Bulletin 16 - March 1982: Giant Water Bugs

Giant Water Bugs

by Diane Donohue

Order: Hemiptera
Family: Belostomatidae

We have recently collected specimens of the Giant Water Bug, a very descriptive name for these insects as they sometimes reach a length of 5" - 6''. They are excellent swimmers and fliers and frequently leave the ponds in which they have been living and fly off in search of other waterways. They are attracted to light and will often crash into the glass of a shimmering greenhouse and will gather in great numbers around electric light, particularly near water.

They lie half buried in the mud of fresh water ponds and the shallow waters found in the wadis and will grab any creature that may wander near. On humans they can inflict a very painful, but not fatal wound.

Their legs are flattened, and feathered along the edges with short, stiff hairs and they make very efficient oars. They come to the surface at intervals of thirty to sixty minutes for a fresh supply of air, which is carried in the space over the abdomen and under the wings. In order to take in this reserve of air, the tip of the abdomen protrudes above the water surface.

Some species of this group deposit their eggs on aquatic vegetation, but the others glue their eggs to the back of the male where they are carried until they hatch. When the eggs are all hatched the little ones go off and fend for themselves. The care of the eggs is the extent of their parental duties.

To kill its prey the Giant Water Bug jabs the captive again and again with its beak while holding on with its powerful front legs. The more the victim struggles the tighter the front legs close. They will eat other insects, tadpoles, small frogs and fish.

In South America and in the East Indies many of the natives eat the larger species of the Belostomatidae. The tough legs and wings are discarded, and the rest eaten raw or toasted.

In the UAE Giant Water Bugs have been found in streams in the mountains along the eastern border with Oman and in Fujeirah. Dead specimens are not infrequently recorded. There is a good example in the ENHG Workroom.


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