June 9, 2013 | Cool Bugs!
Along with probably having the coolest common name in the insect world, the assassin bug is also a member of the “good bugs” in your garden. As the first heat wave hit Pennsylvania the insect activity exploded. While walking outside my eye caught a burst of orange against the white stucco; juvenile assassin bugs emerging from their eggs.
The assassin bug is part of a large family called Reduviidae that can be found all over the world. The Reduviidae family characteristic feature is their long feeding tube, or rostrum. Whoever had the task of naming the Reduviidae family must have thought that the rostrum resembled a hangnail because that is the Latin translation. Funny how a word like hangnail can sound so scientific just by translating it into Latin.
These little guys will grow up to be Arilus cristatus also know as Sail-back Dinosaur bug or Wheel bugs. Assassin bugs are insect predators that use a slow, stealthy approach or ambush technique to get close enough to their prey. Once within range the insect assassin silently grabs and inserts it’s rostrum and using it like a needle injects a toxic cocktail of saliva. The saliva kills the prey and begins digesting the insect hemaglobin. The assassin bug will then use its rostrum like a straw to drain the insect before beginning the hunt once again.
A quick inspection around the house revealed that we would be welcoming many more little assassins into the world. Five other egg clusters were found including this one with the eldest waiting for it’s younger siblings to hatch.
We will be keeping our eyes out for these little guys as they get bigger and the orange is traded for grey, but we will be keeping our distance as well. Assassin bugs can be aggressive and “bites” can be as painful as a bee or wasp sting and have the potential to cause an allergic reaction.