The name water bug applies to a wide range of bugs that live in water. Cockroaches, while not true water bugs, are often referred to as such. Some cockroach species like the Oriental cockroach look very similar to the Giant Water Bug (Lethocerus americanus). Cockroaches can also “hold their breath” for a long time underwater – about 40 minutes – helping to give the impression that these creatures also dwell in water. While cockroaches may prefer to live near a source of water, they are not true water bugs.
Giant Water Bug
It is a flat, oval shaped insect about 2 inches in size. It has 6 legs that also appear to be flattened, with its frontal legs modified to end in claws for grabbing prey. They are dark brown in color.
They feed on other insects, small crustaceans, small fish, snails, and tadpoles. It eats by latching on to its prey with its claws and using a somewhat retractable proboscis to inject it with digestive toxins.
The giant water bug may also be known as “toe biter”, so-called because if you step on them in muddy water they may deliver a painful bite to your toe. However, they tend to avoid confrontation and will prefer to flee or play dead when agitated. They will bite if forcibly handled.
They nest in the bottom of muddy waters or surrounding vegetation. Unlike many other aquatic insects, Giant Water Bugs are able to tolerate slightly polluted water.
It has functional wings and is able to fly, and it is able to breath under water by trapping air under its wings.
Creeping Water Bug
Also known as saucer bugs, they look quite similar to giant water bugs but they’re much smaller at only 0.2 to 0.8 in in size. They vary in color, but are typically dark.
When fully submerged, it’s able to breathe from air stored under its wings.
These insects are known for their ability to swim on their backs. They have long, oar-like legs and an oval-shaped head. They have an elongated body, but they’re small in size at about 0.06 in. Its color varies, but is meant to blend in the water – lighter on their underside, which faces up, and darker on their backs, which faces the bottom of the water.
It is able to breath under water from air bubbles trapped under its wings.
Other bugs that may look like water bugs:
These true water bugs are generally found outdoors and pose no threat to people in their homes. While these bugs may fly off from their watery habitats and end up in parking lots or other such places, they are likely only in search of a mate and got attracted to outdoor lights (like if you find them on your porch in the evenings).
If you see what looks like one scuttling away on the floor inside your house, it’s likely a cockroach. Some of the cockroaches often mistaken for water bugs would be the Oriental cockroach, the American cockroach, and the German cockroach.
Of course, for any pest infestation, don’t hesitate to get in touch with a professional.
For more information on cockroaches, check out our Cockroach Archive.