Assassin Bugs – All You Need To Know

In this article, we discuss all about the infamous assassin bug, and whether it is as bad as it is made out to be by its name!

When you hear the name “assassin bug,” you might assume them to be a scary insect that can deliver a painful bite or a venomous sting. 

Although the assassin bug bites are indeed painful, these bugs aren’t as bad as you might think. 

There are around 160 different species of Assassin bugs in North America, and you should be happy to find a couple of these natural predators in your garden. 

Read on to find out more about these interesting bugs and their habits.

Assassin Bugs
Leafhopper Assassin Bug nymph

What Are Assassin Bugs?

Reduviidae family, under the order Hemiptera, is commonly known as Assassin bugs. 

They are true bugs, and the family comprises a large number of assassin bug species that may vary in appearance but have similar habits. 

Assassin bugs earn their name from their hunting technique – they stab their prey with their sharp beaks. 

While they are primarily insectivores, a group of assassin bugs is also known to suck the blood of animals and even humans. 

It’s these assassin bugs that you need to be wary of – the rest are mostly harmless to humans.

What Do Assassin Bugs Look Like?

Generally speaking, assassin bugs have flat and elongated bodies, narrow heads, and joint antennae. Most of them are winged insects, with the wings forming an X pattern on their backs. 

The claw-like beak has three grooves that allow them to fold it underneath their bodies. 

However, various species of assassin bugs can look very different from each other due to varying colors, patterns, and structures.

Ground Assassin Bug

Types of Assassin Bugs

1. North American Wheel Bug

Wheel bugs are a group of assassin bugs named after the spinny wheel-like ridge on their back. 

However, the only wheel bug you can find in the US is the North American wheel bug, which also happens to be one of the largest bugs in the country. 

Growing up to 1.6 inches, these bugs have a robust structure and are usually a shade of grayish or brownish-black. 

Be careful when handling a North American wheel bug – it has a nasty bite that can hurt more than a bee sting!

2. Milkweed Assassin Bug

This is another common assassin bug species in the US, especially in the Southern states. 

Unlike what one might assume, the milkweed assassin bug isn’t called so because it sticks around milkweed plants. 

Rather, they closely resemble milkweed bugs and have a similar color – hence the name. You can find them in agricultural fields, around a variety of crops where they prey on herbivorous pests. 

Milkweed assassin bugs are particularly known to hunt fall armyworm grey worms in the Southern part of the United States, especially in the vast fields of corn. 

They trap their prey by laying a sticky substance on the leaves.

Milkweed Assassin Bug

3. Orange Assassin Bug

The orange assassin bug is hard to miss, thanks to its beautiful and distinct appearance. As its name indicates, this assassin bug is characterized by a mostly orange body. 

Contrasting the bright orange background, there’s a pattern of black lines across its body and its legs have orange stripes. 

In some parts of North America, these bugs may appear to be amber rather than orange. They prey on a diverse range of insects and usually conceal themselves on the bark of trees.

4. Leafhopper assassin bug

The leafhopper assassin bug is an excellent hunter, with its appearance allowing it to camouflage amidst the vegetation. 

Thanks to the green and brown body, these bugs can easily blend in with the leaves. It can also produce a sticky substance to trap its prey, just like the milkweed assassin bug. 

These assassin bugs inject their prey with a pre-digestion solution to liquefy the insides and consume the liquified body. 

Leafhopper assassin bugs are especially helpful at protecting soybean, cotton, and fruit plants from the pests that usually attack them.

5. Pale Green Assassin Bug

This is another green and brown assassin bug species that uses its color to camouflage itself on plant leaves. 

However, the pale green assassin bug isn’t as crafty as the leafhopper assassin bug when it comes to hunting. It usually relies on its camouflaging ability to lay in wait and ambush its prey. 

However, if their usual hunting technique doesn’t work, they go out in search of prey and hunt more actively. Laying up to 50 eggs in a single batch, these assassin bugs can multiply rather fast.

