Water Bugs: Everything You Need to Know

June 1, 2023

If you’ve ever been bitten by a water bug, you know that they are definitely not a pest you want to see in your backyard. Living near pools, ponds, and streams means there is a good chance you will encounter a water bug or two during the summer. So, to make the encounter easier, we put together an all-inclusive guide to water bugs, including how to prevent them and how to remove them. 


What Are Water Bugs?


“Water bug” is a term used to describe several pests like cockroaches, however true water bugs are their own species. True water bugs, which are native to the United States and Canada, belong to the order Hemiptera, whereas cockroaches belong to the order Blattodea. Water bugs are large, aquatic insects that usually grow to be around two inches long, but some can grow as large as four inches. Their flat bodies are brown and they have large eyes and long antennae. Water bugs have wings and are able to fly. A good way to differentiate between water bugs and other, similar-looking pests is by checking their hind legs. Water bugs have notably flattened hind legs which they use for swimming and grabbing onto underwater vegetation. 


Giant water bugs, also known as toe-biters, water boatmen, corixids, and alligator ticks, are the most common species of water bugs. All true water bugs live in freshwater streams, lakes, and ponds, and they prefer water with plenty of vegetation near the surface. Water bugs are able to breathe underwater through two tubes that are attached to their abdomen and extend to the surface of the water when the insects are submerged. They prey on other aquatic animals like crustaceans, fish, amphibians, salamanders, and insects. They are able to prey upon animals that are up to fifty times their size due to their powerful pincers and paralyzing venom. 


Are Water Bugs Dangerous?


Water bugs are not highly dangerous, however their bites are very painful and can cause allergic reactions. They typically only bite humans if they are disturbed, for instance when they are stepped on or picked up. True water bugs will not typically invade indoors due to their preferred habitat, but they may invade backyard ponds or pools. If any water bugs appear indoors, they are most likely not true water bugs. The pest most commonly mistaken for water bugs are Oriental cockroaches, which can indeed be dangerous because of their tendency to spread bacteria and diseases. If true water bugs do invade a home or business, they will stick to damp areas like basements and crawl spaces. 


When Are Water Bugs Active?


Water bugs are nocturnal insects, which means they hunt and fly around at night. They are most active during the summer, and they hibernate through the winter. 


What Attracts Water Bugs?


Water bugs are of course attracted to their preferred habitats, so they will naturally be drawn to properties with a source of freshwater nearby, especially those with a lot of aquatic vegetation. They are also attracted to outdoor lights, and they will travel long distances to reach a light source. They can often be seen swarming in well-lit parking lots. Once they reach a light source, they may settle into any nearby water, like ornamental pools, ponds, or swimming pools. 


How To Prevent Water Bugs


In order to avoid attracting water bugs to your property, it is important to remove as many sources of standing water as possible. Empty containers that collect rainwater, fill puddles with dirt, and change bird bath water regularly. 


Keep swimming pools clean and take measures to prevent algae growth. It is important to maintain a proper pH level in pool water. Copper ionization is an effective alternative to pool chemicals if you prefer not to use chlorine. While copper ionization and pool chemicals will not kill water bugs, they will prevent algae and bacteria growth, which will help to make pools less attractive to water bugs. 


Aerating ornamental pools and ponds helps to keep them cleaner, clearer, and more muck-free, which gives water bugs and the prey that attracts them fewer places to hide. For the same reason, it is also important to clean out excess vegetation and avoid letting the remaining vegetation become overgrown. 


Finally, turn off outdoor lights at night, or use yellow bulbs in place of white. Light is one of the main things that attracts water bugs, but since insects are not able to see as much of the Visible Light Spectrum as humans, yellow light will not attract insects. 


How To Get Rid Of Water Bugs


If any water bugs do show up in your pool or pond, there is a simple way to remove them using dish soap and a spotlight. At night, turn off all lights surrounding the pool and point a spotlight at the deep end. Add a few tablespoons of dish soap to the surface of the water where the spotlight is pointing. The water bugs will be attracted to the light and when they reach the surface, the dish soap will cause them to drown. Remove them from the water’s surface the next morning. 


If you are seeing more than just a couple of water bugs on your property during the summer, it may be time to call in the experts at Twin-Boro. We will remove water bugs and any other backyard pests to keep you, your family, and your pets safe. After all, summertime is for the outdoors- don’t let pests keep you from enjoying your backyard. 


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