Do Water Bugs Bite?

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After seeing a water bug for the first time you may have some questions. Things like do water bugs bite and how to get rid of water bugs may be at the top of the list. While it is quite hard to see, these pests are more annoying than anything else. Below you will find all you will need to know about water bugs including where to look for them, if they bite, and how to get rid of them.

What are water bugs?

water bug up close

Water bugs are insects that primarily reside in water, but also walk on land. They resemble cockroaches and are often mistaken for them. Also they are sometimes mistaken for beetles.

There are two versions of water bugs, the normal size and the giant size. Generally water bugs are around one to one and a half inches long. Giant water bugs are usually two to two and a half inches long, though some have been measured at up to four inches long. Their bodies are oval-shaped. Colors range from tan to dark brown.

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These insects breathe through their behinds, carry their own air supply, and the males sometimes are in charge of the young. This is unique, even in the insect community. In a testament to evolution, the water bug has a snorkel-like breathing tubes which extend from the abdomen. It allows the water bug to breathe and exchange the air supply it is holding without actually having to leave the water.

Insects usually have several different names they go by, many of them dependent on what part of the United States they are found in. These are a few of the other names water bugs have been called.

  • Belostomatids
  • Water roaches
  • Toe-biters
  • Electric-light bugs

Life cycle of water bugs

The entire process from nymph to adults takes two months at the absolute maximum. The female water bugs lay their eggs either on the male’s back or above the water on plants like cattails and other weeds along the water’s edge. The male will take excellent care of the eggs until they hatch, making sure he gives them air every once in a while to assure no algae or fungus grows on them. He will also make sure the oxygen they are receiving has been recycled. They call this “brood pumping,” which is another word for oxygen diffusion.

Do water bugs bite?

If you are asking yourself or trying to find the answer to do water bugs bite, the simple answer is yes they do bite. Water bugs do bite, which is part of the reason they are sometimes referred to as “toe-biters.” These pests are considered harmless because they don’t search out humans to bite. If they feel threatened or you startle them, their bite can be painful. There are no warnings about water bugs, so you can care for the bite like you would anything else. On very rare occasions, someone who has been bitten could have an allergic reaction and if that is the case, you should seek medical attention immediately.

Where do you find water bugs?

Obviously because of the insect name, you will find water bugs in water. There are also other places they may be found, including on land. Below you will learn about where water bugs are found and why they choose those areas to take up residency.

  • Water. Obviously this one is definitely not shocking. They are aquatic insects. Generally the water bug spends all seasons in the water. Ponds are most commonly the homes for these bugs, but small streams and slow moving rivers also have water bugs present. Swimming pools are also a likely candidate for these insects.
  • Parking lots. Because parking lots are usually well lit, the water bugs find there way to the light. While there will not be a massive amount of them in the area, you may be able to see at least one or two of them.
  • Porches. In the summer months, the water bugs like to walk the land. They are attracted to the light put off by your porch light and will gravitate toward it. This is especially common if you live near a pond or a river.

Can you keep water bugs as pets?

If you want to keep a water bug inside, you will need an aquarium that is akin to their natural habitat. Water bugs do bite, so if you are planning to capture one you must come prepared. A net is the suggested method of capture to avoid a water bug bite. You can then place it inside the aquarium with some fake or real vegetation. These creatures like to hide in the brush and weeds in a pond. As far as feeding goes, you will need to supply guppies or crickets once a week, depending on your preference. While this may sound odd, several parents use water bugs as pets for their children in the southern parts of the United States.

What do water bugs eat?

Because of their giant size, water bugs eat things that may surprise you. Remember that because water bugs bite, they have paralyzing fluid they inject which allows the prey to be stunned. On some occasions a water bug has been known to eat prey up to 50 times its size. These are some of the different insects and wildlife water bugs have been known to eat.

  • Tadpoles. This makes sense because they are generally very small and aren’t fully adapted to the world around them.
  • Fish. Small guppies or bluegill have been known to fall victim to water bugs. In fact, it is suggested you use guppies to feed a captive water bug.
  • Larvae and eggs. Mosquitoes, frogs, and other wildlife often lay eggs near the water. If stumbled upon, water bugs will feast on these.
  • Crustaceans. Crabs and other similar things have also fallen victim to water bugs.
  • Amphibians. Frogs and lizards are often eaten by water bugs. They tend to frequent the water front, which is where they meet their untimely demise.
  • Insects. From crickets to ants, there is no insect a water bug will turn down. Crickets are also suggested feed for a water bug in captivity.

Water bugs versus cockroaches

While it may seem a little crazy, these two insects are often mistaken for one another. Their names are often interchanged as well. The appearance of both are similar, both in size and color. Being aquatic is one of the biggest differences between water bugs and cockroaches. Water bugs live in the water and cockroaches are more comfortable on land. While it wouldn’t be completely crazy to see a cockroach in the water, it isn’t typical. Also, water bugs do bite and cockroaches do not. Cockroaches are disgusting and dirty, water bugs don’t have any cleanliness issues. One will invade your home but the other may find a way into your home by mistake. If you aren’t sure how to tell the two apart, ask an exterminator.

Read more about water bugs vs. cockroaches.

How to get rid of water bugs

Because water bugs do bite, you may want to get rid of them if you find them near your home. They do not carry some of the risks other household pests do, but it is better to take care of the issue rather than avoid it. Below are the steps you can take to get rid of water bugs.

  • Remove them as you find them. Water bugs can easily be relocated. You will need to handle them with caution because water bugs do offer a painful bite. Use gardening gloves if possible. Generally there will only be one or two around, unless the eggs have hatched nearby.
  • Exterminator. There are not clear methods for using insecticides on water bugs. Calling in a professional may be your best bet. Try asking for quotes from various agencies in the area. You may be able to find a better rate because you have already talked to the competitors.

Water bug prevention

There really isn’t any keys to prevent water bugs. They are aquatic insects and are often born on the banks of ponds and rivers. Generally water bugs don’t come into your home, and if they do they cannot survive in there. Below you will find some tips to keep the water bugs away from your home.

  • Spray around your home with insecticide. Go around the foundation and the window sills. This may be beneficial if you live near a river or pond and keep a porch light on.
  • Remove standing water from your yard. If you keep buckets out for rain water or have pet dishes outside, you will need to move these. Any standing water will attract the water bugs to your yard.

Water bugs aren’t dangerous and they are not insects that will infest your home. Because water bugs do bite, they are feared sometimes. Their bite is painful and could potentially cause an allergic reaction, though it is highly unlikely. If you are planning to remove one from your home or property, please take the necessary caution to ensure you are not bitten.

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