a troll in my house
Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
September 10, 2010 7:07 am
One day I saw a bug on my basement stairs – something I had never seen before. He slowly crawled behind the carpeting on the stairs, and I let him be … but I was SO curious to know what he was. Then the other evening I found one outside when I was moving some interlock brick that had been piled up in my garage for awhile. So, I snapped a few (not great) photos in the dark before letting him go.
I found your site today and I LOVE it. Can you help me identify my new friend? He moves with a slow, deliberate crawl. His body is quite flattened (dorso-ventrally)and his front legs are often positioned like a crab spider’s (though he only has 6 legs). His back legs almost seem like legs for jumping, but he doesn’t jump – just the slow crawl. And the oddest thing is the way his body looks a little woolly, like he’s been rolled in drywall dust. But both indoor and outdoor specimens were like that, so it’s the bug’s own ”coat”. Is it possible that he’s an instar of some other kind of bug? thanks for any info you can provide.
Before we answer your question, we have to compliment you on getting our attention with your subject line, and then your letter proved to be equally charming. Your troll is a Masked Hunter, and it really has been rolling around in drywall dust in a manner of sorts. It is also an earlier instar and doesn’t much resemble the adult Masked Hunter. The Masked Hunter, Reduvius personatus, is a species of Assassin Bug and the glossy black winged adult doesn’t look much like this immature nymph with its sticky body surface that accumulates dust, lint and sand or whatever other debris it encounters in its environment. This “coat” of debris acts to camouflage the Masked Hunter, making it an effective predator. It is also known as a Bed Bug Hunter, a name that should bring comfort to those who are unfortunate enough to have encountered those blood suckers that are increasing in numbers to epidemic proportions in many urban areas. We also offer some words of caution regarding the Masked Hunter, because this beneficial nocturnal predator is also capable of delivering a painful bite if it is carelessly handled. You can read BugGuide for additional information on the Masked Hunter. Thank you again for starting our morning off with such a fun posting. Your attitude toward the unknown creatures that share your home is refreshing.
This is so exciting!!! Thank you very much for such a fast (and super-informative) response. Biology is so cool … you can live for many years, and still find something super-new and weird that you’ve never seen before.
And yes, I’m willing to share my house with lots of things, though I do draw the line. But for the most part all the house centipedes take care of things for me (I was so happy to see that you advocate letting them roam – once I found out that they’re top predators, I decided to learn to cope with the heebie-jeebies they give me, and everyone thinks I’m nuts).
With all the junk that’s on the web, it is such a treat to find a gem like your web site. I’ll be visiting a lot.
See you again, then! And thanks!