Is the Assassin Bug Our Friend?
The term “assassin” is rarely used in a positive sense but assassin bugs are among the list of beneficial insects that kill unwanted pests. Despite their frightening moniker, without assassin bugs we might be overwhelmed by locusts, moths, mealworms, mosquitoes, flies, and the hated cockroach. Here are some assassin bug facts to help you understand them better.
Just the appearance of the black assassin bug strikes fear in the hearts of its prey. Although they are only ½ to 1 inch long, they appear much larger because of the white spots on their wings that look like gaping eyes. And, like their namesake, assassins are crafty killing machines. They lay in wait for prey and attack violently even if the insect is much larger. The assassin stabs its victim with its long proboscis, paralyzing it, and then injects it with a tissue-dissolving solvent. This liquefies the prey’s innards which are sucked out with a straw-like mouthpart. Assassins will even attack and eat each other if no other prey is nearby. Females are particularly belligerent because they need protein to produce eggs.
Some people are fascinated with assassin bugs and raise them as pets. But, they are not exactly our friends. One species of the critter is called the kissing bug, named-so because it will aggressively attack a person near the mouth. The bite of the kissing bug can be painful and cause a severe allergic reaction in some.
Assassin bugs are often mistaken for cockroaches because they can be found in homes. They congregate around moisture in bathtubs, drains, and sinks. And like roaches, assassin bugs can transmit disease to people and animals. One ailment, Chaga’s disease, is common in tropical regions of Central and South America. Symptoms include fever, malaise, and swelling around bites. The disease can go into remission for years and then come back with a wallop, causing intense pain, digestive problems, and even heart failure.
The least friendly species of assassin bug is also the largest. The Platymerus has an effective, if disgusting, means of protection. It can spit saliva up to 12 inches with its powerful salivary pump. The bug has extremely accurate aim, and the saliva can cause blindness in animals and humans.
There are around 7,000 species of insect in the assassin bug family. In nature, they provide many benefits. But they are not our friends, and whatever you do, don’t let one spit on you.
The Assassin Bug - a ferocious bug that sucks prey dry and wears their corpses.