Insect? Or Vampire?


Recently, I had the pleasure of an unusual reference interview. I love these types of reference transactions though. They’re challenging and often funny. This one is especially perfect for today because the topic is something that could give you nightmares! πŸ™‚

It began innocently enough. A man and woman entered the building clutching a mason jar. They looked uncertain of where they should go. I invited them over with a smile and friendly “How may I help you?” The woman plonked the mason jar on my desk and asked for my help in identifying the insect contained within it.

Giant Water Bug

The insect inside was about three inches long. It had a number of legs, and prominent pincers towards its head. It was writhing and wiggling against the smooth glass of the jar. Its pincers were pinching thin air aggressively. And yet, those pincers seemed to move oddly in almost jelly-like fashion. I couldn’t help grimacing and shoving back from my desk slightly.

The man and woman explained that they had found it on or near some water in the area. They had never seen anything so large, so they scooped it up. They had already approached the local bookstore for a book to identify the creature and had struck out. I was determined that we would identify it. I began by locating books about insects in our library. I decided that since the insect was right in front of us that we needed books that were on our shelves. There was no time to wait for books brought from other libraries!

Even though we had several books on insect identification, I decided to do a quick Google image search for the insect. The couple was delightful, and we had assembled a crowd. Everyone had an opinion and wanted to know what it was. I was amazed at the quick response I received in the results list. The couple had caught themselves a Giant Water Bug.

Giant Water Bug

And let me tell you, this creature will give you the willies! According to the Wisconsin DNR:

This huge insect sometimes grows to be two or more inches in length. The giant water bug is a superb hunter, attacking and eating animals three times larger than itself, including tadpoles, fishes, frogs, very young ducks and other insects. It uses its strong front legs to grasp its prey while its beak is used to pierce, inject a poison and suck the victim’s body juices. This true bug lives among plants at the bottom of the pond, although it is a strong flier and can often be found around lights at night. It does not have gills so it must make trips to the surface to get air. It breathes through the tip of its abdomen. The giant water bug is cooked in China and is considered to be a delicacy. Hold it from behind or the giant water bug might find you a delicacy too.

That’s right. It breathes through its butt. It flies! It eats baby ducklings. And it uses venom to immobilize its prey before sucking the life literally from its victims. We should call this thing the Vampire Water Bug. Pretty fitting that we are talking about it today!

In the end, the nice couple left with their bug and without checking out any of the books. They were satisfied with what they found out. I love a happy customer!

Happy Halloween! Avoid the Giant Water Bug and stay away from vampires! πŸ˜‰

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About shortlibrarian

I am a woman working in the Twin Cities as a programming Librarian.
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