Aquatic Insects of Michigan
by Ethan Bright, Museum of Zoology Insect Division and School of Natural Resources and Environment
Belostomatidae of Michigan - Electric Light Bugs - Identification
Attracted to lights at night, the large bugs are also often called "electric light bugs." Adults overwinter in streams and rivers, often along undercut banks and underneath large woody debris, then disperse in spring to lentic habitats where they often hide among vegetation and woody debris. Belostomatids are predaceous, grasping prey with their strong forelegs and using piercing-sucking mouthparts to inject an anesthetic and digestive salva into their prey (insects - including members of their own species, larval amphibians and small fish), then sucking up their prey's fluids. Like notonectids and naucorids, these animals can deliver a very painful bite when handled. Adults overwinter, and mating and egg-laying occurs in late spring or early summer. Unusual among insects, species of Belostoma and Abedus have male parental care, where females attach eggs to the male's back who then guards and hydrates the eggs until they hatch. This is thought to have arisen through a male "strategy" of assuring parentage (counter sperm competition).
There are two species of Lethocerus, one species of Benacus, and two species of Belostoma recorded from Michigan, with Lethocerus americanus and Belostoma flumineum by far the most common in our state. Species of these genera are widespread in southern Canada southward towards Central America and West Indies (Lethocerus) and into much of South America (Belostoma). (A fourth genus, Abedus, is found in the southern and southwestern USA southward into Central America). Benacus, placed as a subgenus of Lethocerus by Laucke and Menke (1961), was recently elevated (rather re-elevated) to genus (Goodwyn 2006).
Adults are recognized by having well-developed wings, the basal half of the forewing being hardened, leathery.
Adults (adapted from Menke 1979 and Hilsenhoff 1984)
Nymphs (based on Menke 1979)
Hilsenhoff WL. 1984. Aquatic Hemiptera of Wisconsin. The Great Lakes Entomologist 17(1):29-50.
Menke AS. 1979. Family Belostomatidae, pp. 76-86 in Menke AS (editor), The semiaquatic and aquatic Hemiptera of California. Bulletin of the California Insect Survey 21:1-166 + xi.
Page created: June 13, 2003; Last edited: November 06, 2013 (EB)