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Here in the South, these types of bugs are all over our waterways, especially (but not limited to) more rural areas. Below, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about these vicious freshwater predators, so you can identify them, treat water bug bites and do everything in your power to keep them as far away from you and your loved ones as possible.

Eliminate potential food sources. Toe-biters want to live near the types of creatures they eat. Remove those creatures and they have no reason to set up shop on your property.

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Water Bugs Bite Risk, Prevention and Treatment Guide

Water bug bites are relatively uncommon, as these insects generally do not bite humans unless provoked or threatened. If you suspect you’ve been bitten by a water bug and experience significant discomfort, signs of infection, or an allergic reaction, it’s advisable to consult a healthcare professional for appropriate evaluation and treatment. Additionally, taking steps to prevent bites can help reduce the risk of being bitten.

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Lurking just below the surface of that flowing creek or refreshing pond, these bugs resemble enormous aquatic ticks, with googly eyes and praying mantis arms. And although they won’t seek you out for an attack, they also won’t hesitate to take a defensive bite if you get too close, earning them the nickname “toe-biters.”

Raised Bumps: In many cases, water bug bites develop into raised, rounded bumps or welts. These bumps can be similar in appearance to mosquito bites but are often larger and more painful.

Secondary Infections: Scratching water bug bites can break the skin, increasing the risk of secondary bacterial infections. Signs of infection may include pus, increased redness, and worsening pain.

Do Water Bugs Bite

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Allergic Reactions: In some instances, individuals may have allergic reactions to water bug bites. These reactions can manifest as more severe symptoms, including extensive swelling, hives, or even blisters. If someone is allergic to water bug venom, they should seek medical attention promptly.

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How To Keep Giant Water Bugs Away

Several species of giant water bugs lurk in ponds and streams throughout California, like this Abedus indentatus. (Josh Cassidy/KQED)

Redness and Swelling: Water bug bites often result in immediate redness and localized swelling at the site of the bite. This redness and swelling are usually the first visible signs of a bite.

Itchiness: Some individuals may experience itchiness around the bite area. Itching can intensify the discomfort and may lead to scratching, which can potentially cause the bite site to become more irritated.

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The largest insect in the US and Canada, these amphibious creatures from the family Belostomatidae can grow to be up to four inches long and prey on everything from other bugs to crustaceans, fish and even snakes. In fact, the giant water bug can eat an animal 50 times its size –which would be the equivalent of a person eating an elephant in a single meal.

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Knowing what toe-biters look like and where they tend to live can help you avoid them, but what if your property backs up to a greenbelt, has a pond or if near a river or creek and they’re already hanging around your property? Or you want to make sure they never do?

“Parental care is unusual in itself,” says Sites, “but then actually attaching the eggs to the males — that’s another layer of complication.”

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