You may want to buy a pair of water shoes this summer if you're heading to your lake house—experts in Atlanta, Georgia have warned that because of the crazy wet season this summer, enormous "toe-biter" bugs are on the rise. They're native to southern Canada and all over the U.S., so people across the country should be on the lookout for these insects.
These "toe biters"—scientifically known as Belostomatidae—have also been called giant water bugs, Indian toe-biters, electric-light bugs (because they can fly, and will gather around porch lights during mating season), alligator ticks, and alligator fleas. They can reach up to two and a half inches long and lurk underneath the surface of ponds and lakes, but have also been known to appear in drainage ditches and even pools—and they will bite you.
"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," said University of Georgia Agriculture Extension Agent Courtney Brissey to WSB-TV Atlanta. "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 said.
These sneaky toe biters also know how to play dead—to protect themselves from predators—so if you come across one and scoop it up, it may eventually wake up and bite you.
According to the Montreal Insectarium, "its bite causes a burning sensation and swelling around the affected area. Depending on the quantity of saliva injected, the bite may cause a brownish stain on the skin, which will slowly disappear weeks or months afterwards."
While the bites are painful, they're ultimately harmless—just be on the lookout if you're spending any time in a lake or pond this summer!
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