Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Giant Water Bug

The excessive rains have kept the pond level up, so we’ve been attracting a lot of aquatic life. One of my favorites is the Giant Water Bug. This is a male loaded down with eggs glued to his back by one or more females. Being carried by the male gives the eggs some added protection until they hatch about a week after being laid. I’m holding this specimen in a Cool Whip container, the low budget version of the white enameled pan.

I first noticed the Giant Water Bugs because of their habit of bouncing near the surface of the water. Little rings on the water reveal the locations of bouncing bugs. I thought the bouncing might be a way to clean and aerate the eggs.

Then I noticed bugs that were not egg laden doing the same bounce. Now I’m wondering if it is some type of display intended to attract likely females. The bugs would bounce a few times and then stop. This pattern continued for quite some time. Perhaps the pattern of the waves alerts the female to the presence of the receptive males.

Adult Giant Water Bugs are equipped with wings and can fly quite well. In this way they can easily exploit new bodies of water that have not yet become loaded down with predators. They can also make a successful escape if the pond begins to lose water and dry up. For the nymphs to survive, the pond must hold adequate water for a long enough period to let them mature.

Giant Water Bugs are predators and eat just about anything they can catch and hold. They can very successfully clean all of the tadpoles from a small pond. They are ambush predators and hide in the vegetation and grab suitable prey as it swims by. Those strong front legs are used to hold the prey while the bug feeds.

Giant Water Bugs are true bugs with a straw-like mouth that is held beneath the head and between the front legs. They inject a chemical that partially digests and liquefies the prey. The prey is then sucked dry. That mouth is capable of giving someone a nasty bite. I’ve been bitten before, so I’m not going to let this guy get a hold of me.
Note about the weather: For the fourth night in a row, I’m scrambling to upload my post before storms move in from the west and knock out my internet satellite connection.


  1. Bugs, fascinating bugs! :) Very interesting post. I would hope these characters also eat mosquito larvae.


  2. I don't think I've ever seen one of those - very cool!

  3. Lois - The adults usually go for larger prey, but the nymphs can eliminate mosquito larvae. These bugs live in larger bodies of water that are so full of predators, there are usually no mosquito larvae to eat.

    Rebecca - These bugs can be kept in a jar of water where they act just as they would in the pond. I've used them before in elementary school programs and the kids will sit and watch them all day.