Assassin Bug, Very Aptly Named
I don't usually post about insects but these little creatures caught my interest. They are Assassin Bugs and are part of the Family Reduviidae.Reduviidae (from the contained genus, Reduvius, which comes from the Latin reduvia, meaning "hangnail" or "remnant") is a large, cosmopolitan family of predatory insects in the suborder Heteroptera. It includes assassin bugs Adult insects often range from 4 to 40 mm [≈ diameter of a golf ball]. They most commonly have an elongated head with a distinct narrowed neck, long legs, and a prominent, segmented tube for feeding (rostrum).
What is fascinating and slightly creepy is the way they feed and what they do with the remnants of dinner. The Assassin Bug will stick that big rostrum into an ant or termite and inject a venom, like a spider. The venom paralyzes their prey and also liquifies the insides and the Assassin Bug then sucks the gooey buggy goodness up for dinner.
After that the Assassin Bug will then sometimes stick the dead shell of its dinner on its back. That is the image you see below. Not just one or two at a time, mind you, these bugs can be found lugging around massive piles of their foes. Burdensome and unnecessarily sinister, it would seem, but this functions both as visual and olfactory camouflage as well as highly effective armor.
According to biologist Christiane Weirauch of the University of California, Riverside.Yet even more brilliant is this species’ hunting techniques. Like ants, termites practice what is known as social immunity, removing dead or dying comrades from the colony to avoid outbreaks of disease (and sadness, possibly). “And the assassin bugs seem to be taking advantage of that, in the sense that they would capture one termite, suck it dry, and then have it dangle from their rostrum into the termite mound and lure the next termite that way,” Weirauch said. One observer, she noted, witnessed an assassin bug use this trick to capture 48 termites in a single sitting.
Assassin Bugs may also be tool users.Still other species turn themselves into veritable flypaper by excreting sticky goo onto their forelegs to help them snag prey. Others harvest resins from plants for the same purpose. And that’s particularly remarkable, because it comes damn close to actually being a kind of tool use.
This little creature is mostly considered a beneficial bug because it kills and eats many of the harmful bugs in our garden.
They can bite humans and are the cause of a disease called kissing disease. Now, apart from occasionally delivering a painful bite, assassin bugs are usually no real threat to humans. Save for one group: the blood-sucking kissing bugs, so called because they typically bite humans painlessly around the mouth while we sleep. But if they happen to defecate in the process, protozoans from their feces get into the wound, leading to chronic heart problems that may only manifest decades later. Chagas disease, as it’s known, is a serious issue in South America, where substandard housing leaves more points of entry for the bugs, though infections may now be on the rise in the U.S.
If you see one in the garden, leave it alone. It will help keep down harmful insect populations. If you see them in the house, that is another story.
ⓐ Absurd Creature of the Week: The Ferocious Bug That Sucks Prey Dry and Wears Their Corpseshttp://www.wired.com/2014/06/absurd-creature-of-the-week-assassin-bug/
A young assassin bug with a backpack made of dead ants. Photo: Getty Images