Assassin Bugs are terrestrial ambush predators. They are stealthy, hearty, True Bugs in the Order Hemiptera. There are many different species of assassin bug living all over the world. Most have a curved proboscis that some scientists like to call the ‘rostrum.’ But, I’m going to call it a proboscis, because I like that word better. They look a lot like Gonzo from Sesame Street…but a more maniacal version of Gonzo.
Anyway, assassin bugs use their long, curved, sharp proboscis to stab, inject, liquefy the insides of, and consume their prey. Their saliva contains enzymes that predigest the tissue of the prey for them, so that they always get to enjoy a nice gut-slushy for every meal. Some assassin bugs have long hairs on their legs which help them to hold their prey while they slurp away!
But, what really caught my attention with these guys has to do with a specific species, the Acanthaspis petax assassin bug. These guys specifically eat ants, and are very resourceful with every meal, attempting to use all parts of their pray to their advantage. After a nice dinner, each ant victim is piled high onto the back of its predator, stuck there with a sticky secretion. That’s right, the assassin bug wears a coat of dead ant carcasses. Not for fashion, but for protection, a very, very smart camouflage. You see, the number one predator of the Acanthaspis petax assassin bug is the jumping spider. The jumping spider knows very well not to attack a swarm of ants, because a swarm of ants will most definitely win; but, a jumping spider will most definitely attack a naked assassin bug! An assassin bug is like pizza. Everybody likes pizza. But a pizza piled with ants is not good pizza to the jumping spider. AND even if the jumping spider DID feel like having a slice of ant piled pizza, thanks to that impermanent sticky secretion, the assassin bug has a sweet get away opportunity while the jumping spider is still wondering what just happened!
Some species of assassin bug are no good for humans either. They will stab you and try to liquefy your guts too. Some may even transmit potentially fatal diseases to you. But, they’re not all bad on the home front. Some species are actually kept as pets in some countries because those species like to munch on household pests, like cockroaches and bedbugs. And even better, some species’ venom is being studied due to potentially positive effects against human pathogenic Gram-negative bacteria.
These guys are all over the place, literally and figuratively.