Terrifying Texas Toe-Biter Insect Has Locals Very Concerned

By Sherah Janay Ndjongo

September 12, 2023

cockroach insects on white background
Photo: Getty Images

People have vastly different reactions to bugs. Some are absolutely terrified of them, and wouldn't touch an insect with a ten-foot pole. Others have no problems with them at all. There is often no in between.

However, for Texas locals, no matter if one is cool with their crawling neighbors or not, one multi-legged creature should be avoided at all costs.

The Texas Toe-Biter, a Giant Water Bug and member of the Belostomatidae family, has been advised by entomologists to be extra cautious of, especially this season. As its name suggests, the water critter is able to bite people while lurking or playing dead in land or water, inflicting incredibly vicious pain that can last for hours!

Not to mention, their appearance can be a shock to those who haven't spotted one in real life before. It is quite massive — growing up to two to four human inches or almost the size of a human hand in their adult age. They're also capable of flying.

Wizzie Brown, an entomologist working for the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Office, described the oversized water bugs,

"They’re a brown color, kind of oval shape. And they have swimming hind legs, and then their front legs are going to be capable of pinching. Their front legs are actually used for grabbing onto their prey.
I think what everyone is so disturbed by other than their size, I guess, is that they have this very short mouth part. It’s not like a beak, it’s more kind of like a sharp straw. And they can use that to stab into things. That’s how they feed. So it’s normal that they do that. But they also will use that to get away from people, if people decide to pick them up."

Although Brown eased worries by confirming that the Toe-Biter's bites aren't dangerous, the experience post-bite is super harsh due to the unbearable amount of pain. It's sharp, and there will be swelling afterward,

"If you allow it to bite you, they do have enzymes in the saliva that they’re injecting into you. So when they’re feeding, that helps to break down the muscle tissue of whatever they’re feeding on. "
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