This is the final post I’ll get from the Edible Bugs Gift Pack, which also included the crickets (see February 13, 2014 post), ants (see April 3, 2014 post), and grasshoppers (see May 22, 2014 post). The bamboo worms and armor tail scorpions will be included in the updates for their posts (see June 11, 2012 post and December 30th, 2012 post, respectively). And thanks once more to Emily for the link.
Giant water bugs are pretty fascinating creatures. For starters, they rival the North American mountain lions in the category of “Most Common Names For One Animal.” They’re also known as toe-biters, electric light bugs, alligator ticks, and (confusingly, since this is an entirely different species) fleas. They’re common worldwide, too, as they are native to North and
South America, Australia, and Asia. The “giant” part of their title isn’t a
misnomer, either, as they’re huge by bug standards. The largest ones can get up to nearly 5
inches long (or about 12-13 centimeters).
Giant water bugs are typically ambush predators, as they hide on the
bottoms of their watery homes, and surprise attack prey if it gets too
close. The bigger ones even occasionally
take out snakes and baby turtles.
But my favorite attribute is their wonderfully gross and disturbing way of eating. They inject their prey with their corrosive saliva, which promptly liquefies the victim’s insides. The water bug then slurps this up. They have a couple of defensive strategies. If a potential enemy is larger, they sometimes play dead, and also squirt a nasty fluid out of their butts to discourage further attack or investigation. If this doesn’t work, they lash out with a potent bite. Although their bite isn’t venomous, or otherwise dangerous to humans, it is reportedly quite painful. On a more cuddly note, though, they are at least nice to their children—usually the males carry the eggs around on their backs until the young hatch.
Since my particular water bug was once again Thai, it was probably of the Lethocerus indicus variety. There are many ways to prepare them—frying, sautéing, roasting, and often with onions and garlic. My giant water bug was ground up and included in a chili paste. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to discern separate body parts, etc. There was a slight crunch at times, but that was about it. Alas, the chili paste was extremely hot—really all I could taste was fire. My stomach can handle moderate spice, but this one caused me some digestive issues. So all in all I definitely didn’t enjoy it very much, but I don’t feel like I got a fair and authentic giant water bug experience. The Thai describe its taste as being like shrimp or sweet scallop. Therefore, I’d like to try this again, served in a different way. Maybe I’ll get lucky and find a Thai restaurant which likes to take chances on the menu.
I’d like to close by discussing the website that sold me the Edible Bug Gift Pack—Thinkgeek (www.thinkgeek.com). They seem to be fun. Perfect if you’re a nerd with a decent amount of disposable income, or are friendly with some. Looking over their selection I mental noted a few items for Christmas and my birthday. Aside from the Star Wars/Star Trek/Doctor Who/Minecraft t-shirts, toys and gadgets, I was amused by the following:
Monty Python Wafer Thin Mints (yes, from the Mr. Creosote sketch in “Meaning of Life.”)
Tactical Bacon (it’s canned, of course, and allegedly lasts over 10 years!)
A “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” parody book called “The Very Hungry Zombie.”
Pixel Heart Heat Changing Mug (the opposite of the Coors cold-activated can—a black heart turns red when you pour in a hot beverage).
Also, the Edible Bug Gift Pack itself is currently on sale, for only $19.99.