Pale Green Assassin Bug

6. Spined assassin bug

The spined assassin bug is a formidable predator, with a long fang to stab and pierce its prey to death. It earns its name from the pointy spines on its body, which it uses to fend off its enemies.  

Spined assassin bugs eat various agricultural pests in large numbers, including aphids. They’re common in gardens, especially around flower beds. 

You may sometimes find these assassin bugs hiding on the underside of leaves. While they don’t usually pose a threat to humans and would run away if you get close, they can deliver a painful wound with their sharp fangs. 

Even though it’s good to have spined assassin bugs in your garden, be careful not to grab or touch them.

7. Scarlet-Bordered Assassin Bug

Found in grasslands and gardens, this is a red assassin bug with a black body with deep red stripes. Their head is mostly red, too, with a thin shape. 

The X pattern on their wings is highlighted with red as well, giving the bug a special look. The Scarlet-Bordered Assassin Bug usually prefers to live among the tall grass, high shrubs, and tree leaves. 

Kissing Bug vs Assassin Bug: Are They the Same?

You may have come across assassin bugs being mentioned as kissing bugs and wondered if they’re the same species. 

Well, while kissing bugs are a type of assassin bugs too, not all species of assassin bugs are kissing bugs. Only a certain group of bloodsucking assassin bugs that sometimes attack humans are known as kissing bugs. 

They’ve earned this name due to their tendency to bite humans near the lips. The kissing bug bite is very painful and can potentially infect humans with the Chagas disease.

Assassin Bug Bite

Where Do They Live?

While assassin bugs are now very common in North America, this wasn’t always the case. Global warming has forced these bugs to spread far and wide from their native lands. 

You can now find these bugs in Mexico, Central and South America, and the Southern two-thirds of the US. With so many species of assassin bugs out there, it’s not very surprising that a wide variety of habitats can house these bugs. 

Common assassin bug habitats include gardens, grasslands, woodlands, crops, areas with sandy or rocky soil, meadows, rainforests, and animal shelters.

What Do They Eat?

Assassin bugs thrive on other insects, especially various herbivorous pests that one would find around vegetation. They often kill prey larger than themselves, thanks to their hunting abilities. 

Assassin bugs usually kill their prey by stabbing them with their sharp mouthparts. These straw-like mouthparts are more suited for sucking rather than biting. 

Apart from sucking the juices of prey insects, assassin bugs also liquefy the prey’s body for consumption by injecting certain pre-digestion enzymes.

What Is the Lifecycle of Assassin Bugs?

The life cycle of an assassin bug isn’t very different from that of other insects. Like the rest, assassin bugs go through the same stages too – eggs, larvae, pupae, and adults.

  1. Eggs: Assassin bugs reproduce rapidly, laying up to 300 eggs. They lay the eggs in batches of 30 to 60, known as rafts or bundles. It takes these eggs about 2 weeks to hatch.
  2. Larvae: The eggs hatch into wingless larvae called nymphs. These nymphs grow through five developmental stages in a process known as molting. From the time assassin bug nymphs hatch from eggs, they need a couple of months to reach adulthood. 
  3. Pupae: As you likely know, the pupal stage is when insect larvae undergo metamorphosis and transform into adults. Unlike beetles and butterflies, bugs go through an incomplete metamorphosis during this stage. 
  4. Adults: The adults don’t look very different from the full-grown larvae, apart from the former being winged insects. Adult assassin bugs live for six to ten months but usually spend most of this time overwintering through the cold months.
Millipede Assassin Bugs prey on Millipede

Where Do They Lay Eggs?

Assassin bugs lay their eggs on leaves and stems. Their eggs are barrel-shaped and are usually laid upright in large clusters. 

Be careful when treating your plants with insecticidal sprays, as you might unintentionally destroy the eggs of these beneficial bugs

Do They Bite or Sting?

While assassin bugs do not sting, they can deliver a powerful bite that hurts more than a bee sting. Most of them bite humans only in self-defense and don’t pose a threat unless handled. 

However, the ones grouped as kissing bugs deliberately bite humans to suck blood. The level of pain varies with the species, and those bitten can sometimes experience various symptoms for an extended period.

