety of insects that took my attention several times. I have remembered this site and decided to start sending you pics of what I just find interesting to share. As you see the insect is dead but I have found one alive but took it away because I don´t really know if it can bite. We are in summer now and these ones appeared after 3 days of continuous rainy days. Thanks for you help.
Fred
Buenos Aires Argentina.

Giant Water Bug

Hi Fred,
This is a Giant Water Bug in the family Belostomatidae.  Most of the examples we see are from the genus Lethocerus, but your specimen is from one of the other genera, probably Belostoma, or possibly Abedus.  Giant Water Bugs are aquatic predators that can also fly quite well, a capability they use when their ponds dry out.  They are also attracted to lights, and that may be the reason it was attracted to your apartment.  Giant Water Bugs can bite painfully if provoked or carelessly handled, and in the U.S. they are commonly called Toe-Biters as well as Electric Light Bugs.

Giant Water Bug

Daniel, thanks a lot for you quick and great response. I really appreciate what you do and hopefully I will be able to send you new pics to share and find out what kind of bug is it.
Have a great week.
Fred.

Letter 41 – Toe-Biter from Argentina: death by trauma

 

Chinche Acuatica?
March 21, 2010
Fue hallada en zona del Río Quequén que separa la ciudad de Necochea con Quequén
38º 33′ 16′ 85 S
58º 43 41 95 w
Presumimos que se trata de una chinche acuática
Volaban mas de 10 por la zona
Bichos en Necochea
Necochea Buenos Aires Argentina

Toe-Biter Carnage

Hola,
Perdona porque nuestro Espanol no esta bueno.  Su insecto esta una chinche acuatica.  Your insect is an aquatic bug or Giant Water Bug, also known as a Toe-Biter or Electric Light Bug.
Alas, this appears to be unnecessary carnage.

Letter 42 – Toe-Biter from Argentina: Another image of the same dead bug!!!

 

Flying biting fly thing
March 22, 2010
I recently moved down to Argentina, and there was an attack on a person by these flying things. The people do not know what type of bug it is, so I thought I might ask here. I know it’s not North America, but maybe you can help. The attack happened by a river, and they bit the person.
Tanya
Necochea, Aegentina

Giant Water Bug

Hi Tanya,
We received another photo of this same dead bug yesterday, and the letter was in Spanish.  Giant Water Bugs are called Toe-Biters in the U.S. and they will bite if carelessly handled.  We are most curious about the details of the attack you mentioned.  Were there multiple insects involved?

Letter 43 – Toe-Biter from Uruguay

 

please help me identifying this bug!!!
Location: uruguay, la paloma
January 25, 2011 11:29 pm
Bugman,
i was staying for the weekend in la paloma, uruguay, and while chilling out outside my hotel bedroom, this strange bug fell near us. Neither me, my boyfriend or the hotel concierge could identify it, this man told us he never saw a bug like that on that area on his entire life. since then im trying to look it up on the internet but i cant find it, although some beetles looks like it.
please help me!
geographic location: LA PALOMA, URUGUAY
season: SUMMER
Signature: Natalie

Toe-Biter

Dear Natalie,
When we originally began writing What’s That Bug? as a print column in a photocopied zine American Homebody back in 1998, we thought we would have an easy time identifying large creatures that wandered into homes in Los Angeles, and then when What’s That Bug? became a column on the now defunct website AmericanHomebody.com in 1999, we figured we would still have the wherewithal to be able to deal with things on a more national level.  As we became more and more popular, and we became a unique website, things got more complicated and now we are often mistakenly regarded as scientific experts who are fully capable of identifying to the species level the most obscure and confusing creatures found throughout the far reaches of the world wide web and beyond.  That is simply not the case, but your insect is refreshingly easy for us to identify.  This is a Giant Water Bug, one of the aquatic predators in the family Belostomatidae.  It doesn’t matter if they are from California, Texas, Maryland, Costa Rica, Africa, Thailand or Australia, Giant Water Bugs in the family Belostomatidae are easy for us to classify to the family level, though an expert is required to narrow things to the species level.  Giant Water Bugs all look and act similarly.  They are aquatic predators and adults are quite capable of flying great distances.  They are attracted to lights, and in North America they are commonly called Electric Light Bugs, but we prefer the more scintillating name Toe-Biter because of the images it conjures up.  Many a swimmer has gotten a painful bite from an unfortunate encounter with a Toe-Biter.  In Thailand and in other parts of the world, they are considered delicacies and they may be purchased from street vendors.  They are even available in certain specialty grocery stores.

Letter 44 – Toe-Biter with Shoe for Scale

 

Unknown large bug
Location: 1026 Washington Ave. S. E. Mpls, MN
April 13, 2011 12:47 pm
Please identify.
Signature: Pauline Pipho

Toe-Biter

Ed. Note: Our original unposted response follows.
watch your feet.  It’s a toe-biter

Name it; can you give me more information?

Dear Pauline,
We did name it.  This is a Giant Water Bug and it is commonly called a Toe-Biter.  Just exactly how much more information do you want?  Your original message asked for an identification.  We were amused by the two photos you sent with the foot included as scale, hence our brief message.  As the weather across North America warms with spring, the number of email identification requests we receive daily rises greatly, so much so that our tiny staff is unable to even respond to every request.  Additionally, more and more identification requests are being delivered with cellular technology, and the quality of the grammar and spelling of the identification requests plummets as the word count drops.  We respond from a desktop computer each morning before leaving for a traditional job, so we fire off as many requests as possible in the time allotted.  A google search of Toe-Biter should provide you with all the information you desire.  We have read  that the bite of a Giant Water Bug is quite painful, yet we rarely hear that anyone is bitten.

