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Brown Flying type Beetle - Lethocerus americanus

Brown Flying type Beetle - Lethocerus americanus
Rexton, Kent County, New Brunswick, Canada
April 28, 2006
Size: over 2 inches

FOUND in Salem, MA
My cousin and I were biking after dark (7/19/11), with headlamps on, in Forest River Park, on Salem Harbor (Salem, Massachussetts). While riding, I saw and felt a LARGE object (the beetle shown) hit my upper chest(must have been attracted to the light). I quickly yelled and swatted at it off my chest. When I looked down, I could NOT see the beetle on my chest/where I felt it hit. I kept riding, but told my cousin (riding next to me) why I yelled/what I saw/felt. About 3 minutes later, once on the more well-light streets, my cousin told me to STOP! As soon as I did, he pulled up next to me an smacked this LARGE Black/Brown beatle off of my NECK!!! This was the biggest beatle I have ever personally seen. When it hit the pavement, it sounded like someone dropped a large piece of plastic on the ground. This thing was BIG and has some serious armor. Not to mention these insane fangs/pinchers. Fortunately, I did NOT get bitten on my neck. I did a google search the following day becuase I was so curious what exactly it was and if it could have caused my neck some serious damage. According to this site, it is only poisonous for small fish and amphibians?? After studying this beetle on the pavement of the street for a few minutes, I am 99% certain this is the same type of beatle pictured above. I did NOT kill it, but I didn't move it off the street either. I'm guessing it didn't make it (traffic) unless if flew away after we fled the scene.

Nice story
but it was a bug, not a beetle. Look at my comment below on how to tell the difference.

BTW, I'd never want to be bitten by one of these. To say they are "only poisonous for small fish and amphibians" is incorrect. They are LETHAL for small fish and amphibians but very painful to larger animals and humans. They are poisonous to humans in much the same way a bee sting or spider bite is poisonous to humans, even though they are not lethal.

Lethocerus americanus
This is the familiar giant water bug or "electric light bug" (so-called in the west because they can come to lights in numbers).

If it is alive, DO NOT pick this up, it can inflict a very painful "bite" which kills small amphibians and fish.

How to tell a bug from a beetle
From time to time I haul out this explanation. You can ignore the antenna part in this case, since a waterbug's antennae are so miniscule.


The first thing I look at is the antennae. If they are long-to-medium length but have fewer than six segments (often 4 or 5), then it's a bug. Beetles have many more segments (antennomeres) in their antennae. Often in bugs the end antennomere is a lot longer than the rest and you can see the angle of the bend, sorta like this:

/ \
\ /

Another thing to look for is pinching mandibles on a beetle's mouthparts and a piercing, sucking mouthpart on bugs that is usually folded back against their underside.

Finally, many bugs have quite apparent half wingcovers that, together with their triangular scutellum (between the forward portion of the wingcovers), forms an X shape.

However, in some bugs the scutellum is so large that it covers nearly the entire wing area. These bugs have tiny wingcovers at the sides of their backs and lack a wingcover suture of a beetle running down the middle of the back.

giant water bug
I found one of these in my backyard in late August 2009. I live in the Seattle Washington area.

Compare with

Brown flying Beetle
Found by Cory and Dylan Daigle

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