National Park Service

Toe-Biting Insects Found in Streams in the Santa Monica Mountains

The giant water bugs can catch and eat an animal 50 times its size, researchers say.

It might be a good idea to watch your step on your next SoCal hike. 

Giant water bugs that are capable of biting human toes have been found in streams in the Santa Monica Mountains. The aggressive predator (family Belostomatidae) can catch and eat an animal 50 times its size, including turtles, fish and snakes, according to the National Park Service.

The bigger water bugs hunt and kill their prey by piercing the victim with their sharp beaks, injecting a powerful, paralyzing toxin. This toxin liquefies from the inside before they suck out the contents.

NPS shared two photos of a male Abedus herberti with eggs on its back to its Facebook page on Tuesday.

The freshwater insects, known as giant water bugs or toe-biters, can grow up to four inches long.

Unlike other animals, the eggs are typically laid on the male insect's wings and carried on his back until they hatch.

"These daddies keep their babies moist, clean and safe from predators," park ranger Ana Beatriz said.

They also have quite the personality, she added. They can play dead, and when startled, can emit a smelly fluid from their rear end.

Contact Us