“Giant water bug” perfectly describes the members of this family, as these hefty aquatic insects can reach 2 inches in length. They are brownish with oval, flattened, beetle-like bodies. The clawlike forelegs are adapted for grabbing prey, and the hind legs are long and somewhat oarlike, for swimming.
Giant water bugs, if handled or inadvertently harassed by bare-footed waders, can deliver an excruciatingly painful bite — hence their other common name, “toe-biters.”
During breeding season, females adhere their eggs onto the backs of the males, where they stay in a big flat cluster until the young hatch. These egg-laden males are a remarkable sight.
Habitat and Conservation
People in several Asian countries eat giant water bugs as a delicacy.
The sight of a giant water bug deflating a frog shocked writer Annie Dillard into pondering nature’s seeming cruelty, and she recounts this scene at the beginning of her Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.
Humans are not the only species to eat these chunky bugs. Many birds eat them, and fish devour them, too.
Formidable predators, giant water bugs are usually considered beneficial to humans since they eat mosquito larvae.