Giant Waterbug (Lethocerus americanus)

Pricing: Dead (spread, as pictured): $25
Geographic Range:  Most of North America
View: Top View  Size: Length: 4.5-6 cm

Image Copyright 2003
Barbara Strnadova

Lethocerus americanus, called "The Toe-biter" and "The Electric Light Bug", is a Giant Waterbug. Lethocerus americanus inhabits bodies of freshwater throughout North America, with the exception of California. They are predatory, feeding on all things aquatic that they can grasp and hold with their powerful front legs. With their short, pointed rostrum, they suck out their prey's body fluids. These insects can also inflict a painful “bite” to humans who handle them carelessly, causing an intense, burning sensation at the site of the puncture. The name, “Electric Light Bug” comes from their habit of being attracted (or more likely disoriented) by bright lights at night. They can be attracted by the hundreds to large lights and have terrified people who have encountered them in artificially-lit parking lots at night. However, to other people these large insects are a delicacy to be gathered, steamed, seasoned and eaten. Lethocerus americanus shares parts of it's range with two other very similar species: Lethocerus uhleri and Lethocerus (=Benacus) griseus. L. uhleri looks exactly like L. americanus  except that it's middle and hind legs are strongly banded. L. uhleri ranges from Massachusetts west to Ontario and south to Texas, into Mexico. Both L. uhleri and L. americanus have a deep narrow groove in their anterior femurs for the reception of the tibia. L. griseus lacks this groove but is otherwise indistinguishable from its cousins. It ranges from Massachusetts west to Michigan and south to Texas, and then on down to Guatemala. L. griseus can also be found in the West Indies.