Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Giant Water Bug

Lethocerus sp.
Today we'll be talking about an entire taxonomic family-- Belostomitidae. Insects within this group are more commonly referred to as Giant Water Bugs. There are around 160 different species, organized into nine different genera.

The "Giant" name is certainly apt, as some members (especially those in the genus Lethocerus) can reach lengths of several inches. Even the smallest group members are a few centimeters in length.

Giant Water Bugs can be found all over the world, and are most concentrated in the Americas and in South Asia and Australia. All of the insects, regardless of continent, live in ponds and other shallow bodies of water. They spend most of their time in the water, but they must surface for air, as they do require it to breathe. Respiration takes place thanks to two appendages that extend from the abdomen. Speaking of abdomens, the eggs of two of the genera, Abedus and Belostoma, are deposited on the backs of the males, who carry them around for a week or two until they hatch!

Giant Water Bugs are amazingly little predators. They ambush hunt other bugs, small crustaceans, and even fish, birds, and amphibians! They strike, biting down with their powerful mandible and injecting a digestive saliva that liquefies the insides of their prey. Once that process has taken place, the Water Bugs can slurp up their meals. These bites can be very, very painful to humans, but are not dangerous overall.

Final fun fact of the day-- Giant Water Bugs are considered a culinary delicacy in some parts of the world. They are eaten both raw and prepared!

IUCN Status : Not Listed
Location : Worldwide
Size : Length up to 12cm
Classification : Phylum : Arthropoda -- Class : Insecta -- Order : Hemiptera
Family : Belostomatidae

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