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Assassin bug

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Assassin bug
Apiomerus spissipes.jpg
Scientific Classification
Subfamily
  • Apiomerinae
  • Bactrodinae
  • Centrocneminae
  • Cetherinae
  • Diaspidinae
  • Ectrichodiinae
  • Elasmodeminae
  • Emesinae
  • Hammacerinae
  • Harpactorinae
  • Holoptilinae
  • Peiratinae
  • Phonolibinae
  • Phymatinae
  • Physoderinae
  • Reduviinae
  • Rhabdocorinae
  • Rhaphidosominae
  • Saicinae
  • Salyavatinae
  • Sphaeridopinae
  • Stenopodainae
  • Tegeinae
  • Triatominae
  • Tribelocephalinae
  • Visayanocorinae
Thread-legged Bug
Empicoris culiciformis.jpg

Assassin Bugs are any of the species of predatory insects that belong to the taxonomic family Reduviidae. As their name implies, they are perhaps best known for the manner in which they eat their food. This is by sneaking up from behind its prey then stabbing it with its proboscis and injecting it with toxins and digestive enzymes that start to liquify the insides of the prey down. The members of the family Reduviidae are also called ambush bugs due to their surprising stealth.

Contents

Anatomy

Redivius personatus

Assassin bugs have six jointed legs like all insects, two antennae and an exoskeleton made of chitin. They range in size from four to forty-four millimeters. Their body is made of three sections, the head, the thorax, and the abdomen. The assassin bug's head contains its eyes, antennae, and proboscis. The thorax has attachment points of the legs and wings; the abdomen is where the reproductive and most digestive organs are.[1]

The head of the assassin bug has the insect's proboscis or rostrum. The proboscis is the part of the head that the bug uses to feed on its prey. When the proboscis is not in uses, it is folded down into a groove called the prosternum. The assassin bug can also make a rasping sound by rubbing the proboscis across a ridge called the stridulitrum.[2]

The legs of the assassin bug are covered with very fine spines. These spines are for grasping a downed prey.[3] Only the front legs do not have these spines on them. The legs are also long compared to the body, so it has a bigger range for an attack.[4]

Reproduction

Assassin bugs reproduce sexually and asexually. They also have incomplete metamorphosis. The female assassin bug does not need to have her eggs fertilized but can be.[5] Once the female lays her eggs, she dies soon after. Then the brown, tube shaped eggs hatch after about one week. The new assassin bugs molt after two weeks and in six to nine weeks become of age.[6]

The male will ride on top of the female until she has oviposition, this is mate guarding. The males will also guard the eggs unlike most insects. Assassin bugs are one of eleven types of insects that do that. Male assassin bugs guard eggs because this is more attractive to females than males without eggs. This is because it shows the females that the male will care for the eggs.[7]

Assassin Bug Eggs

Ecology

Assassin bugs eat a lot of insects. They eat most garden pests and are beneficial to farming areas. Assassin bugs only eat one type of prey. These can be many insects or, like the bee assassin, eat one type of insect, or it may eat blood like the conenose. The conenose is also called the kissing bug for its habit of biting the lips or eye or face of sleeping humans. The kissing bug is thinner than normal so it can fit in narrow cracks.[8]

These bugs are found in Europe, the Americas, Africa, and Austrilia[9]. Since assassin bugs are slow and their predators are very fast they have very interesting ways to hide. The backpack bug keeps all the dead bodies of the its past meals on its back. This backpack can be much bigger than the bug itself and is useful for a movable cover to hunt with and a distraction for an escape from a predator. Another is the masked hunter; it puts lint and other dirt like things on itself so after a while it looks like a walking dust bunny. This is perfect for where is hunts, a bed for bed bugs or insects like bed bugs. Masked hunters will also bite humans too.

Some use these collections to lure prey out of hiding. The termite feeding assassin will dangle a dead termite in front of the opening of the termite mound so the hungry termites look at it. They go to investigate it then when the termites come out, the termite feeding assassin attacks and eat the curious termites.

Another type are assassins that use chemical lures. The ant luring assassins that have glands that secrete a surgery substance. So when the ant comes by and smells the surgery stuff, the ant follows the scent to the assassin. Once the ant gets there, the assassin rears up to show the surgery substance glands. Then the ant eats the sugary substance that tranquillizes the ant and the assassin has an easy meal. The bee assassin uses a similar technique. It puts plant resin on its front legs so the bees are attracted to the smell and get eaten by the assassin.

The last kind of getting prey is by stealth. The thread leg bugs use its thin legs to be able to walk around very softly, so softly that it can steal catches from spiders on the spider's web. Another is the ambush bug, it goes to a flower and waits motionlessly. Once an insect like a butterfly or bee land on the flower not knowing of the ambush planned, the ambush bug attacks then eats the hapless insect.[10]

Commercial Use

Since assassin bugs eat all insect pests of a garden or farm, they can be used to protect the garden or farm by eating them. This is better than using insecticides because of the health concern with using them. A person may think this sounds like very new ecological find, but it was used by the Chinese a long time ago. They would use the immature insects to kill farm pests because the young insects will eat its prey faster than an older one.[11]

There are some problems with rearing the assassin bug for commercial use as in that they will eat each other before being fully grown. People have found a way to rear them without them eating each other and a good food for all parts of the insect's development, this food is the meal worm. Unfortunately, a meal worm feeds one insect for one feeding. If an artificial diet was made, it would lower the labor and food needed thus making the assassin bugs more cost affective.[12]


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