A Bug That Deserves It's Own Spy Movie
The Assassin Bug is actually a whole entire group of bugs, not just one specific type of bug. They are found all over the world, including a large population here in the United States. Assassin Bugs come in many different shapes and sizes, and also each have their own odd quirks about them. The scientific name for bugs a part of this family is Reduviidae. These bugs aren't just called assassin bugs for no reason though. They get their name "Assassin Bug" from the fact that almost all of them are terrestrial ambush predators. Of the bugs that do not ambush their prey and eat it, the rest actually find a living creature and attach themselves and suck blood from the host! Bugs in the assassin bug family can range from 0.15 inches to over 2 inches in length. Although they are all different in their own respect, they all have a very distinct narrow neck, long legs, and very obviously segmented mouthparts called the proboscis. Most assassin bugs are very brightly colors and have different spots or stripes that are red, orange, or black. The most interesting feature to this group of bugs is the ridges that are on top of many of their backs. These ridges aren't just a part of their body shape, they are actually an organ! They use this organ when a predator is around to produce a sound that discourages predators from attacking them. If the predator continues to harass the assassin bug, most species will stab the predator with their point nose. This isn't just any stab either, it is a poisonous one. Depending on the species this stab will either contain venom that causes extreme pain and irritation under the skin, or it can contain digestive juices. These digestive juices are very acidic and also cause extreme pain and discomfort to anything injected with it. Some assassin bugs are even capable of killing, or seriously and permanently injuring other creatures with their poisonous stab.
The assassin bug's feeding habits are what gives them their name. Most species will wait in a secluded area very still, and camouflaged, while waiting on prey to appear. Once something that they want to eat appears they very quickly jump in it, and inject it with their saliva using the point on their head. Their saliva literally liquefies the insides of the prey in a matter of seconds. As this liquefaction process takes place the assassin bug must hold onto the prey, so it does not get away. Tiny hairs on their legs aid in the holding of their prey. Even if it does though, it will not be able to get very far, as it will be dead very soon. Once the insides of the prey are liquefied, the assassin bug sucks the guts out. This saliva is very strong as well. It is capable of killing an insect almost three times the size of the assassin bug within one or two minutes.
As larvae many assassin bugs are quite defenseless, so their best option is camouflage. However, unlike most other bugs, they don't have natural camouflage. They have to create their own! Most of the time this camo is created from leaves and sticks that they stick onto their own bodies, however, some species have been known to use dead bodies of other insects to hide themselves to predators as either something they don't want to eat, or something that has already had most of the nutritious guts and insides eaten out of it.
Unlike many bugs we have discussed on this blog, this is actually one that is in the Middle TN area, and one we treat for. If you have any pest problems with the assassin bug, or any other type of bug, please give us a call. We will be happy to help!
Source: “Reduviidae.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 1 June 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reduviidae