Letter 45 – Toe-Biter results in argumental stalemate between spouses

 

Argument husband vs wife
Location: caledon, ontario, canada
August 13, 2011 12:29 pm
Good day,
Me and my husband are trying to identify a bug we found dead in the stairwell leading from our garage to the house. We are trying to determine if it is a beetle or a cochroache..hopefully you can end this argement.
Signature: Christine

Toe-Biter

Stop arguing Christine.  You are both wrong.  This is a Giant Water Bug, also known as a Toe-Biter or Electric Light Bug.  It is an aquatic predator that can also fly quite well.  Close relatives from Thailand are quite large and are considered delicacies.  They are sold on the street by food vendors there.  Toe-Biters are among our most frequent identification requests.

Letter 46 – Giant Water Bug from South Africa

 

Insect
Location: Ellisras (Limpopo)
December 12, 2011 11:51 pm
Good Morning
Can you tell me what insect this is.
Thank you
Signature: By email

Giant Water Bug

Dear By email,
Your insect is an aquatic Giant Water Bug.  The species found in North America  are commonly called Toe-Biters or Electric Light Bugs.  The giants found in Southeast Asia are eaten as delicacies.  Giant Water Bugs are found on all continents with the possible exception of Antarctica.

Letter 47 – Giant Water Bug from Canada

 

BIG BUG!
Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
May 6, 2012 11:17 pm
What is this?! I was found in a baseball field in early May…so late spring although we are having summer weather lately. There were four or five of them in the area. This is a smaller one. It’s not the best picture but I would describe it as a beetle/moth sort of mix. Maybe a large water bug? Any ideas?
Signature: SCARED!

Giant Water Bug

Dear SCARED!,
We really love your offbeat photograph of a Giant Water Bug, an aquatic insect that also flies quite well and is attracted to strong lights at night, like around a baseball field, and that has earned them another common name:  Electric Light Bug.  Giant Water Bugs are also called Toe-Biters, allegedly because of the number of people, probably mainly young boys, who step on them on the bottoms of ponds and swimming areas while barefoot.

Letter 48 – Giant Water Bug from Uganda

 

Subject: Strange bugs in Uganda
Location: Jinja, Uganda
September 12, 2012 5:30 am
I found these in my yard in Jinja, Uganda. Much larger than what I’ve seen around my home in Georia, USA. I can’t find much info on insects in Uganda on the internet; hence my query. Thank You!
Signature: Ugandan American Partnership Org.

Giant Water Bug

Dear Ugandan American Partnership Org.,
This is some species of Giant Water Bug in the family Belostomatidae.  Giant Water Bugs are found in many parts of the world and they are eaten in Thailand.  In the U.S.  Giant Water Bugs are frequently called Toe-Biters because they have been known to give careless swimmers a painful bite.  Though they are aquatic, Giant Water Bugs are capable of flying and they are often attracted to electric lights, providing them with another common name:  Electric Light Bug.  You can compare your photo to the images of North American species on BugGuide.

Giant Water Bug

Letter 49 – Toe-Biter from India

 

Subject: Bug Indentiticatio
Location: Vasai, Maharashtra, India
October 4, 2012 10:18 am
Hi,
I found this huge bug just outside my office. The stray dogs were trying to kill it, but it was giving them a fight back so they backed off. So clicked a few pics and wanted to know what kind of bud it is. Help Appreciated… Thanks
Signature: Anyhow

Toe-Biter

Dear Anyhow,
We can’t help but to wonder if youngsters in India have a colorful name for the Giant Water Bug, an aquatic True Bug that American children, especially those in the south, call Toe-Biters. 
These Hemipteran behemoths have been reported to have bitten waders in freshwater lakes and ponds.  The Toe-Biter in your photo appears to be watching the camera.  We hope you weren’t bare-footed on those tiles.

Letter 50 – Giant Water Bug from Gambia

 

Subject: Identify an insect
Location: Kotu Beach Hotel, The Gambia
December 9, 2012 5:07 am
I found this bug near the swimming pool of the hotel I was staying in at Kotu. It was found at about 0600hrs in the morning.The medication aerosol was used for size comparison, the bug measured 6 – 7cm long and 2.25cm wide.
Signature: Ed Owen

Giant Water Bug

Dear Ed,
This is a Giant Water Bug in the family Belestomatidae, and it is an aquatic predator that is capable of flying from one body of water to another.  Perhaps it was attracted to the hotel pool, or perhaps it was attracted to the hotel lights.  Giant Water Bugs are the largest True Bugs in the world.  They have mouthparts that are designed for piercing the body of their prey and sucking fluids.  Though they do not prey upon humans, they will bite if provoked, threatened or carelessly handled.  In North America they are commonly called Toe-Biters because they will produce a painful bite if they are accidentally stepped on by swimmers or waders.  They are also called Electric Light Bugs because they are frequently attracted to lights, sometimes in great numbers.  Giant Water Bugs are found in many parts of the world.

