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The Giant Water Bug Swarms Around Porch Lights Where They Can Inflict Painful And Possibly Toxic Bites On Humans

Giant water bugs are airborne aquatic insects that regularly fly to new water sources that are often located near residential and urban habitats. These insects dwell within small and shallow bodies of water such as creeks and ponds, and they are also known for swarming around porch lights, which is often a terrifying nuisance to homeowners given the massive size of these aptly named insects. Many giant water bug species grow to be more than three inches as adults, and multiple species exist within Arizona, but the precise number and identity of species dwelling in the state is a matter of debate among experts. In addition to being large, annoying and frightening to look at, water bugs also inflict extremely painful bites. In fact, several species have been found to possess saliva that causes severe medical symptoms in human bite victims, and at least one of these potentially dangerous water bug species inhabits Arizona.

The L. americanus species of water bug is the most documented and likely the most abundant of all water bug species within the United States. This species is commonly known by multiple nicknames including the “electric light bug”, and as already mentioned, the “giant water bug”. The giant water bug can reach lengths of nearly 2.5 inches, which makes them hard to ignore when they gravitate toward outside light sources in urban and residential areas. Another water bug species that is found within the southern US is the L. uhleri species. Two other water bug species, L. medians and L. griseus, can also be found in Arizona. All North American water bug species swarm toward porch and street lights, but the L. uhleri and L. griseus species are the most commonly spotted species around artificial light sources in residential and urban areas. Recently, seven cases of human water bug bites have been documented in hospitals. The bite victims developed body numbness and intolerable pain following a water bug bite, and research shows that the saliva that these insects produce is toxic enough to cause paralysis in humans. However, very little has been published about water bugs in medical literature, and no case reports detailing human paralysis in response to water bug bites have been published. Studies concerning the toxic effect of water bug saliva on humans are currently being carried out at Arizona State University.

Have you ever encountered an enormous insect hovering around your porch light?

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