Heteroptera family, Reduvidea, many species
The assassin bug, aptly named, is one of those beneficial insects in the garden that suffers from its own habits.
Assassin bugs are part of a large family of insects in the Hemiptera (true bug) family and are slightly unusual among common bugs because they are almost all ambush predators. Most all the other members of the Hemiptera family are aquatic while assassin bugs are terrestrial. These are easily recognizable bugs with their long narrow neck and sturdy curved proboscis.
The Good Side
Assassin bugs use this long curved proboscis or rostrum to inject saliva into their prey. The saliva contains a mixture of enzymes and bacteria that begin the digestion process immediately, liquifying the internal parts of their prey and allowing the assassin bug to suck the liquid nutrient solution from the prey. This process allows the assassin bug to attack and kill prey much larger than itself.
The Bad Side
This is the double nature of the assassin bug. While humans are considered by the assassin bug to be much too large to predate, If disturbed or handled, the assassin bug will retaliate by stabbing with its proboscis and delivering a dose of its toxic saliva. This results in a painful wound that can become infected easily. This usually happens while you are harvesting or checking plants — one reason I like to wear gardening gloves for these chores.
The assassin bug is an opportunity feeder preying on whatever it happens upon in the garden. This is a double-edged sword as well. An assassin bug will eat anything that it comes across, pests, other beneficial insects, and even its brothers and sisters.
Assassin bugs come in a variety of colors and sizes so identifying them can be a challenge. Look for the long narrow neck, wide stout body, and the curved proboscis that it carries under its body in a small grove. I personally just let them be in the garden. They perform a valuable service and don’t harm my plants at all. I do give them their space.
Links and Resources
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