Are They Poisonous or Venomous?

Assassin bugs produce two venoms – one to defend themselves against predators and the other to paralyze and liquefy their prey for consumption. Both these venoms contain more than 100 different toxins. 

Although the disulfide-rich peptide neurotoxin-rich liquifying venom is lethal against other insects, they aren’t dangerous to humans.

Are They Harmful to Humans as Pests?

To farmers and gardeners, assassin bugs aren’t pests – they’re rather helpful. As mentioned earlier, they keep pest populations under control by hunting and feeding on a wide range of pests. 

This makes them good to have in gardens and agricultural fields.

However, the kissing bugs pose a major problem to humans by spreading the Chagas disease. This infectious disease is carried by a parasite present in the fecal matter of kissing bugs. 

Symptoms include headaches, fatigue, fever, swollen lymph nodes, and even heart failure. Apart from the fact that Chagas disease can cause sudden death, it can’t be cured in the advanced stages either.

Bark Assassin Bug

Can They Come Inside Homes?

Assassin bugs primarily prefer to live around plants, where they can find plenty of prey. However, they’re also in search of dark and secluded places during the day and often end up indoors. 

At night, these bugs are attracted to bright lights. Kissing bugs also find a food source in homes as they can feed on human blood.

What Are assassin bugs Attracted To?

Shrubs, vines, flowerbeds, and mulches attract assassin bugs. Planting daisies, goldenrods, dills, fennels, marigolds, and tansies in your garden can help you attract them. 

Assassin bugs are also attracted to agricultural fields with plenty of insects to feed on. At night, they’re drawn to bright lights.

How To Get Rid of assassin Bugs?

As assassin bugs are beneficial insects, there’s no need to remove them unless they’re one of the species that tend to bite humans. 

However, if you’re dealing with kissing bugs or there are too many assassin bugs than what you’re comfortable with, these solutions should help you get rid of them:

  • Swapping your regular lights for yellow-bug-safe lights should significantly reduce assassin bug incursions in your home.
  • Burn rodent nests around your home and clean the perimeter. This will help keep blood-sucking assassin bugs away.
  • Bifen granules and PT-Phantom are especially good at treating assassin bug infestations in the garden.
  • If you have to use chemical pesticides, synthetic pyrethroid sprays and bifenthrin-based broad-spectrum insecticides are good choices.

Interesting facts about assassin bugs

  • Not all species of assassin bugs have wings – the Pale Green Assassin Bug is wingless.
  • These predators use various tactics when hunting. Apart from their natural abilities, like laying out sticky traps, they also use dead insects as bait to lure live prey.
  • The front legs of an assassin bug are designed for hunting too. They have thousands of hairs with sticky pads, which they use to grab their prey.
Assassin Bug

Wrapping up

So, if you have been wondering, “Are assassin bugs beneficial or harmful?” you now have the answer. They’re very beneficial in the garden but can also pose a problem depending on the species.

There is at least one species of the Assassin bug that really lives up to the name – the Kissing bug can give you a lethal disease that has no known cure. 

Regardless of whether you live in North America, South America, or Central America, there’s a good chance that you might encounter these bugs at some point. 

Thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoyed it.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Milkweed Assassin Bugs Mating

 

Bug love: Zelus longpipes Assassin Bugs Hi Bugman.. Found these two in my maple tree, feeling frisky. Thought you might like the picture for the bug love pages. We have lots of them around here (Katy, Texas) and identified them thanks to your great site! Ya’ll are great! Thanks so much! Luzie Benavides Just west of Houston, Texas Hi Luzie, Thank you for sending in your excellent photo of the Milkweed Assassin Bugs, Zelus longipes, mating.