Letter 51 – Giant Water Bug from Namibia

 

Subject: Namibian creature
Location: Namutonia, Etosha, namibia
January 3, 2013 4:10 pm
What is this?
Signature: Ward

Giant Water Bug

Dear Ward,
This is a Giant Water Bug in the family Belostomatidae and they are the largest True Bugs in the world.  They are aquatic predators that are also capable of flight.  In North America, they are commonly called Toe-Biters because they sometimes bite swimmers and waders, and the bite is reported to be very painful.

Letter 52 – Toe-Biter from Canada

 

Subject: Palmetto beetle
Location: Central Canada
April 26, 2013 5:02 am
Please help me identify the creature found in springtime in Quebec, Canada (not a hot climate)…it’s about 2” in length…
Signature: Marie

Toe-Biter
Toe-Biter

Dear Marie,
A Palmetto Bug is a common name for the large American Cockroaches found in the south.  This is a Giant Water Bug, a common name for a predatory aquatic True Bug.  Giant Water Bugs are sometimes called Toe-Biters because of the painful bite they can inflict on unwary swimmers and waders.

Letter 53 – Giant Water Bug from Afghanistan

 

Subject: Saw this bug flying in Afghanistan
Location: Afghanistan
June 4, 2013 2:06 pm
Bugman,
Saw this flying and found it on the ground to take a picture. Not sure what it is but I would like to know. I am in Afghanistan in Laghman Province. It has 6 legs looked like a proboscis type mouth, front legs and head swivels like a mantis similar to mantis type back looks like a roach. underside of the thorax moves like it is breathing. it was aggressive toward the same species and it looked like there were 2 stingers that came out the end of it.
Signature: Joshua

Giant Water Bug
Giant Water Bug

Hi Joshua,
This is an aquatic predator known as a Giant Water Bug.  It uses is raptorial front legs like a mantis to grasp prey.  They have a painful bite and stateside they are commonly called Toe-Biters.

Letter 54 – Toe-Biter found in Coffin!!!

 

Subject: What’s this bug
Location: Jacksonville fl 32225
December 2, 2013 8:55 am
Hi, we found this bug in a coffin we were moving for a new business purchase, can you tell us what it is?
Signature: Sport Johnston

Toe-Biter
Toe-Biter

Dear Sport,
This is a Giant Water Bug or Toe-Biter, a predatory aquatic True Bug that is capable of flying from one pond or water source to another.  We cannot fathom why it was in a coffin.

Letter 55 – Toe-Biter, NOT Water Strider

 

Subject: Giant Water Strider
Location: Flux Canyon, Arizoa
March 7, 2014 1:32 pm
I see that you already have many good photos of the giant water strider ….I saw this fellow March 5th…at night in the desert near the town Patagonia.
There are no sizable bodies of water nearby but there were some heavy rains here that may have carried him to this house.
I recognized that he was a water strider but it made no sense that he was sitting on a sidewalk in the desert with no water nearby.
I researched and these bugs seem to leave the water during their mating cycle.
I stared right into the face of this fellow….Some pics if you wanty to post them
Signature: Susan Warner

Toe-Biter
Toe-Biter

Dear Susan,
We are thrilled to post your images, however, they are of a Toe-Biter or Giant Water Bug, NOT a Giant Water Strider, which is a very different looking Aquatic Bug.  Both Water Striders and Giant Water Bugs are capable of flying some distance to a new body of water.  Giant Water Bugs are also called Electric Light Bugs because they are attracted to porch lights and other nighttime sources of illumination.

Giant Water Bug
Giant Water Bug

March 9, 2014 11:16 am
Thanks for giving me the correct identification of the “Toe-Biter”…..of course that chunky big bug would not be skating across the water surface!
Thanks…………………………….
Signature: Susan Warner

 

Letter 56 – Toe-Biter from Canada

 

Subject: Found Bug
Location: Surrey, BC Canada
April 10, 2014 8:03 am
Found this bug outside @ my work in Surrey, BC Canada. Just wondering what it is.
Signature: Kelly

Toe-Biter
Toe-Biter

Hi Kelly,
Our response to you yesterday was just a quick identification that this is a Toe-Biter, and we would like to elaborate a bit now that we have a moment.  Toe-Biters or Giant Water Bugs are also called Electric Light Bugs since they are attracted to lights.  They are aquatic predators that are capable of flying from pond to pond if the habitat dries up.  The bite is reported to be quite painful, and many a wader has encountered a Giant Water Bug with painful results, hence the common name of Toe-Biter.  Because of their large size and unusual appearance, the Toe-Biter is one of our most frequent identification requests.  As a side note, Giant Water Bugs are edible and their larger Asian cousins are considered a delicacy in Thailand.

Toe-Biter
Toe-Biter

Letter 57 – Toe-Biter found in pool

 

Subject: Two inch long horned beetle?
Location: Found in water
May 8, 2014 7:12 pm
I live in West Virginia and I found this bug in my pool. It was 1 1/2 inches to two inches long it had long horn looking things and a very thick hard shell I would love to know what it is I’ve never seen anything like it!
Signature: Annie Faye

Toe-Biter
Toe-Biter

Dear Annie,
Though they are aquatic, we very rarely get reports of Giant Water Bugs or Toe-Biters that are found in the water.  They are also capable of flight and they are attracted to lights, so most encounters occur on the land.  As the common name implies, Toe-Biters should be handled with care as they are capable of delivering a painful bite.

