Giant Water Bug

giant water bug

Last week while camping in the Okanagan, a friend noticed a huge bug lumbering along in the short, dry grass. I thought it was a cockroach and was amazed at its size, not to mention I knew that giant cockroaches are not found in this part of the world and wondered if someone had lost a pet. We kept it to take home (because neither Daughter nor I can resist collecting a fascinating specimen!). It seemed injured and confused when we caught it and so we were not surprised when it died on the 6 hour journey home, trapped in a tupperware container with lots of sugar (I thought being a cockroach it might enjoy that).

Today we finally got around to photographing and identifying the bug. It took me a short time to rule out “cockroach” and much longer to figure out what it actually was. Fortunately, my fave site for such things, What’s That Bug, happened to be featuring our specimen as one of this month’s bugs. However, it was a ways down the page and it really didn’t occur to me that I’d be so lucky, so it took me a while to find it.

Our little (dead) fella is a Lethocerus americanus, akaΒ Giant Water Bug, also known as a Toe-Biter. They are one of the largest bugs in Canada and live in freshwater lakes, ponds, etc. We were camped right next to the shores of a huge lake and apparently these guys like to seek out bright lights at night (of which there were many in the campground) and often get disoriented or injured. Normally they are in the water catching such largish prey as frogs and fish. Checking out the large forearms of our specimen I can see how that would work. They are called Toe-Biters because if handled aggressively they can deliver a painful bite. Fortunately none of us had the guts to try and touch our find!

Categories: Fascinating Finds | 33 Comments

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33 thoughts on “Giant Water Bug

  1. You’ve just solved a mystery for us! We’re in Fort McMurray, AB, and a friend found a mystery-bug the other day ~ I posted on a homeschool forum to see if anyone knew what it was and one of the ladies there linked to your post via google image searching.. bingo! Our bug appears to also be a very large waterbug! Thanks for the help, and hello from a fellow Canadian homeschooler! >^..^<

  2. I ate one of these for charity. Disgusting. Never. Ever. Again.

  3. Corben Franklin

    Thankyou so much. We found found the same bug at the river when I was with my friend Ethan. We tried to catch it with our bare hands but like you said they PINCH BAD….. We live on Vancouver Island. Thanks so much for your post our critter friend is continuing to happily swim in Englishman River and we no longer think he is a crazy lost cockroach.

  4. K-Dub

    VERY COOL!! We just found one last night cruising across a parking lot nowhere near water. very surprised that it’s a water bug. Our dog seriously knows about the pinching deal as she tried to get it and got pinched on the mouth or nose and freaked out, flailing the bug almost on top of my daughter’s head.
    Glad we know not to put it in the tank with our fish or frog though. Thanks! πŸ™‚ KW

  5. rose mitchell

    my son and family were at a football game and we were by a pond my son noticed this huge bug and he had kicked it away from where we were sitting and it came back so he picked it up and as he was picking it up he said the bug swang around and stung him his finger was a little swollen so he put him in a camera bag and forgot about him and he was still their so we placed him in a old container (it was night out on that day ) we started to look up what kind of bug he was and we found him right at this sight and we were amazed and interested to learn about our bug thank you for being at this sight we live in the state of minnesota

  6. L. americanus is a very cool bug! I have a god sized insect collection, and it is probably the biggest specimen that I have from North America. Another good learning website for insects is
    I shows have to make an insect collection, where to find insects, and how to build insect traps.

  7. i found this bug outside my garage last night in bxter west virginia if it is a water bug why wasnt it by the water just wondering what kind of bug it is and why by my garge should i keep it.

  8. Pingback: Giant (Predaceous) Diving Beetle « FreeLearning

  9. mercedes kromko


  10. katie

    I just about stepped on one of these in my driveway. I thought it was a cockroach at first too but I knew there was no way a cockroach would be in my area. It scared the **** out of me. I made sure I did a large circle around it to get inside. Good to know what it is now.

  11. tnt

    My son and I found this bug at Daytona Beach, FL. We were shocked to see such a huge bug in the water. When I got a closer look at it I thought it was some kind of water bug. I remember seeing smaller ones around camp sites and such. This one was huge! I just couldn’t believe there would be one in salt water.

  12. Jen-Jen

    Well, apperantly these huge water bugs don’t mind the beach as well and can tolerate salt water. I was at the beach (Playalinda Bch, FL) the other day and there were two of these huge water bugs being tossed around in the surf. They were swimming beneath the water as well, which I must admit was a little weird to see. I was fortunate enough to capture one them and get some pictures to show people. What a facinating bug! By the way, the bug was released unharmed. Just thought I would share my encounter.

  13. Cathy Finnegan

    We live in the New Orleans area and we have been experiencing these bugs in our pool for several years. Chlorine doesn’t phase them. They are aggressive and attack with those pincers. They are very fast and tenacious. One came after me this morning and I had to finally find out what they were. Now I know.