Letter 2 – Newly Hatched Wheel Bugs

 

I have an odd insect- This is probably something common, I’ve just never seen before. I think it’s a wingless wasp that has built a small- 4 cm diameter may .5 cm, at the most, height hive on my mimosa tree. (Since it’s built a hive, I am thinking it’s a wasp of some sort and not an ant. Are there ants that build hives? ) It has a bright red abdomen and yellow tipped antennae. It is social, there are about 40 of them working together on this. It appears the queen is on top of the hive but she doesn’t have the coloring that the others do. It is the size of an ant, and it’s legs are long-antennae are elbowed – it looks like a spider at first glance. Ever heard of anything of the sort? Thanks, Lisa McCaskill Hi Lisa, This sounds very interesting. I can’t think of what it could be. I wish you could send a photo. Thanks, Daniel (06/04/2005) Thanks for answering. I found out that it’s hatching assassin bugs– here is a photo, the “hive” is actually eggs, and they only appear social because they’re hatching, Lisa

Letter 3 – Zelus species Assassin Bug

 

Stinger
Awesome site glad I found it. Here is a but that I found on the couch when he woke me up from a mid day nap. He stung me on the knee and it is itching 2 days later an a little red . I am tough and can take it, but the problem is one of my Girls got stung this AM by the same type of bug. Can you help identify it and let me know if we should be concerned. Thanks again,
Mike S.
Hawley TX



Hi Mike,
We wanted more than just a general Assassin Bug identification so we wrote to Eric Eaton who responded: “It is an assassin bug in the genus Zelus. They are great to have in the garden as they prey on lots of pest insects. Just don’t pick them up!” The bite is painful and causes irritation, as you know, but there is no lasting harm.

Letter 4 – Milkweed Assassin Bug

 

I was hoping that you could help me Identify a new bug that we’ve recently found in our yard. I’ve never seen this bug before and this summer it is all over our yard. I live in South Texas . It’s not very long, about 1⁄2 an inch or so, and looks like it has under developed wings on it’s back. Thanks for your help. Tonia Hi Tonia, You have sent in a beautiful photo of an Assassin Bug nymph, Family Reduviidae. I cannot give you an exact species. These bugs are friends of the gardener. They have ravenous appetites and will help control harmful insect pests in your yard naturally. There is a minor downside. Treat them with respect. They can inflict a painful bite with that sucking mouth of theirs. There is an irritant that is released when the bug bites, probably associated with digestion, but the effect is mild. Once again, the bite is painful.

Letter 5 – Orange Assassin Bug

 

What’s this striking orange bug?
My guess is that it’s some variety of stinkbug, although I confess I didn’t poke it to see if it produced a stench. This was taken at the Heard Science Museum and Nature Preserve in McKinney, Texas in March 2006. The critter is perched on the bark of the largest sycamore tree in the preserve.
Joy



Hi Joy,
This is most definitely an Assassin Bug in the family Reduviidae, but we are not sure of the species. We would like to get Eric Eaton to substantiate this. Eric just wrote in with this information: ” The orange assassin bug is a Pselliopus sp., probably P. barberi.”

Letter 6 – Zelus Assassin Bug

 

Help, Help, Help
Bugman,
We have found over a hundred of these in our house over the past two months. We have explored your website extensively and think it may be a Zelus assassin bug, or a Western Conifer Seed Bug. Here is the catch, during this time our son has gotten two swollen eyelids, one on each eye. Both eyelids had similar characteristics, they slowly swelled up until closed after about 3 days, then within about 2 days they were fine. Neither itched, and his eye was not red, nor did he demonstrate any painful symptoms. Needless to say our immediate response was that he got bitten by one of these bugs. However, if it is a Seed Bug, then they are not supposed to bite. We are hoping it is a seed bug, and that he is just having an allergic reaction to something, but being he might have been bitten by the zelus bug we are a little freaked out and borderline going nuts. So what is the verdict doctor?
Kevin Hibbs



Hi Kevin,
This is a Zelus Assassin, but sadly, we can’t explain why your son is getting bitten. Assassin Bugs will bite if handled, but they are not really aggressive.

Letter 7 – Mombo: Tanzanian Assassin Bug

 

beetles
hi, i have recently returned from Tanzania,East Africa and really enjoyed looking up my ‘finds’ on your site. Swahilli for bugs is dudu. and thought you may like a few of mine. if you can identify them, then so much the better. you site identified my ghost mantis that arrived one eve. thanx again.
lucy U.K.