Letter 58 – Giant Water Bug from West Africa

 

Subject: Large African Flying Beetle
Location: Burkina Faso (West Africa)
June 28, 2014 11:38 am
Hey Sir, I am a Marine stationed out here in Africa and saw the weirdest looking beetle outside my house. I have never seen anything like it on discovery channel. The things was huge and aggressive. Not only did it have huge claws to grab stuff with but it fly’s also! It wasn’t even scared of me it actually tried to attack me. I didn’t squish the monster he took off and caught a moth in flight. Hopefully you can help me identify this guy.
Signature: Zachary Staman

Giant Water Bugs
Giant Water Bugs

Hi Zachary,
It is easy to mistake this Giant Water Bug in the family Belostomatidae for a beetle, but closer inspection will reveal that instead of mandibles adapted to chewing like the beetles, the Giant Water Bug has a mouth designed to pierce and suck fluids from its prey, consistent with the mouths of Heteropterans, the True Bugs.  Giant Water Bugs from North America are often called Toe-Biters because unwary waders have frequently received a painful bite if they step on one of these aquatic predators, or otherwise carelessly handle them.  

Letter 59 – Unknown True Bug is Toe-Biter

 

Subject: BUG ID
Location: Rochester, NY
September 7, 2014 6:14 pm
Can you ID this bug which was found in our garage. Runs fast. Possibly soldier bug ?
Thank you,
Veronica
Signature: Veronica

True Bug, but which one???
Distorted image of Toe-Biter

Dear Veronica,
We wish your image had more detail.  We are relatively confident that this is a True Bug in the suborder Heteroptera, but at this time, we cannot provide any additional information.  It most closely resembles the Narrow Stink Bugs in the genus Mecidea that are pictured on BugGuide, but we do not believe that is a correct identification, especially as there are no sightings in the northeast.  Can you please tell us how large this insect was and also send additional images if you have any.  Meanwhile, we are going to seek a second opinion from Eric Eaton.

Eric Eaton provides an obvious ID
Daniel:
Kinda funny that it *ran* fast considering this is actually an aquatic insect that *swims* fast.  LOL!  This is a giant water bug in the genus Belostoma, family Belostomatidae.  They fly well and are sometimes attracted to lights at night.  Well, you know that already, and know they are also called “toe-biters.”
Eric

Interesting Eric.  We are no strangers to Toe-Biter identifications, and at first we thought this might be a Water Scorpion.  The image appears to be distorted, and that threw us off, combined with the “runs fast” comment.

Comment
This reminds me quite a bit of a Belostomatid, but it looks like a somewhat stretched picture. If you vertically compress the picture a little bit, it’s easier to see. Then again, it could be something completely different! I look forward to hearing what Mr Eaton says. The true bugs are my favorite group to work with, there’s always surprises.
sccabrian

Dear sccabrian,
You are correct.  See Eric’s response and our reply.

Hemipteran Corrected Perspective
Hemipteran Corrected Perspective

Ed. Note:  We feel really stupid because our first thought was aquatic bug, but it just did not look right.  We never suspected altered perspective.  Of the Toe-Biters in the genus Belostoma, BugGuide states much of fascination, including “overwinters as an adult; mating and egg laying occurs in late spring or early summer” and “Females cement their eggs to the backs of males, who swim with the eggs attached, providing aeration and protection until the eggs hatch.”  This is one of the few examples in the Insect Class where the presence of the male improves the chances of survival of the young, AKA paternal behavior.  We believe the male Sexton Beetles contribute to the care of the larvae.

Thank you Daniel. Unfortunately we have no other images. We think he is about an inch long +/- a bit. I know we are horrid
describers !

Letter 60 – Toe-Biter in Canada

 

Toe-Biter
Toe-Biter

Subject: Huge Canadian Bug
Location: Nova Scotia, Canada
October 9, 2014 5:18 pm
Hi!
I was out hunting in the woods today and accidentally stepped on this huge bug (God bless)! I’m very curious as to what it was. The current temperature is around 10 degrees Celsius as we’re right into the fall season.
Signature: Logan

Giant Water Bug
Giant Water Bug

Dear Logan,
This impressive creature is a Giant Water Bug or Toe-Biter.  Toe-Biters are aquatic predators that can also fly, so they can move from pond to pond or seek a new watery habitat if their home dries out.

Letter 61 – Giant Water Bug from Argentina

 

Subject: Hola from Buenos Aires!
Location: Buenos Aires, Argentina
August 22, 2015 2:30 am
My son sent me this picture of a beetle he found on his way home from work lat night. He lives in Olivos, which is a suburb of Buenos Aires, Argentina. He couldn’t identify it, but we offered a guess that it was some type of cicada. Do you guys agree with our assessment?
Thanks!
Signature: Rich Williams

Giant Water Bug
Giant Water Bug

Dear Rich,
This is NOT a beetle or a Cicada.  It is a Giant Water Bug, an aquatic True Bug that is also capable of flying.  They are frequently attracted to lights and in North America they are sometimes called Electric Light Bugs, but more commonly they are called Toe-Biters because waders are sometimes surprised by a painful bite if they step on them in shallow water.  Giant Water Bugs are aquatic predators with mouths designed to pierce the prey and suck the fluids from the body.  Though painful to humans, the bite is not considered dangerous.

