Male Water Bugs Carry Tons of Eggs and Breathe with Their Butts

Giant water bugs are big and horrifyingly nicknamed toe-biters for the painful way they attack human feet that trample in their lakes and ponds. But it turns out they make really great parents. Or at least the males do. Like with much cuter seahorses, female water bugs drop their eggs off with the males of their species, who then tote the young ones around until they hatch. They carry the young and breathe with their butts!

In the latest video from PBS station KQED’s series Deep Look, we learn more about the water bug’s parenting skills. And that fact we mentioned above: they breathe with their rear end. They have a type of snorkel back there, pulling air into a bubble they trap below their wings. They then pull from that air supply while swimming underwater.  

To get started on their road to parenthood, male water bugs shake their butts at the water surface, which sends out ripples. Females come by and, if they approve, mate and then lay eggs on his back. He carries those eggs around for a few weeks, along with others that different females lay on him. The piggy-backing babies need air so he brings them out of the water from time to time. He collects his own air at the same time by sticking his butt out of the water.  

Along with all these fun facts also come some horrifying ones. Like that some species of water bugs can grow up to 4.5 inches long. And that they liquify their prey’s insides and slurp them up, including larger animals like snakes and even ducklings

A male water bug with eggs laid on his back
Deep Look

Other cool things we’ve learned from the Deep Look YouTube channel include that barnacles have giant penises, horseshoe crabs mate in giant orgies, and starfish can gallop. Plenty more fun facts about insect rear ends come thanks to Invertebutt week. Enjoy! 

Melissa is Nerdist’s science & technology staff writer. She also moderates “science of” panels at conventions and co-hosts Star Warsologies, a podcast about science and Star Wars. Follow her on Twitter @melissatruth. 

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