Assas­sin Bug

Assassin bug

The assas­sin bug’s alias­es – for instance, conenose bug, wala­pai tiger, bed bug, wheel bug, thread-legged bug, kiss­ing bug – reflect the insect’s mul­ti­ple per­son­al­i­ties. Depend­ing on the species, this blood­thirsty bug may prey not only on oth­er insects but also on rep­tiles, birds or mam­mals, includ­ing humans.

Cur­rent­ly found in the Unit­ed States: Texas, New Mex­i­co and Arizona.

Typ­i­cal­ly, an assas­sin bug, which may look almost armor plat­ed, like a medieval knight, mea­sures a frac­tion of an inch to an inch and a half in length with a col­or rang­ing from brown­ish to black. It has a gen­er­al­ly oval, but some­times a con­sid­er­ably elon­gat­ed, shape. It has anten­na with four seg­ments and a three-seg­ment­ed tube-like beak that it folds into a groove beneath its throat. Equipped with thick­ened forelegs, the bug can snap them togeth­er like spring-loaded clamps to catch insect prey. Threat­ened by oth­er preda­tors such as cer­tain rep­tiles or birds, some assas­sin bug species defend them­selves by using their beaks to squirt their ven­om, from a foot away, at their attacker’s eyes and nose, caus­ing extreme irri­ta­tion. If its stream strikes a human’s eyes, it can cause tem­po­rary blindness.

AssassinBugThe assas­sin bug that preys on insects tends to hang around foliage, and the species that prey on ver­te­brate ani­mals may invade bur­rows, nests, dens and human bed­rooms. The female lays her eggs in the fall, pri­mar­i­ly in secret­ed crevices and cracks. The nymph hatch­es in the spring, look­ing much like a minia­ture adult. After sev­er­al molts, it emerges as a full-grown assas­sin bug, ready to ply its trade.

The assas­sin bug dri­ves its beak like a dag­ger into its victim’s body, inject­ing “a very tox­ic, or poi­so­nous, liq­uid that affects the nerves and liq­ue­fies the mus­cles and tis­sues…” accord­ing to the From Amaz­ing Insects Inter­net site. “…prey many times their size can be quick­ly over­come. Once the insides of the prey are turned into a liq­uid, the assas­sin bug uses its [beak] to suck out the liq­ue­fied tis­sues in much the same way we use a straw to drink a milk­shake!” The assas­sin bug’s tox­in can kill a much larg­er insect in a mat­ter of sec­onds. It dis­cards its victim’s car­cass with dis­dain. The assas­sin bug may also deliv­er a painful bite, in self defense, if care­less­ly han­dled by a human.

AssassinBugThe species that prey on the blood of ver­te­brate ani­mals feed not only on wildlife (espe­cial­ly pack rats) but also on domes­ti­cat­ed ani­mals and pets, and, some­times, they may help them­selves to human blood. The assas­sin bug usu­al­ly comes under the cov­er of dark­ness, stealth­ily, invad­ing a person’s bed, look­ing for exposed flesh, usu­al­ly the face, espe­cial­ly the ten­der flesh around the eye­lids, ears or lips (ready to deliv­er an omi­nous “kiss”). As an assas­sin bug deliv­ers a bite, it injects a anes­thet­ic, ren­der­ing the wound vir­tu­al­ly pain­less, and it injects an anti­co­ag­u­lant, assur­ing free blood flow and then would typ­i­cal­ly feed for 8 to 15 min­utes. It may cause an espe­cial­ly sen­si­tive per­son to suf­fer symp­toms such as vio­lent itch­ing, breath­less­ness, nau­sea, heart pal­pi­ta­tion and even uncon­scious­ness. In Latin Amer­i­ca, the bite some­times leads to Chaga’s dis­ease, a form of sleep­ing sick­ness, although that is rare in the Unit­ed States.