Letter 62 – Toe-Biter from Canada

 

Subject: Beetle crawling on foot on porch
Location: Southwestern Ontario, Southwest Middlesex county.
October 7, 2015 7:53 pm
This beetle was crawling across my foot on my porch at night with my light on. We live in an old overgrown orchard prolific with deer and turkey etc as well as a small fresh spring area far from the house. There are no ponds or other water areas nearby. There are corn fields and other wooded areas around our 18 acres.
Signature: Cathleen

Toe-Biter
Toe-Biter

Dear Cathleen,
This large insect is not a beetle, but rather an aquatic True Bug known as a Toe-Biter because of the alleged frequency with which fresh water waders are bitten while in the water.  Though the bite of the Toe-Biter is alleged to be quite painful, and though we probably have over 100 images of Toe-Biters on our site, we cannot recall a single instance of a person reporting being bitten.  Toe-Biters can also fly quite well and they are attracted to electric lights, hence another common name Electric Light Bug.

Toe-Biter
Toe-Biter

Thank you very much for the identity of my midnight crawler. It is greatly appreciated and I am truly thankful for your website and expeditious response to my question.
Thank you.
Cathleen
Wardsville, Ontario, Canada

Letter 63 – Toe-Biter on a bed of nails

 

Subject: What’s this?!
Location: Penticton bc Canada
October 27, 2015 10:49 am
Hi! My boyfriend recently found this gigantic bug of some sort… Hoping you can help us figure out what it is!
Signature: Jenn

Toe-Biter
Toe-Biter

Dear Jenn,
That Toe-Biter looks almost like a Centipede with those nails resembling too many legs for an insect.  We will be post-dating your submission to go live on Halloween while we are out of the office.

Letter 64 – Giant Water Bug from Australia

 

Subject: What is this demon
Location: Newcastle, NSW Australia.
March 18, 2016 1:31 am
This huge bug was found and after taking a beating from a broom was still alive. It was greyish in colour on the back and a lot bigger but unfortunately after a degreaser bath seemed to shrink a little and change colour.
Signature: I need an exorcist!

Toe-Biter
Toe-Biter

Giant Water Bugs like the one you “degreased” are commonly called Toe-Biters in North America.  According to the Australian Museum, other common names include Electric Light Bug and Giant Fishkiller.  A Queensland Museum pdf fact-sheet-water-bugs-water-scorpions indicates it is the largest true bug in Australia and that Toe-Biter is also an acceptable name down under.   Wannabee Entomologist has a fun posting.

Letter 65 – Giant Water Bug from Oman

 

Subject: What is this big insect
Location: Oman
March 27, 2016 1:26 pm
What is this big insect
Signature: Ahmed

Giant Water Bug
Giant Water Bug

Dear Ahmed,
This is a Giant Water Bug in the family Belostomatidae.  This is an aquatic predator that can also fly.  They are reported to give a painful bite if carelessly handled or accidentally encountered in still waters.  In North America, they are called Toe-Biters and swimmers and waders should exercise caution to avoid a painful, but not dangerous bite.

Letter 66 – Toe-Biter from Canada

 

Subject: Flying bug
Location: Camrose, Alberta , Canada
September 6, 2016 7:14 pm
Hope you can identify this bug. You can see how big it is compared to the thumb next to it. It flew into the building at night., maybe attracted to the lights.
Signature: Patricia Wilcox

Toe-Biter
Toe-Biter

Dear Patricia,
This Giant Water Bug has several other common names, including Toe-Biter, because of the number of waders who have been surprised while in the water, and Electric Light Bug because of their propensity for being attracted to artificial lights.

Letter 67 – Giant Water Bug from Brazil

 

Subject: Is this T. infestans?
Location: Vitoria da Conquista, Bahia, Brazil
December 19, 2016 10:00 pm
Hi Bugman!
Can you tell me what bug this is? I think it is related to T. infestans, but my dear daughter disagrees, and thinks it more related to some sort of cockroach.
Help us put our disagreement to rest.
Love your blog!
Signature: Tenney Naumer

Giant Water Bug
Giant Water Bug

Dear Tenney,
This is a Giant Water Bug in the family Belostomatidae, and it is not related to the Cockroach.  Giant Water Bugs are aquatic predators that can also fly.  In the U.S. they are commonly called Toe-Biters.

Letter 68 – Toe-Biter from Argentina

 

Subject:  What is THIS?
Geographic location of the bug:  Buenos Aires
Date: 09/19/2017
Time: 08:58 AM EDT
I want to know what is this and if its dangerous . Its almost 15cm long
How you want your letter signed:  Natalia

Toe-Biter

Dear Natalia,
This is a predatory Giant Water Bug, commonly called a Toe-Biter in North America.  Though it is not considered dangerous, the common name Toe-Biter is a reference to the number of waders who have accidentally stepped on a Giant Water Bug in the shallows and the painful bite that resulted.

Letter 69 – Toe-Biter from Canada

 

Subject:  Large beetle
Geographic location of the bug:  Ottawa ontario canada
Date: 04/25/2018
Time: 07:30 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  We saw this bug casually crossing a busy street on April 24 2018. The crab like front legs and bulging eyes kind of creeped us out. We put something in the frame to measure by.
How you want your letter signed:  Gabrielle

Toe-Biter

Dear Gabrielle,
This is not a Beetle.  It is an aquatic True Bug commonly called a Giant Water Bug or Toe-Biter.

Letter 70 – Toe-Biter

 

Subject:  Beetle
Geographic location of the bug:  Central Maine
Date: 10/01/2021
Time: 08:06 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Early October evening
How you want your letter signed:  Bobcat

Toe-Biter

Dear Bobcat,
The Toe-Biter is a predatory aquatic True Bug that can also fly.  It is not a Beetle.

