As the ice goes out on lakes and ponds, keep an eye out for Minnesota and America's largest bug.

The Giant Water Bug can measure up to two inches long and one inch wide, and is rather intimidating to those that happen upon it.

This creature is in the insect order known as Hemiptera, or the "true" bugs. The family is Belostomatidae, which consists of bugs commonly known as Giant Water Bugs (not beetles). The species in the genus Lethocerus, as this one is, are our largest belostomatids. So, the Giant Water Bug is as large an insect as you will find in the United States.

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If you are looking for these big boys they are most commonly found in ponds and lakes, and less likely to be spotted in rivers. Look closely at the vegetation on the edges of lakes and wetlands, which is where they hunt for potential prey. What is that prey? Small fish, tadpoles, snails, insects, and other invertebrates are favorites. They feed by catching organisms with their powerful front legs and inject the prey with a toxin to immobilize and kill it. Yikes.

As freaky as I find these things, they are actually crucial in Minnesota wetland ecosystems. In wetlands that don't have fish, these bugs are responsible for keeping populations of smaller invertebrates from exploding and taking over.

If you come in contact with one, beware that they do bite. The beak-looking thing that is the bug's mouth is actually more like a syringe, so it's similar to a mosquito bite but far more intense.

Also, a word of warning: these things can fly. So if you don't do well with flying insects, I'd try to steer clear of these creatures.

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