Hi Lucy,
Tropical insects are often quite difficult for us to get exactly identified because of the dearth of online information. This is an Assassin Bug, but genus and species are not available at this time. Moments after writing that, we decided to give it a shot, and low and behold, we found a site depicting the Mombo, Platymeris species. This Assassin is over an inch and a half long. Thank you so much for sending your photo of a Mombo our way.

Letter 8 – Unknown Zelus Assassin Bug species

 

lohita grandis or something else?
Dear What’s That Bug,
We’ve been avid fans of your site since we discovered it back in September when trying to identify a spider we had and also later, an army cutworm moth. My daughter, Odessa, is an avid bug fan and thinks your site and bugs in general are the coolest thing in the world. Currently she has 4 spiders in habitats: 1 false widow, 1 common brown house spider, 1 wolf spider and 1 cross spider. The wolf spider and the house spider made egg sacs about a month after we had them so we’re anxiously awaiting the big birthdays and release of the newborns into the wild. Now, on to our question… my daughter rescued this bug in the attached photo from a spider web on our balcony BEFORE the owner of the web got to it. From what we can find, it’s a asian region species of Lohita Grandis? This appears to be a male. We can’t find any info on it other than it’s territorial range and that it wreaks havoc on Pakistani cotton fields. Is it definitely Lohita Grandis? What does it eat? How do we care for it? Should we keep it or release it? It is .75" long, bright red body (photo is washed out) and found in West Los Angeles, CA, January 2008 Thanks What’s That Bug? Happy New Year!
Matthew (dad) & Odessa Stork (future entymologist)



Hi Odessa and Matthew,
We believe this is an Assassin Bug in the family Reduviidae, but we cannot locate an exact match on BugGuide. The closest we can find is the genus Oncerotrachelus. We will check with Eric Eaton to get his opinion.


Update: (01/15/2008)
Daniel:
This is a species of Zelus that I haven’t conclusively identified yet. It will probably turn out to be Z. tetracanthus, which is highly variable in color and body form, and widespread in its distribution. In this image, the specimen has its wings spread slightly.
Eric

Daniel,
Thank you for your response. My daughter Odessa was thrilled to hear from you and she’s curious to see what type of assassin bug it turns out to be. She used her small, 2 mega pixel camera to photograph it. I will try to get a better, macro photo with my 8 mega pixel Nikon tomorrow if it will assist in helping identify it. Thanks again for the quick response. This bug seems like it’s far from home. We look for bugs almost every day and in the past 9 months never saw a single bug like this. Best Regards,
Matthew Stork

Letter 9 – Milkweed Assassin Bugs

 

orange bug ??
Can you tell me what the name of this bug is? They were on my Mexican firebush. They almost look like a milkwed bug but have a different head.Thanx,
Scott



Hi Scott,
You are correct that the Milkweed Assassin Bug in your photo resembles the Milkweed Bug, but while the Milkweed Bug is a vegetarian, the Milkweed Assassin Bug is a carnivore.

Letter 10 – Orange Spotted Assassin Bug

 


Hi,
My son alleges the bug in this picture bit his thumb. When capturing it, I accidentally killed it. Can you tell me what kind of bug it is? Thanks.
Nathan



Hi Nathan,
This is a Orange Spotted Assassin Bug, Rasahus thoracicus, also known as a Western Corsair. Their bite is reportedly quite painful.

Letter 11 – Leaf Hopper Assassin Bug

 

My Assassin Bug is growing up
Thanks for identifying my assassin bug for me a week ago. Because of the identification, I decided to keep it and see what would happen. I’ve been feeding it mealworms I bought at a local pet store, and this morning I was surprised to see it had shed its skin and had a completely new “color scheme”, plus it got bigger. My camera decided to work (although my bug doesn’t like the camera’s flash too much), so I took some more pics. In the pictures I sent you can see 4 pictures of its new form, and in the lower left hand side is a mealworm, which is still alive. The last picture is of its discarded shedded skin on the right, and on the left is a mealworm which had the life sucked out of it! It was really quite amazing to see; the assassin bug climbed on top of it, inserted its probiscis, and after the worm struggled it was all over. In about 3 hours it was completely drained. I’ll keep you posted! Thanks again!
Rudy



Hi Rudy,
Now that your Assassin Bug has matured, it looks to us like a Leaf Hopper Assassin, Zelus renardii, a species found in California.

