I was today years old when I found out that we have something called Giant Water Bugs in Edmonton. Turns out, they are the largest insect in Canada, and (after getting my face nice and close) they are poisonous!!
When I first spotted it, about a block off 142 Street as we headed west to the MacKinnon Bridge, I thought it was a palm-sized moth. It was rather hideous and clearly on its way out. When I shared the photo on the What’s App family thread, I was corrected by my ever resourceful niece Kate, who said it was a Giant Water Bug (or GWB). She sent along a photo of what it looks like when it’s healthy and ready to kill. Good god.
Also from Kate: “The only reason I know about them is my Bio 30 teacher lectured us during a swamp diving field trip. Apparently, the year prior she had to send a kid who got bit to the hospital because his arm was melting.”
It was really creepy, crawling on the road propelled by what looked like two large antenna, or as my other niece Beth suggested, like it had swallowed a frog, head first. Gross and fascinating. I had considered putting my hand beside it for scale, but glad I didn’t. I’d hate for my epitaph to read “Killed by Giant Water Bug”. Or, would I?
Some of the comments from my Facebook post:
Brian Thair: “It’s a true ‘bug’. It has piercing mouth parts to inject digestive enzymes which dissolve the innards of living prey caught with those 2 powerful front legs that you can see. What has always impressed me is the aquatic, paddle shapes of the legs. Rolled over, the underside of the body has a keel like a boat. If wing span mattered for the size of Canadian insects, then several of the Saturnidae moths are the winners. Polyphemus and Luna are overshadowed by Cecropia which can be the size of my hand.”
Janice Hurlburt : “Not sure if you saw my post from a week ago of a White-faced Ibis with one in its beak. Here’s what John Acorn (the Nature Nut) said “Wow! Giant water bug (Lethocerus americanus)! Physically big, with a painful, tissue-dissolving bite, and chemical deterrents as well. Not sure what an ibis might do with such a thing. I’ve never seen ANYTHING eat a giant water bug. Very cool picture!”
It was an otherwise uneventful morning walk, with some fabulous non-bug scenery.