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Giant Water Bug (Lethocerus americanus)


Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Giant Water Bug.

 Updated: 1/3/2019; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©www.InsectIdentification.org




The mammoth Giant Water uses its strong pincers to hold its prey place, but its mouth is where the threat really lies.



The Giant Water Bug is a large insect with equally large and very noticeable foreleg pincers. These pointy appendages are used to catch similar-sized underwater prey like small fish, frogs, small newts, snails, and sometimes even snakes. A strong bite injects a solution that liquefies the insides of the prey, allowing the bug to drink it in. The Giant Water Bug's body is mostly flat and oval shaped with dark brown, "dead leaf" coloring. Unable to hold its breath, small breathing tubes called spiracles allow the bug to stay under water while drawing in air trapped under its wings, somewhat like a straw. It is known to play dead in order to escape predators. It is also known for delivering a painful bite when disturbed or threatened by people. It carries the the nickname "Toe-biter" because it does just that. Barefoot swimmers and people who tread in shallow waters may get a toe pinched by one if they step too close for the Giant Water Bug's. Aside from that defensive reaction to threats, this insect is generally uninterested in people.

They make their homes at the bottom of muddy waters and ponds, or surrounding vegetation, so they can be seen swimming as well as walking near the water's edge. Muddied Giant Water Bugs may be somewhat hard to distinguish until they are rinsed. This insect can tolerate slightly polluted water, unlike many other aquatic insects like dragonflies. Giant Water Bugs are drawn to light sources at night and are often found inside or around backyard pools. A female lays fertilized eggs at the edge of a waterline whereupon the male guards them until they hatch.




Taxonomic Hierarchy
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Hemiptera
        Family: Belostomatidae
          Genus: Lethocerus
            Species: americanus
Identifying Information
Scientific Name: Lethocerus americanus
Other Name(s): Toe-biter; Electric Light Bug
Category: True Bug
Size (Adult; Length): 40mm to 62mm (1.56in to 2.42in)
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: brown; black
Descriptors: pincers, claws, water, pool
Territorial Map
Alaska  
Hawaii  
Prince Edward Is.  
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Territorial Reach (A-to-Z)
Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Colorado
Connecticut
Delware
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
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Alberta
British Columbia
Manitoba
New Brunswick
Newfoundland and Labrador
Nova Scotia
Ontario
Prince Edward Island
Quebec
Saskatchewan
Mexican National Flag Graphic
Mexico
Note: An insect's reach is not limited by lines drawn on a map and therefore species may appear in areas, regions and/or states beyond those listed above as they are driven by environmental factors (such as climate change), available food supplies and mating patterns. Grayed-out selections indicate that the subject in question has not been reported in that particular territory. U.S. states and Canadian provinces / territories are clickable to their respective bug listings.