Letter 12 – Thread-Legged Assassin Bugs Mating

 

pic of some Emesinae assassin bugs mating Not sure of what the exact species is, but its in Emesinae I’m sure. Found it while out camping Red River Gorge in Kentucky. I run an indoor butterfly garden in NY state, so if you ever would like help IDing some of the random tropical butterflies, let me know, I’d be glad to help you. Thanks, Tad Yankoski Entomologist Strong National Museum of Play www.museumofplay.org tyankoski@museumofplay.org Hi Tad, If you are unsure what species these mating Thread-Legged Assassin Bugs are, we aren’t even going to venture a guess. The photo sure is a jumble of thread legs. Perhaps we will take you up on your tropical butterfly identification offer next time we are in a bind.

Letter 13 – Spiny Assassin Bug

 

Assassin bug
Hello,
Attached are a couple images of an assassin bug I found crawling around a patch of Mexican Salvia in Mountain View, California. In looking at the the collection on WTB, I was unable to find an exact match. Do you have an idea of the particular kind of assassin bug this one might be? Thanks,
Dan



Hi Dan,
Your Spiny Assassin Bug is in the genus Sinea. The closest match we could find on BugGuide, which is also from California, is not identified to the species level.

Letter 14 – Spiny Assassin Bug

 

Can’t find this insect anywhere Sun, Oct 12, 2008 at 11:28 AM Found this bug in central New York (New Berlin) in July 2008. Margie Obrien central N.Y.
Spiny Assassin Bug
Spiny Assassin Bug
Hi Margie, This is an Assassin Bug in the genus Sinea.  We can’t tell you the exact species.  Assassins in this genus are known as the Spined Assassin Bugs or Spiny Assassin Bugs and there is one image on BugGuide that looks quite close to your specimen.

Letter 15 – Zelus Assassin Bug

 

Painful small flying insect sting Fri, Dec 26, 2008 at 10:54 AM My wife was taking a bag outside when she felt a sting on her finger. She had to physically remove the bug off her finger. She indicated that the sting was quite painful like a wasp. It never tried to fly off and we were able to easily capture it. We didn’t see a stinger in her finger but it did leave a small hole and with a white circle around the sting area. We tried looking through your site and thought it seemed similar to a scorpion fly but it seems those don’t sting. Hopefully you can identify it. Thanks ! BLW Central Texas
Zelus Assassin Bug
Zelus Assassin Bug
Hi BLW, This is an Assassin Bug in the genus Zelus.  We have difficulty providing identifications to the species level in this genus except for a few distinctive species.  We frequently get reports of Zelus Assassin Bugs biting people.  They do not bite people for food and there must be some other reason for the bit occurring, like a reaction to some physical contact.  Our reports are that the bite is quite painful, but that there is no lasting negative effect.  You can try searching BugGuide for additional information.

Letter 16 – Red Spot Assassin Bug from Tanzania

 

Mystery Tanzanian bug Sun, Jan 4, 2009 at 10:07 AM Mystery Tanzanian bug Dear WTB, I’m hoping someone can help me identify this splendid black and red specimen that was given to me as a Christmas present (yes really!) last week by the manager of the Sable Mountain safari lodge in the Selous game reserve, eastern Tanzania. He didn’t know what it is either, but he thought I might like it (!). It was about 2 inches long in the body and has a strange curved mouthpart. Sorry the photo is blurry as it was camera shy and kept moving! Sally Selous game reserve, Tanzania
Red Spot Assassin Bug
Red Spot Assassin Bug
Hi Sally, Your strikingly beautiful insect is a Red Spot Assassin Bug, Platymeris laevicollis, which we located on the Saint Louis Zoo Website, or a closely related species.  If mishandled, Assassin Bugs will deliver a painful bite.

