cockroach vs water

The Giant Water Bug: Watch Your Toes!

Toe-biters, also known as giant water bugs, are fierce aquatic predators that kill ducklings, snakes, and turtles. Their sheer size can be very intimidating! They have a bad bite and toxins.

And unlike most smaller water bugs that you might find in your house, they bite! In this article, we’ll get up close and personal with the Giant Water Bug!

  • When they bite, they release toxins that can cause allergic reactions
  • Toe-biters have one of the most painful insect bites
  • These bugs do not spread diseases

Pest water bugs and roaches that you might find around your house typically don’t bite people. Giant water bugs (toe-biters) have a terrible bite, one of the worst painful insect bites.

Don’t worry; it won’t chase after you. They prefer to steer clear of humans. However, they will bite when they feel threatened.

What Is The Giant Water Bug? 

When wading through shallow ponds or lakes, you might get bitten by a giant water bug. Of course, humans aren’t killed by their bites, but they are painful nonetheless. Unfortunately, the bites of this species are common throughout the world, especially in freshwater habitats.

As a truly large bug, the giant water bug weighs the same as 50,000 to 80,000 other insects, like the leafhopper, aphids, cicadas, and stink bugs. In light of this, giant water bugs are the largest “true bugs” on earth.

A giant critter like this belongs to the family Belostomatidae of insects

Despite their widespread distribution worldwide, they are particularly prevalent in the Americas. The toe-biter has a sizable dark brown body that looks like leaves seen in wetlands. They are extremely difficult to spot, and their camouflage makes it easy for them to hunt their prey undetected.

But you can’t miss them once you’ve spotted them.

In the United States, they are among the largest insects. Water bugs with giant wings often fly around when they’re not hiding in shallow wetlands.

The water bugs have rostrums, a beak-like mouthpart that can penetrate meat and plants. It is easy to imagine that these rostrums are a big part of the reason why this bug is known as the toe-biter.

While in the water, giant water bugs will hunt snails, insects, tadpoles, and small fish. Bigger prey is sought when it is available.

Is a Water Bug the Same as a Roach? 

A water bug resembles a cockroach but is not technically a cockroach. True water bugs live in the water, as the name implies. Cockroaches are typically land insects. Unlike many other insects, waterbugs can hold their breath for an extended period without resurfacing (interestingly, so can roaches!).

A water bug can bite to defend itself if it is handled.

What Is the Danger of the Bite of a Toe-Biter?

This ominous bug’s rostrum gives it a strong bite and a sheer size. Prey can be attacked and paralyzed with this weapon. Water bugs swim fast and lunge at their prey within a second.

To do this, the bugs push their legs tight, hold the prey, and inject the digestive juices. 

We don’t know exactly what is in the saliva, but it seems to be anesthetic chemicals and enzymes. First, the tissues of the prey are broken down then they are sucked back up.

It can take several hours for larger prey to succumb – in some cases, the victim may still be alive.

It can also latch onto humans, playing dead before biting them with its sharp “beak.” While its saliva cannot seriously harm humans, the bite still produces great pain.

Other than the pain, they are of no real threat to humans.

It’s always a good idea to wear water shoes while walking in rivers, creeks, shallow ponds, etc.

It can also latch onto humans, playing dead before biting them with its sharp “beak.” While its saliva cannot seriously harm humans, the bite still produces great pain.

How Painful is the Bite of a Toe-Biter?

Even though water bugs are not disease carriers, their bites are excruciatingly painful. The same treatment can be given to a bite from a water bug as it is for any other pest bite. If this isn’t done, the bite symptoms may worsen, making the bite victim very uncomfortable.

Here’s a video of Coyote Peterson getting bitten by one.

Initial symptoms of a water bug bite include:

  • A reddish color
  • An itchy sensation
  • Swelling of the skin
  • Intense pulsing pain
  • An area of mild burning

Without proper treatment, all of this can lead to:

  • Cramps in the muscles
  • Nausea
  • Throwing up
  • Fever
  • Throat and lip swelling
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Increased heart rate

Treating a Toe-Biter Bite

It is a good idea to seek medical advice when you have been bitten by a giant water bug and get any of the above secondary symptoms.

Sure, Dr. Google is a great source of home remedies to help with the itch, swelling, and pain that comes with the bite. But if the pain is great, go to your real doctor.

Water Bugs Are Big, but How Big Are They?

Due to its enormous size, the giant water is among the worlds largest bugs, but it isn’t the largest. The water bug can grow up to 4 inches long when fully grown.

The Guinness World Records deem toe-biters to be the biggest aquatic insects on earth. Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing holds the title of being the largest insect outside of water. 

Giant Water Bugs: Can I Prevent Them?

Giant water bugs can’t be prevented and are commonly found on the banks of rivers and ponds.

Many people encounter small water bugs in their homes (or confuse cockroaches and water bugs), but it would be quite unusual for a giant water bug to be in someone’s home.

Listed below are some tips for keeping them out of your home.

  • Make sure you spray insecticide all around your home. Go around the window sills and the foundation. If you keep a porch light on and have a river, lake, or pond nearby, this may be beneficial to you.
  • Make sure your yard is free of standing water. If you leave buckets outside for rainwater or keep pet dishes outside, they should be moved. This helps with mosquito control as well.


Giant water bugs are quite a threat if disturbed, and their bite can be painful (but not deadly). Fortunately, they won’t infest your home. Wear water shoes when exploring rivers and shallow ponds.

Removing them if you see them is best, as they can bite children, pets, and adults! When it comes time to get rid of them, ensure you wear hand protection to prevent being bitten and remember that they can fly.