Photo of the Week – July 6, 2012

Assassin bugs are one of many fascinating insects most people haven’t heard of.  This one was hunting in Sarpy County, Nebraska a few weeks ago.  Assassin bugs are active hunters, but this one was sitting stock still for the few minutes I was photographing it.  I’m not sure if it was waiting for prey or just trying to hide from me, but I liked the pose very much.

Assassin bug. Sarpy County, Nebraska.

Like spiders, assassin bugs inject venom into their victims, both paralyzing and liquefying them.  Then they suck the insides out of the hapless insect.  It’s interesting to me that these two groups of invertebrates (spiders and assassin bugs) independently developed similar strategies, even though they are not closely related.

The University of Kentucky has a fantastic entomology website, and has excellent information on assassin bugs, if you’re interested.

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About Chris Helzer

Chris Helzer is an ecologist and Eastern Nebraska Program Director for The Nature Conservancy. He supervises the management and restoration of approximately 4,000 acres of land in central and eastern Nebraska - primarily along the central Platte River. Chris is also the author of "The Ecology and Management of Prairies in the Central United States", published by the University of Iowa Press.
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4 Responses to Photo of the Week – July 6, 2012

  1. I LOVE Assassin bugs! They are the savior of my veg garden. A beautiful pic of this amazing predator-

  2. Michael Stephens, RMS says:

    Neat photo!
    These can be veracious predators and very entertaining to interact with, however by way of experience, be cautious not to aggravate them too much. Several years ago I was doing some cleaning in an old farm house that we moved into and put my forearm down next to an assassin bug obviously cramping it’s style and it proceeded to let me know that it needed more space. WOW that hurt and it took almost 3 weeks to heal. It didn’t leave a welt, just a red spot with a weeping hole in the middle.

  3. James C. Trager says:

    Speaking of this family: Twice recently, and without camera(!), I’ve seen adult wheel bugs (Reduviidae Arilus cristatus) that have just emerged from their last nymphal skin. They are a striking bright salmon color for a while, until their new cuticle hardens and colors up.

  4. Rick Hollis says:

    Some years ago I found an egg mass and put it in a jar. It hatched into tiny little assassin bugs. I was doing Drosophila research then and fed them Drosophila. It was absolutely amazing to watch them dine.

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