Giant water bugs are fearsome predators … with a needle-like mouth that packs a venomous cocktail to paralyze prey.
And digestive enzymes in their saliva that liquify their victim’s insides.
Their bite is extremely painful to humans too.
That’s why they’re nicknamed toe biters.
… but they’ve got a bit of a soft side too.
Male giant water bugs are quite possibly the most responsible dads in the insect world.
Males call for a mate by shaking their booty.
That little dance sends out ripples that attract females.
The female checks him out … … And if she likes what she sees, they mate, end to end.
Then she grabs hold of the male and lays her freshly fertilized eggs on his back.
The most popular papas are quite in demand.
Others not so much.
The eggs on his back need air to survive.
For weeks he shuttles them to and from the surface to make sure they get enough oxygen.
He’s basically an insect minivan.
While he’s up there he takes a breath too by sticking the tip of his butt out of the water.
Giant water bugs have two little air straps that work like a snorkel.
They pull air into a bubble trapped under their wings.
They use that bubble like a scuba tank while they’re underwater.
Hauling all those eggs around is hard work.
But he’s got this.
Caring for youngsters is unusual in insects, but nurturing like this by a dad is almost unheard of.
After a couple of weeks, eyespots appear when the eggs are about to hatch.
Sometimes dad jostles them a bit, to help them free themselves.
Now that it's free, the baby – called a nymph – is on its own.
It slowly sneaks away from dad.
That’s because giant water bug dads are still fearsome predators known to eat their own young.
Over the next few hours the nymph’s squishy exoskeleton hardens and darkens.
Pretty soon, the nymph will be hunting on its own, stabbing, paralyzing, and liquifying its prey.