Authors

    by
  • 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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95 thoughts on “Where Do Giant Water Bugs Live? Exploring Their Natural Habitats”

  1. Parasitic mites on aquatic Hemiptera are primarily in the genus Hydrachna (family Hydrachnidae). They’re unusual in remaining on the insect host while they pass their quiescent protonymphal stage. The active, predatory deutonymph emerges from the old skin, which is left on the insect. – Barry

    Reply
  2. Hello,

    We are the educational publisher in Korea and going to publish Science book for children.

    We were looking for the photograph for ’Toe Biter’ and found absolutely beautiful one from your site.

    Toe-Biter from Iraq
    Posted by danielj April 11th, 2008 at 12:00 am
    Categories
    Toe Biters and other Aquatic True Bugs

    http://www.whatsthatbug.com/2008/04/11/toe-biter-from-iraq-2/#translate-en

    Would you give us the generous consent to use this photo?

    Longing for the good answer from you.

    Thank you and best wishes,

    Judy JANG

    Manager
    Foreign Rights & Contracts Department

    DCTY Co., Ltd.
    943-1, DoGok-Dong, GangNam-Gu
    Seoul, 135-270, KOREA

    Phone: 82-2-529-7878 (Extension 215)
    Fax: 82-2-572-0085

    http://www.dctybooks.com
    judybawdon@hotmail.com
    judy@dcty.co.kr

    Signature:
    DCTY

    Reply
    • Thank you for your interest in our website Judy. The photographer always owns the image copyright, but we reserve the right to post people’s submitted letters and photographs online and to publish them in What’s That Bug? authorized publications. We occasionally get requests for the use of imagery for nonprofit use or for educational purposes, and since one of our main missions is to educate the public, we generally give permission to reproduce imagery in those situations. You have our permission to reproduce this image in your educational book for children. Please credit What’s That Bug? and Jerrad the photographer since that is how he signed his letter.

      Reply
  3. A community member brought in a 6.5 cm long brown bug today, asking if I might be able to identify it. A world-wide traveler, he thought it might be some kind of cockroach, which also was my first impression. It doesn’t have antennae, however, and it does have very “beefy” front legs. A search with my students, however, revealed that it just didn’t quite match up. We did, however, discover that this bug is a ringer for the Giant Water Bug of Arizona. We are located in Darrington, Washington, which is a long way from Arizona, although there are quite a few people who are “snowbirds” that spend winters there and usually start coming home to Darrington about Eastertime. Do these kinds of insects occur in Washington naturally, or is it likely to have hitched a ride here? What is the danger of it becoming an invasive species?

    Reply
    • Yes. They are found throughout North America, with different species in different locales. Actually, Giant Water Bugs are found throughout the world.

      Reply
  4. Dear George, Dear Bugman,
    I am very much interested in giant water bugs (Lethocerus sp.) and their distribution and ecology worldwide. I was quite stunned that they actually do occur in Southern Europe. From my knowledge this European species is Lethocerus patruelis and it can get very big. Could you tell me the body length of this Greek water bug (in mm), and how big was the biggest one that you have seen in Greece or elsewhere in Europe? Thanks for any info 🙂 !

    Reply
  5. Dear George, Dear Bugman,
    I am very much interested in giant water bugs (Lethocerus sp.) and their distribution and ecology worldwide. I was quite stunned that they actually do occur in Southern Europe. From my knowledge this European species is Lethocerus patruelis and it can get very big. Could you tell me the body length of this Greek water bug (in mm), and how big was the biggest one that you have seen in Greece or elsewhere in Europe? Thanks for any info 🙂 !

    Reply
    • Hi Daniel,
      We don’t know if George will know that you have posted a comment to his submission. This isn’t too old of a posting. We might be able to track down George’s email address and notify him that you have a question regarding his submission.

      Reply
  6. My dogs found one of these tonight in our yard, we are in Benson, AZ. It was huge and creepy. Thanks to your website I now know what it is!!

    Reply
  7. I have seen a bug similar to this called “Water Scorpion”. We used to see them throughout the warm months. These were in central Alabama.

    Reply
  8. Just found one on my balcony this evening. I had never seen one before and thankfully wasn’t hard to identify after a quick google search. The one I found was about 2.5″ long. Kefalonia, Greece.

    Reply
  9. This reminds me quite a bit of a Belostomatid, but it looks like a somewhat stretched picture. If you vertically compress the picture a little bit, it’s easier to see. Then again, it could be something completely different! I look forward to hearing what Mr Eaton says. The true bugs are my favorite group to work with, there’s always surprises.

    Reply
  10. We found one of these in our parking lot in Minnesota… I guess this Aussie is on quite a walk about. I tried to post a picture but I am not able too.

    Reply
  11. A coworker found one tonight on the football field in Tucson, AZ and by searching for the description I came across this picture, which is the spitting image of the one he found. I’ve grown up here and I have never seen one of these! Thanks to your helpful site I was able to help identify it for him (and all the other curious people on Facebook who saw the picture of it!)

    Reply
    • Giant Water Bugs in the family Belostomatidae have been reported to us from all continents except Europe, though we suspect they can be found there as well. This Sci-News article provides information on European species.

      Reply
  12. We are in San Antonio, Texas. We found this huge bug in our backyard. We think it is a Giant Water Bug like the ones pictured from South Africa. We’ve never seen this large an insect except in the zoo. It flew and we ran screaming. We put it in a jar and took pictures of it then we set it free in the back part of our yard and then wished we hadn’t but killing it would have been like murder it was so big.

