Giant Water Bugs


Over the years, customers have brought a lot of really cool bugs into the greenhouse for identification.
Now, I know that many people believe that the words cool and bugs should never be used in the same sentence, but there really are some fascinating insects that pop up, now and again in our yards.
This past week, I received a sample of a really cool bug that is rarely seen in yards until right around this time of year:
It’s called the giant water bug and it’s one of the largest insects that we have in our part of the world.  Giant water bugs are aquatic and have large front legs that terminate in sharp hooks—which are great for catching prey like snails and even small fish! Occasionally, giant water bugs have been known to mistakenly stab the odd finger and toe that finds its way into the bugs’ watery home which alludes to their other common name: “Toe Biters.”
Now, I’ve never been stabbed by a giant water bug but, apparently, its bite is one of the most painful of all insects or spiders that bite or sting. The pain of the bite can last anywhere from an hour and up to 5 hours but once the pain subsides, it seems that there are no long-term negative health effects on humans.
Having picked this bug up many times as a kid on the farm without ever receiving a single bite, I suspect these giant bugs don’t generally view fingers as …well, finger food. Still, I’m certainly not endorsing these critters as kid- or adult-friendly. I might have just been lucky!
Giant water bugs, rather surprisingly, are good fliers and are attracted to lights so they can end up quite a distance from ponds, streams, and lakes.
If you happen upon one of these bugs, my recommendation is to gather it up carefully and find it a new watery home. Just keep in mind that swimming pools and bathtubs aren’t on the “new home” list.

~Jim Hole