The "water bug" is also known as the "Giant Water Bug". Our North American species is Abedus herberti.  

Water bugs are in the order Hemiptera, the so-called "true bugs;" their family is Belostomatidae. There are approximately 100 species in the family. They live primarily in North America, South Africa and India. In North America, Abedus herberti is located throughout Arizona and portions of adjacent states and Mexico. They live in freshwater streams, and prefer those with vegetation.

Appearance, habitat and eating habits

This thing is a monster by any measure. Giant water bugs are approximately 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) in length. Some species in the tropics grow as long as 4 inches (10 cm). They have one pair of tiny, almost inconspicuous antennae located snugly below their compound eyes. The water bug's mouthparts are elongated into a beak-like structure with which it pierces its prey and sucks out the insides.

The body is brown, flat and oval, giving them an appearance similar to that of a giant cockroach (to whom they are not particularly closely related). They seize prey with their front legs; their other two pairs of legs are flattened and fringed with hair to increase their surface area and are used like oars in the water. Adults have two pairs of wings, but they rarely fly (fortunately - do you want a giant cockroach-like predator, some 4 inches long, flying at your face?). They fly only when forced to relocate because their waterhole dries up or they run out of prey.

Water bugs breathe air, like other bugs. They have a breathing tube which sticks out the end of the abdomen.

Water bug larvae eat small aquatic invertebrates, while adults prey on any small animal they can handle, including insects and other aquatic invertebrates. They also hunt vertebrates such as tadpoles, salamanders and small fish, and sometimes, gruesomely enough, adult frogs. The bugs insert enzymes into the prey, which turns the prey's insides into liquid, which the giant water bug can suck up. They simply suck their prey dry. They will also bite the feet or other body parts of incautious human swimmers or waders.

Given the size and ferocity here, this is not a bug for the faint of heart. To say the least.

Reproduction

Sex among water bugs is the lady's idea. When so motivated, she approaches the male and begins the courtship ritual. The two will spar together for a while, not unlike human undergraduates, actually. However, no human male goes the next step: to ensure that he is the father, the male will copulate with the female and allow her to lay the eggs on his back. He will only allow her to lay a few eggs after each mating. This ritual continues until the male's entire back is covered with approximately 150 eggs.

This is where the lady drops out. The father takes care of the eggs, frequently exposing the eggs to air to prevent the growth of mold or other aquatic organisms. Eggs take approximately three weeks to hatch.

Immature water bugs, or nymphs, look similar to their parents. Nymphs go through five instars (various forms of arthropods between molts) over eight to 10 weeks before becoming adults. The bugs themselves live about a year, total.


PHYLUM: Arthorpoda, SUBPHYLUM: Uniramia, SUPERCLASS: Insecta, CLASS: Pterygota, ORDER: Hemiptera, FAMILY: Belostomatidae

Wa"ter bug` (?). Zool. (a)

The Croton bug.

(b)

Any one of numerous species of large, rapacious, aquatic, hemipterous insects belonging to Belostoma, Benacus, Zaitha, and other genera of the family Belostomatidae. Their hind legs are long and fringed, and act like oars. Some of these insects are of great size, being among the largest existing Hemiptera. Many of them come out of the water and fly about at night.

 

© Webster 1913.

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