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Giant Water Bug

Check out this neat insect found during one of our Creeking in the Park programs recently at Gilmore MetroPark! During this pond and wetland study of the various areas in Gilmore, this critter was scooped up into a net, admired, and then safely released back in the water and on its way.

 

 

This is a male Giant Water Bug—with eggs on its back! One way to tell this is a male is because of these eggs. Many species of giant water bugs utilize this behavior in order for the male to care for and protect the eggs until they hatch in a week or two. The female deposits the eggs on the back of the male, and soon, these eggs will hatch their larval offspring.

These insects spend much of their lives in the water, as that’s where their prey lives. They are great predators, and will eat other insects and invertebrates, fish, tadpoles, and other amphibians. Essentially, the giant water bug will eat anything that it can catch. They can reach up to 4 inches in length, depending on the species. This individual that was caught was around 1-1.5 inches.

 

 

Nicknamed “toe-biters,” because of their strong, formidable front legs used for catching prey, these insects are known to induce a painful bite. They utilize piercing mouthparts in order to consume their prey. Once the exoskeleton, skin, or scales, etc. of the prey species has been pierced, chemicals are then injected into the prey. These chemicals break down the prey’s innards and liquefy them, making it easy for the giant water bug to then consume its prey, as if drinking a milkshake through a straw. This piercing instrument is called a rostrum, and it is said to be very painful. Our friend found at Gilmore stayed inside the net until released—just in case! We recommend not handling these insects with your hands.

What do you think of this creature? Check out this coloring page to color your own giant water bug!