Insect Identification
Insect Identification

Giant Water Bug - (Lethocerus americanus)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 1/17/2014

The mammoth Giant Water Bug looks fierce for good reason. The amphibious insect can bite and pinch prey and anything that threatens it.

This is a large insect species with equally large and very noticeable foreleg pincers. They are used to catch underwater prey like small fish, frogs and sometimes snakes. Its body is mostly flat and oval shaped with dark brown, "dead leaf" coloring. The Giant Water Bug is known to play dead in order to escape predators. It is also able to deliver a painful bite when disturbed or threatened by people (it carries the the nickname of "Toe-biter"). Unsuspecting swimmers may get a toe pinched by one if they step too closely.

They make their homes at the bottom of muddy waters or surrounding vegetation. They are drawn to light sources at night and, therefore, often find themselves in or around backyard pools. Females may aggressively defend their eggs, which they lay at the edge of waterlines. Their hairy legs help them swim though they can often be found in mud, or hiding at the bottom of ponds.

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Category: True Bug
Common name: Giant Water Bug
Scientific Name: Lethocerus americanus
Other Names: Toe-biter; Electric Light Bug

  Kingdom: Animalia
   Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
     Order: Hemiptera
      Family: Belostomatidae
       Genus: Lethocerus
        Species: americanus

Adult Size (Length): 40mm to 62mm (1.57in to 2.44in)

Identifying Colors: brown; black

Additional Descriptors: pincers, claws, water, pool

North American Reach (Though Not Limited To*): Alabama; Alaska; Arizona; Arkansas; California; Colorado; Connecticut; Delaware; Florida; Georgia; Hawaii; Idaho; Illinois; Indiana; Iowa; Kansas; Kentucky; Louisiana; Maine; Maryland; Massachusetts; Michigan; Minnesota; Mississippi; Missouri; Montana; Nebraska; Nevada; New Hampshire; New Jersey; New Mexico; New York; North Carolina; North Dakota; Ohio; Oklahoma; Oregon; Pennsylvania; Rhode Island; South Carolina; South Dakota; Tennessee; Texas; Utah; Vermont; Virginia; Washington; West Virginia; Wisconsin; Wyoming; Alberta; British Columbia; Manitoba; New Brunswick; Newfoundland and Labrador; Nova Scotia; Ontario; Prince Edward Island; Quebec; Saskatchewan; Mexico

* Keep in mind that insect reach is not governed by lines on a map and therefore may appear in areas/regions/states beyond those listed above.