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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



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



Updated: 07/06/2021; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
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 biting toes when disturbed or threatened by people. It carries the the nickname 'toe-biter' because barefoot swimmers and those who tread in shallow waters may get a toe pinched by one if they step on or near one. Aside from that defensive reaction to unknown 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.




General Characteristics
Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers


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Taxonomic Hierarchy
Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Hemiptera
        Family: Belostomatidae
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          Genus: Lethocerus
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            Species: americanus
Identifying Information
Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Lethocerus americanus
Other Name(s): Toe-biter; Electric Light Bug
Category: True Bug
Size (Adult; Length): 40mm to 62mm (1.57" to 2.44")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: brown; black
Descriptors: pincers, claws, water, pool
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Relative Size Comparison
Typical Size Between 40mm (1.6in) and 62mm (2.4in)
Lo: 40mm
Md: 51mm
Hi: 62mm
Territorial Map*
U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Territory map graphic of the country of Mexico
Contiguous United States shape map layer graphic
Alaska  
Hawaii  
Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Giant Water Bug may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Giant Water Bug. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.

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