Not for the Squeamish
Good Morning Watershed Explorers,
Check this guy out! WHOA!!!
Inspired by the zoos online class on bugs yesterday, my family and I decided to take our critter nets and get out for some hiking and scooping at a local pond. We never imagined that we would find this gargantuan giant water bug. Mrs. Morissette has found giant water bugs before, but never one this large. Giant water bugs can grow to 4 inches long and this was definitely that big. It was massive. Giant water bugs are also very aggressive and will bite, so if you find one, you need to be extremely careful. No one in my family handled this bug. We caught it in the net, put it directly in the bucket to photograph, then gently poured it back into the water.
Giant water bugs are the largest true bugs. True bugs are different from other insects because they have special mouthparts. Other insects share a special tool called a proboscis, but on true bugs, the proboscis doesn't retract. DISCLAIMER: This next sentence is not for the squeamish! Giant water bugs use their proboscis to inject saliva into the body of their prey, the saliva liquifies the insides of the prey and once liquified, the giant water bug extracts the liquid. GROSS!!! Giant water bugs can eat prey that is much larger than their own body. They mostly feed on aquatic invertebrates like crustaceans and insects, but will also eat amphibians and fish.
The scientific group that true bugs are in is Hemiptera. This group includes leafhoppers, aphids, cicadas, stink bugs, water bugs, and bed bugs. True bugs go through incomplete metamorphosis, which means they don't have a pupal stage. Giant water bugs have another neat characteristic, the males do most of the child care. In some instances, females will even glue the eggs onto the males back and the male will carry the eggs until they turn into nymphs.
Giant water bugs are really important to freshwater ecosystems. They are top predators, so they help to maintain the size of insect populations, some of which are dangerous to humans, like mosquitos. It is crucial to maintain a healthy watershed so that creatures like the giant water bug can thrive.
I hope you all enjoyed learning about the giant water bug. Happy Exploring my scientist friends.
* NEXT WEDNESDAY IS EARTH DAY! Seeing as though this blog is very devoted to the Earth anyway, I am planning on bringing you lots of great LOVE THE EARTH activities and information next week, with a special video presentation on Wednesday. If you have any suggestions, I would love to hear them. Please email me with ideas!!