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The Assassin (Bug)

24 Sep
A colorful assassin bug.

A colorful assassin bug (Reduviidae, Lick Creek Park).

Here’s a pretty little bug I’ve run into a number of places.  This is an assassin bug, a member of the family Reduviidae (which also includes the ambush bugs).  This diverse family of bugs take their name from their predatory habits.  They use their short sharp sucking mouthparts to stab their prey and inject lethal digestive chemicals which liquefies the prey’s internal structures.  In fact, although they are not particularly aggressive, many species can deliver a painful bite to humans if molested. One family, the aptly named kissing bugs, even makes a habit of biting humans in soft fleshy bits such as the lips to sip their blood.

A ventral view of the bee killer assassin bug.

A ventral view of the bee killer assassin bug (Reduviidae, Welder Wildlife Refuge).

This particular species of assassin bug, Apiomerus spissipes, is also called the bee assassin or bee killer, for its tendency to prey on bees and other pollinators as they visit flowers.  It is fairly widespread across the southern United States and among the more colorful and strikingly patterned of the assassin bugs.