Toe-biters, or giant water bugs, can reach up to two-and-a-half inches long, and yes, they bite humans’ toes.

By Meghan Overdeep
July 25, 2019
Brett_Hondow/Getty Images

There’s no easy way to say this, but months of particularly wet weather mean that the “toe-biter” bug is having one heck of a summer.

The toe-biter—whose real name is Belostomatidae—also goes by giant water bug, Indian toe-biter, electric-light bug, alligator tick, alligator flea, and a whole host of expletives, we’re sure.

Experts report an increase in sightings in the Atlanta area, though the fearsome water-dwelling insect is found throughout the United States.

Toe-biters can reach up to two-and-a-half inches long, and yes, they bite humans’ toes. The bite has been likened to that of a wasp sting.

"When people encounter these and get bitten by them, it's when they're in a creek or the shallows of a lake, something like that," University of Georgia Agriculture Extension Agent Courtney Brissey told WSB-TV. "It gets you right on the toe."

"Their mouthparts aren't actually chewing mouthparts. It's a beak. So, it's like a straw that they actually stick you with, kind of like a needle," Brissey continued.

And don’t be fooled, they’ve been known to play dead when startled by a larger predators like humans.

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Fortunately, the bites, though very painful, are usually harmless. A blow from these sneaky creatures causes a burning sensation and swelling around the affected area. Depending on how much saliva is injected, the site can experience discoloration for weeks.

Now if you’ll excuse us, we have to go buy a pair of water shoes!

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