Letter 17 – Oleander Caterpillar and Milkweed Assassin Bug

 

What type if catepillars October 5, 2009 Found eating Oleander near Hilton Head South Carolina Walt Jankowski Hilton Head SC
Oleander Caterpillar and Milkweed Assassin Bug
Oleander Caterpillar and Milkweed Assassin Bug
Hi Walt, The caterpillar in your photo is known as the Oleander Caterpillar, and it is the larva of the Polka Dot Wasp Moth, Syntomeida epilais.  Below the caterpillar is an immature Milkweed Assassin Bug, a predator that often feeds on caterpillars.  We  are uncertain if it will prey upon the Oleander Caterpillar.  The caterpillar stores toxins from the oleander in its body which renders it unpalatable to many predators.

Letter 18 – Red Spot Assassin Bug from Botswana

 

Beetle November 8, 2009 In the Okavango Delta in Botswana we encountered this beetle in a lodge. Unable to identify – can you help? LosYaxons Xaranna, Okavango Delta, Botswana, Africa
Red Spot Assassin Bug
Red Spot Assassin Bug
Dear LosYaxons, At least twice in the past, we have identified similar looking Assassin Bugs in the genus Platymeris.  This one appears to be the Red Spot Assassin Bug, Platymeris rhadamanthus, based on online images and descriptions.  Angelfire.com indicates:  “Platymeris rhadamanthus (Red Spot Assassin Bug) is the least aggressive and smallest of the three pet species. It is still a very large African species capable of taking down huge arthropod prey many times its mass. The Red Spot Assassin has been kept for almost a decade but still can be hard to find. Defensive reactions result only from physical attack. If grabbed (immobilized) in such a way that the rostrum can contact skin it will give a bite worse than a bee sting, insignificant but very uncomfortable. These are normally kept in colonies with dozens of individuals at varying ages. This species is less prone to cannibalism than the other two. Egg to adult takes six to nine months and adults continue to live another two years. Eggs are dropped in the dirt. A close relative is known as the Mombo or Orange Spotted Assassin Bug, an even larger species.  The American Tarantula Society Discussion Board has some gorgeous images of the Mombo.

Letter 19 – Spiny Assassin Bug

 

spikey six-legged visitor Location:  Philadelphia, PA August 5, 2010 12:29 pm I’m hoping you can help me! I own a flower shop in Philadelphia and came across this guy hiking his way across my counter. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you if the bug somehow stowed away on some of my imported flowers, or came from some of the local blooms in our shop. All of which make pinpointing its origin kind of difficult. I’ve seen a lot of bugs in my day, but I’ve really never seen anything like this. Thanks in advance for your help! P. Chang
Spiny Assassin Bug
Hi P. Chang, You have had a visit from a Spiny Assassin Bug in the genus Sinea.  It is a native genus with 11 species in North America according to BugGuide.  Assassin Bugs are predators and most species should be encouraged by home gardeners and professional gardeners, but they should be handled with caution as they might bite.

Letter 20 – Introduced Red Assassin Bug in Hawaii

 

Black and red Hemipteran Location: Honolulu, HI May 10, 2011 4:26 pm Hello~ Long-time reader, first-time sender. I fancy myself a bit of an entomology geek, and usually I can ID things without much of a problem, but this little one is giving me a spot of trouble. When my father called me out to find this odd bug outside, my first impression was a milkweed bug of some type, but I very quickly changed my mind upon getting out my field guides. I’ve seen Red-shouldered bugs around here before, but this is the first time I’ve seen this one. After some searching, the closest thing I could find is the genus Rhinocoris, but I’m having a hard time narrowing it down further, if that’s even correct to begin with. Being in Hawaii, we play host to a lot of introduced species from all over the world, so I imagine that’s why I’m not finding it in any of my North American field guides (inevitably the only ones available at bookstores). Apologies for the giant photos; I was impressed with the camera, since I’d never tried to use it to take such close-ups before. Though, these don’t really do justice to how fine and rich the red pigment in this little bug really is. Signature: Crystal
Red Assassin Bug
Hi Crystal, Almost exactly one year ago to the day, we first received an image of this species from Hawaii that was eventually identified by entomologist Frank Howarth from the Bishop Museum as an Asian Assassin Bug that feeds upon Millipedes, Haematoloecha rubescens.  The species was believed to have been introduced to Hawaii in the 1970s.  It is commonly called the Red Assassin Bug.  Its aposomatic coloration is a warning sign, and if carelessly handled, it will most likely bite a human.
Red Assassin Bug
Wow! Thank you very much for the response!  I wasn’t sure where exactly to start, so I just went into the general True Bug category. I guess I didn’t go back deep enough to find this.  I’m also glad (and, I guess, also lucky) that I didn’t get bitten, because I was handling it a fair amount (though by ‘handling’ I mean ‘letting it walk all over my hand while looking for a container’). Good to know, now I’ll be extra careful if I see more of these around. Thanks again!