    Reply
  13. I live in Nebraska. While working one of these huge bugs came out of nowhere and dive bombed my coworker and myself while on our smoke break. Biggest insect I’ve ever seen. Insane!

    Reply
  14. Found one crawling across my foot at night outside my back door. Live in the woods with no real ponds etc nearby, just a few small fresh water springs.
    First time I have ever seen one, ever.

    Reply
  15. Found one crawling across my foot at night outside my back door. Live in the woods with no real ponds etc nearby, just a few small fresh water springs.
    First time I have ever seen one, ever.

    Reply
  16. Hi! today the 18 Oct 2015 , in Laval , Montreal , Quebec, Canada ,
    I found a toe biter in your in-ground pool, I grab it whit a fishnet and after identifying it on the web, I put it back in the pool. My question to you is ? what should I do with it , the pool will frees up soon!. last night the temperature dropped to -3 .C ..

    Reply
  17. Hi! today the 18 Oct 2015 , in Laval , Montreal , Quebec, Canada ,
    I found a toe biter in your in-ground pool, I grab it whit a fishnet and after identifying it on the web, I put it back in the pool. My question to you is ? what should I do with it , the pool will frees up soon!. last night the temperature dropped to -3 .C ..

    Reply
    • If the pools does not freeze solid, the Toe-Biter should survive until the spring thaw. They are also capable of flying and they will flee the location if it becomes inhospitable.

      Reply
  18. Thank you for your reply , Is this insect a treat our a good thing, I haven’t seen another one its seems to be alone,
    I will respect nature but not if it threaten my house pet.. Can you tell me more about the toe biter… Thanks ..

    Reply
  19. Thank you for your reply , Is this insect a treat our a good thing, I haven’t seen another one its seems to be alone,
    I will respect nature but not if it threaten my house pet.. Can you tell me more about the toe biter… Thanks ..

    Reply
  20. I remember saving one of these guys from our parking lot at work. I had no idea that they could fly and he was far from any water. I took him home overnight to research who he was and where best to release him.
    They are formidable insects and I was very glad to see him on his way when I released him at a stream close to work the following morning. He was looking at me and rubbing his belly the entire drive. He was very impressive and more than a bit intimidating.

    Reply
  21. I remember saving one of these guys from our parking lot at work. I had no idea that they could fly and he was far from any water. I took him home overnight to research who he was and where best to release him.
    They are formidable insects and I was very glad to see him on his way when I released him at a stream close to work the following morning. He was looking at me and rubbing his belly the entire drive. He was very impressive and more than a bit intimidating.

    Reply
  22. Dear sir,
    How to know and easy way to find out, water gaint bug and where the common places these type of inset found.
    What precaution we shold be take , if some one infected of virus how can protect them or what medical advise should we give.

    Reply
  23. Dear sir,
    How to know and easy way to find out, water gaint bug and where the common places these type of inset found.
    What precaution we shold be take , if some one infected of virus how can protect them or what medical advise should we give.

    Reply
  24. Unnecessary carnage? What a retarded thing to say; what the f^#k is unnecessary about pulverizing a bug that just stung the shit out of you when you don’t even know if it was poisonous or not? The bug certainly didn’t think its carnage upon the baby was “unnecessary” so he deserved to get smashed. It’s all about survival so if a human encounters something that is trespassing then it is going to get smashed. And you wonder why alot of people think animal lovers are sick in the head, it’s because you dorks put animals over human beings.

    Reply
    • Yup we should put our ecosystem first. You wouldn’t exist without it. If you actually read the entire article you would see where they said they understood why the bug was killed. In most cases its unnessary to kill bugs because most of you do out of fear. So chill out

      Reply
    • I could not have said it better! When I read that…. I was like what the $&@/?! It bit her child! Call me a Mama Bear, but that is grounds for immediate extermination. One of these jokers latched on to my Maltese’s paw (ironic I am now learning it is a “toe-biter” how original!) we were at a dog park that had a little drainage issue where there was about an inch deep long puddle covered in grass. My husband and I both tried to pull this blood sucker off, all the while the dog was crying out and flipping out (he weighs 7 lbs soaking wet). Eventually, my husband went to his truck and pulled out some hedge clippers and quickly chopped its head off!!! Well deserved! He DID drop his meal then! Bastard!! I am an animal lover but you gotta draw the line somewhere! #ManUpAgainstTheBloodSuckers

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    • I fully agree and plus it would be our first instinct to try and kill it if it bit you unexpectedly, not pick it up and see if it’s friendly, the thing just stung you so it gets what it gets, so it is.

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  25. So knowing about Toe-Biters will reduce “unnecessary carnage”? Even if the person who smashes the Toe-Biter that bit them knows or doesn’t know about Toe-Biters still wouldn’t be committing unnecessary carnage lol.

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  26. There are also found in a village called Koufalia in Central Macedonia, Greece. I have encountered many of them and have taken a lots of pictures….

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  27. PARENTS: If your child is bitten by an insect, it is wiser to take them straight to the doctor/hospital than to hit the Internet with questions, should anaphylaxis occur. Local medical professionals may have dealt with it before….RE: “UNDUE CARNAGE” – It IS undue, as in unnecessary, unless a specimen is necessary for identification purposes. All creatures use defense mechanisms when threatened. There is no gain in killing them… Think of it like this: If somebody approached from behind and accidentally frightened you and you reacted instinctively, punched them in the stomach, would they be justified in punishing you with criminal prosecution? Nope. – “Carnage” may be a strong word but the message is clear. It is FACT that killing them is unnecessary.

