Assassin Bug Facts That You Can Take To The Bank
It is an executioner – eradicating pests that destroy veggie plants. Yep. That’s what this bug is. Carrying an ominous name, assassin, this warrior bug is worthy of our protection. Enough of them can annihilate most of those enemy critters that eat the fruits of our labor before we have a chance to do it ourselves. This is just one of many assassin bug facts that most gardeners don’t realize.
You know what those evil garden creepy crawlies can do! They eat leaves, stalks, roots, and even the vegetables, fruits, and herbs we pick for our table!
Enter the assassin bugs to save the day for us!
What Do They Look Like?
Assassin bugs can be so tiny that you wouldn’t even notice them – a couple tenths of an inch long. Some are as big as your thumb – an inch and a half up to 2 inches long.
Their slender skull may be attached to a skinny neck. Some may have a narrow body. Some may have prehistoric looking, scaly sails or spikes sticking up out of their backs or legs.
Most of them have an arched proboscis – or curved beak – that they keep tucked up under their body when not in use. They use this appendage like a straw – first injecting their prey with a potion that liquefies the victim’s guts – then sucking all of the bowel fluids out – to the last drop – gorging themselves to their heart’s content.
The colors of these ravagers of garden pests encompass some species that are red or orange – sometimes, with a little black thrown in for good measure. And, others show solid, subtle colors = like black, brown, or gray.
At last count, there are over 7,000 species of these slayers worldwide – with over 160 varieties living in North America. And, unlike their victims, they can survive cold winters if they can find a protected area – like an outdoor shed, hollow log, or a cave – to hole up in – until the spring thaw.
What Pests Do These Predators Eat?
Look no further than those dastardly and thriving aphids – which are high on the menu list for assassin bugs. But, don’t leave out the eggs, larvae and adult stages of leafhoppers, beetles, bees, and even large caterpillars.
Look out, you tomato hornworms, cucumber beetles, corn worms, and other little nasty crawlers. Assassin bugs are out to get you, too!
And, these “warrior bugs” will not only hunt pests in the garden, they will patrol trees, shrubs, and flowers in your landscaped yard. In other words, they go wherever their food source is hanging out.
Meet Some Common Everyday Assassin Bugs
Traditional Assassin Bug
These comical looking combatants are mostly red or orange with a few splotches of black or gray. They will patiently lie in wait for a delicious meal of garden pests – hours on end – and attack when the time is right. They rarely miss their target.
They may be funny looking – but, they don’t play around.
The assassin bug’s bright coloring helps them deter any birds from swooping down to turn them into a meal. Most predators will back away from any brightly colored insect – thinking that the bright colors are a warning that said insects are poisonous or taste nasty or are just unfit for consumption. This is also what we learn as humans – if we decide to enter into the world of bug eating.
Robber flies, or assassin flies, are particularly aggressive when hunting nasty crawlies to eat. They patiently lie in wait for the right moment to successfully ambush their victim – usually when the target is flying along “without a care in the world.”
Some of these aggressive robber flies may look short and stout – resembling bumble bees – and less than half an inch long. Some of them may look elegantly elongated – like a damsel fly – and reach up to 2 inches in length.
Their antennae are short and their beak like proboscis is short and sharp – easily piercing the outer body of any insect – to deliver their “organ solvent” composed of saliva containing some pretty strong enzymes. The saliva decomposes the insides of their quarry – quickly turning it into a mushy mass – and then the robbers suck it all out through the same tube.
These killing experts go after other flies, beetles, butterflies, some bees, grasshoppers, wasps, dragon flies, and even ants and a few types of spiders.
It is easy to see how the wheel bug got its name – with a wheel shaped, prehistoric looking sail that they sport on their back. The largest varieties reach 1.5 inches in length but, can easily blend in with their environment to hide from predators and wait in ambush for their prey. Since they are not the speediest predator, their camouflage comes in very handy.
Besides having the ability to painfully bite anybody who threatens them, they can offer up a very unpleasant odor from their scent glands – that will make any predators take a step back – giving the wheel bugs time to escape. Their smell isn’t as strong as that of stink bugs but, any human with a good, working nose is easily made aware of their “special fragrance.”
Even though wheel bugs are most at home in North America – folks in Mexico and Central America have also seen their fair share of them, too.
Just as the name suggests, these bugs like to kiss. Well, not exactly. They just prefer attacking close to the mouth or eyes of their victims.
You see – even though they are considered assassin bugs, they have no interest in eating insect innards. These critters prefer mammal blood – human or animal – it doesn’t make any difference. That is why they are also called vampire bugs – somewhat like mosquitoes.
They zero in on the carbon dioxide that mammals expel as they breathe. And, these bugs attack by injecting their beak around the mouth or the eyes – where the skin is the thinnest. If they bite you – you won’t feel a thing. The enzymes they inject into you contain an anesthetic. Since they will most likely bite while you’re asleep, you won’t know what hit you until the next morning.
Kissing bugs originally came from south of the border. They thrive in Mexico – as well as Central and South America.
But, now they are found in the U.S.A. – mostly in states along the southern border – Texas, Arizona, California, and New Mexico. However, as of this date, there have been sightings in as many as several dozen states in America. Kissing bugs have even found their way onto other continents and are, as we speak, infesting the 3 A’s – Asia, Australia, and Africa.
The bites from these vampire bugs won’t hurt you. But, they have a habit of pooping on their victims as they gorge themselves with blood. And, their poop contains a nasty parasite that, if it enters the victim’s bloodstream, may cause Chagas disease.
Early symptoms of Chagas disease are fairly mild and include: low energy, fever, flu symptoms, rashes, lack of an appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea. Sores may also be present at whatever point that the parasite entered the body. If the parasite enters around the eyes, the eyelids may be swollen.
It is not uncommon to not have any symptoms at first. The Chaga parasite can lie dormant in a human or animal body for years – or decades – before rearing its ugly head and causing mayhem.
Those individuals with weak immune systems – like small children and elderly senior citizens – can experience more serious and deadly effects. Blood clots – enlarged heart, colon, or esophagus – a drastic change in heart rhythm – as well as heart failure or cardiac arrest – are not uncommon. In other words, these bugs can kill you!
So, don’t get cozy with kissing bugs – they are nothing but trouble in the long run! There’s really nothing good I can say about them.
Leaving You With A Thought
We can learn a lot by watching insects go about their daily business.
Do you ever notice how successful they are at what they do?
Whether they eat plants or other insects, they have only achieved perfection to accomplish their tasks by practicing their trade – and, mastering the art of being completely still and patient.
Insects exhibit calmness and a unique intuition about everything around them.
I have to say that after watching insects in my garden, I am convinced that they have found true balance in life.
Maybe, that is something we humans should aspire to as well!
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