  14. gotno82

    I live in Ct. Found one of them at work in a aircraft hanger. We saw it flying around the hanger then later in the night it was running around. It was a good 3 inchs long. Will say that they dont clime vary well

  15. Brandy

    Just now found this water bug on my screen door. Took me two minutes to find this web site. My boys wanted to trap it and I said no so we looked it up instead. Pretty cool! Were in Washington State and this is the first time I’ve seen one.

  16. steve

    i have seen two of these critters in southeast they migrate or just get lost?

  17. Kevin

    I found one of these this evening…never saw a beetle so big before in the wild…Im just north of Barrie, ONtario….Im glad I was able to identify it…I have pics if interested

  18. Amy

    Found one of these guys here in MA…was at my daughter’s soccer game (near a swampy area) and had taken my 5 month old with us in his infant car seat which was clicked into the stroller. I later took him out and put him into my front carrier during the game…after the game I put him back into the car seat, reached under him to grab the straps and slide them onto his arms when I grabbed one of these that had crawled into his seat instead of what I thought was the strap! Needless to say I screamed, threw it on the ground, and did a MAJOR bug dance. Still freaks me out just thinking about it actually. Definitely glad I found it and it didn’t have a chance to bite him! And I don’t think I’ll ever be able to put him into that car seat without checking it first!

  19. Scary bud, gives me the chill’s.

  20. Theresa

    I live in the Cayman Islands and just found one of these Water Bugs outside my friends house. This is the first time I’ve seen one like this.

  21. Kevski

    hi there, the mechanics at my work just found one of these in the workshop and brought it to me.. I’ve seen them in pictures, and in samples at the museum, but never one iin real life.. i picked it up and it played dead at first, so we got a good look at it and the legs and claws and the fine hair on it’s legs.. But the we put it in a foam cup and it came to life!! i tried picking up again and it was really wild now.. Haha.. I let it latch onto the cup and it was so strong I had trouble pulling it off!!
    I gotta say, it was really cool and scary looking at the same time. It had big black eyes and claws on the 4 back legs like a Rhino beetle, but sickle-like daggers on the front. Pretty viscious on it’s prey i’m sure. πŸ™‚
    oh, BTW, i’m in Brisbane, Australia.. We just had flooding and alot of rain recently, so maybe that’s why it was around??

  22. Robert

    I found one of these things in our Quicklane at a Ford dealership. We don’t live by any lakes and on top of it. It came out of someones car…..

  23. Whoa, small world, again! We were just on an excursion to collect frog eggs to hatch into tadpoles and we found one of these in the water. It seemed dead when Kale held it so he took it home and we went to our Audubon Insects book and found it right away. A Google image search brought us right to you! Now that we have it home, it has started slowly moving in its container- it’s alive! I guess we’ll be making a trip back to the pond where we found it because I do not plan on keeping a predatory toe-biting insect as a pet. LOL!

    Hope all is well for you and your clan πŸ™‚

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  25. Cherie Lowe

    We live in Central QLD Australia on a rural property and found a dead one (Giant water bug) under our 2 year old’s bed, which is confusing as to how he actually got inside (perhaps a cat). We have been researching to find out all day what this enormous big beetle was. It has a scary looking probiscus, hence the name ‘toe biter’. These beetles seem to get around. We are a far distance from Canada. πŸ™‚

  26. Russ

    I found one today in Collingwood, Ontario. Uglyyyyyy!!!!!!

  27. Kim

    Found one in my backyard swimming pool (which hasn’t been summerized yet) in Alto Michigan . Didn’t want to chance finding out if it pinches, so put it in a plastic tub to research. These kind of finds fascinate me…I have found several oddities in the last few years.

  28. Willow

    Thanks so much for posting. The kids found one on the black top at school a week or so ago. Had no idea what it was! this is it exactly.
    – Burlington, Ontario, Canada

  29. Madison

    We found one at work today before our store opened. I thought it was a cockroach (you never know with produce coming in) so I googled it and it took me to your page. So glad to know it wasnt a huge roach. BTW we are in Northeastern Michigan.

  30. stephen aylward

    i found one tonight out side a hockey rink it was about 5 or 6 inches long. it was the first time i had ever seen such a size of an insect. now that i know what it is where are they found as i have read they are found all over canada and the u s i was wondering would they be found in newfoundland? i have lived here all my life and never seen any insect quite as big as he was

  31. trinity

    This damnable thing is in my apartment pool!! and im in houston texas wth?!?!

  32. Scott morrison

    I have found THREE of these “Toe Biters” in northern Edmonton(or it Could be the same one that just loves our shop). There’s no lakes or ponds nearby so I’m really wandering just What it/they are doing HERE…

    Anyone else seeing them around?

    …oops, should really learn to scroll down before asking silly questions…lol…still, really cool looking bug(if you want to freak out your boss)

  33. T

    Found another one in Grand Cayman! Thanks for identifying

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