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  28. For some reason, I’ve always been interested in aquatic creatures. Maybe I was one in a past life lol. Anyways, I saw these things floating in my pool before I jumped in and decided I should probably see what type of insect it is to be safe, so thank you all for the information!

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  29. The giant water bug is venomus. It’s ranked at the worst pain inflicted by a insect. Alot of miss information is in the reply. You must of never lived around these bugs or swam in a river with them. These bugs are very aggressive and they use their powerful pinchers to pull you in and inject its fang full of digestive fluid in ya. When u are walking bare foot or swimming with in eye shot of them they strike and they strike hard. After you are hit once you never make the mistake of not wearing shows while playing in the creek. While very painful and high risk of infection you can skip seeing a doctor but watch out for infection. I am a rn nurse at a emergency room and I see hundreds of these every summer.

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  30. I was bit today while in my room and now I have a very painful swollen toe, did not have time to research to make sure it wasn’t dangerous, so I killed it.

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  31. just found one of these in port Hedland WA Australia. we are in the wet season and there are numerous flooded areas at work where I found it. I named him todd.

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  32. I live in Bedfordshire and I found a toe biting giant water bug besides my house! Had to google it as never seen one before. Do I need to get rid of it?

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  33. Hi I found a giant water bug in Alberton about 600 km from Durban , in my work shop and alive.Is this possible ?? And I have photo of the bug

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  34. A painful bite indeed.
    Not bullet ant pain. Probably a 3 on the schmidt index. Worse though is it won’t be an envenomation. It will inject via a large proboscis a healthy dose of tissue liquifying enzymes. It could take a loooong time to heal.
    I would rather be stung by any ant or wasp.

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  35. A painful bite indeed.
    Not bullet ant pain. Probably a 3 on the schmidt index. Worse though is it won’t be an envenomation. It will inject via a large proboscis a healthy dose of tissue liquifying enzymes. It could take a loooong time to heal.
    I would rather be stung by any ant or wasp.

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    • Side note: our family practices ‘eat what you kill’ and we went to Texas for a hunt and I got an armadillo… the claim owner was pretty rude but didn’t mention anything. I was so proud, I cooked it up and ate it and when the claim owner saw he slapped my on the back and said – y’all know I thought you just shot that for fun… I responded God no, we just needed something for dinner and we hadn’t gotten a javelina or deer all day. After dinner he told me they consider them cockroaches or coons (destructive little Bs). I let him know I wouldn’t eat either a raccoon or cockroach but grasshoppers and now ‘dillers I enjoy. I think if more people practiced that they’d at least think twice before taking a life. : ]

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  36. One of these just ran by my foot in my bathroom. He’s currently trapped under a cup by the toilet. Must admit, I screamed like a little girl when I saw it! I live in NW Phoenix area.

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  37. I recently returned from Ouranoupoli, Athos, Chalkidiki, and found one on the border beach of Mount Athos (the monastery state). It was about 10-11 cm long and struggling on it’s back, covered in sand, trying to get away from the sea waves. I cleaned it with some sweet water and when it was dry again it flew away. If you are interested I can send photo’s and movies.

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  38. for : Dr Stam Zorgaris; Stam blog of 2018 asked if anyone had seen these giant water bugs in Greece.
    Yes: May 2019 in Corfu – west side – on the beach between the sea and lake Korission.
    Alas no camera with me, I had never seen a beetle that big (body = 3 inches / 7.5 cms) so looked it up, definitely a giant water bug.
    Richard Turner UK.

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  39. for : Dr Stam Zorgaris; Stam blog of 2018 asked if anyone had seen these giant water bugs in Greece.
    Yes: May 2019 in Corfu – west side – on the beach between the sea and lake Korission.
    Alas no camera with me, I had never seen a beetle that big (body = 3 inches / 7.5 cms) so looked it up, definitely a giant water bug.
    Richard Turner UK.

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  40. We found one of these Lethocerus beetles in Kuşadası Turkey – on the Adriatic Coast.
    It was dead unfortunately but we took it home to show my son.
    It wasn’t near water but in some foliage on the side of the road.
    It’s length is 9cms.

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  41. We found one of these Lethocerus beetles in Kuşadası Turkey – on the Adriatic Coast.
    It was dead unfortunately but we took it home to show my son.
    It wasn’t near water but in some foliage on the side of the road.
    It’s length is 9cms.

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  42. We found one, 10cm, in lefkada Greece, southern coast, swimming at the beach. It was very alive, and clung to a bathing suit, of a baby. It was terrifying.

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  43. Saw one the first time in my life the day before yesterday in our swimmimg pool. Man that thing can move in the water! – Pretoria, Gauteng, South Africa

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  44. Saw one of these on the edge of our koi/goldfish pond last night in Bisbee, AZ. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen it *in* the pond before, too–just below the water’s surface. While outside the water/on the edge of the pond, it spent a good amount of time seemingly drying its legs and body, or maybe cleaning itself off? It was fascinating to watch, if also a bit horrifying XD

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  45. We found one of these in Mont Carmel last night (30th June , 2022). Landed on my sons leg so did have the chance to take a picture.

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  46. Hi. I saw a massive water beetle whilst sup boarding in Paleros this morning. Easily 10cm long. It was on the surface in about 1-2m of water.

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