Letter 21 – Spiny Assassin Bug saved from drowning

 

Saved this from drowning in my pool Location: Northern California – Sacramento Valley October 16, 2011 6:16 pm Hello again! I haven’t submitted in a couple years, but today I found something in my pool I’ve never seen before. I live in the Northern California Valley, near Sacramento. Don’t know if you can really see it in the pics, but it has a folding needle type mouth and Y shaped antennae. It was a slow mover and when you would touch the antennae it would raise it’s front legs and try to climb. Sorry for the bad cellphone pics, they’re only 5MP. I let the thing dry off on my hand and then let it go on some flowers out back. I’ll be looking around on here and online for any other help identifying this little thing. Thanks fr your time and help! Signature: Toby
Spiny Assassin Bugs
Okay, so I did some research as to the insects mouth “type” and found that it has a Proboscis. Wikipedia said that Assassin Bugs have this and I followed that link, and lo and behold there was something that looks like my little friend. Days of searching can now end. Any help identifying species would be great if you can from the pics. -Toby Hi Toby, You should exercise caution when handling the Spiny Assassin Bugs in the genus Sinea.  See BugGuide for additional information.  Like other Assassin Bugs, they might bite if carelessly handled.  Because of your good deed, we are tagging your letter with the Bug Humanitarian Award.
Spiny Assassin Bug

Letter 22 – Scarlet Bordered Assassin Bug

 

Subject: Bordered Plant bug? Location: San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua July 8, 2012 3:50 pm Hello Bugman! I really tried to do as much research as possible on this one, but still not sure… Is this some kind of Bordered Plant bug? I haven’t found one with the head red as well as the border so not sure… Thanks! Signature: PunkRockGirl
Scarlet Bordered Assassin Bug
Hi Again PunkRockGirl, We really have to get in the shower and go to a birthday party.  We believed this to be an Assassin Bug and not a Bordered Plant Bug.  We did a web search (google, not our site) of “ black red Assassin Bug Costa Rica” and found a really close match on the Normal Biology blog that was identified as Rhiginia cruciata.  No location was provided.  We often search Costa Rica for many Central American countries because there is better photo-documentation because there are more tourists going to Costa Rica.  Then searching that name, we found a BugGuide photo that looks really close, and BugGuide indicates the common name is the Scarlet Bordered Assassin Bug and provides this range information:  “Southeastern United States: New Jersey, south to Florida, west to Illinois, Texas.”  We know insects tend to ignore international boundaries, and many North American species are also found in Central America.  Gwannon.com indicates the range as:  “Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama”  Handle with care.  Assassin Bugs can deliver a painful bite. Wow! Thanks! Assassin bug… I think I should get myself some gloves if I want to continue saving bugs from my pool without getting hurt 😉 Thanks again & have a great party! ;-p    

Letter 23 – Assassin Bug from Peru

 

Subject: Unidentified Bug Location: Quistococha, Loreto, Peru December 25, 2012 4:52 pm Interesting fly from Quistococha, Loreto, Peru (Upper Amazon). Looks like a sucking predatory mouth, but have been unable to find this one searching various online photo indexes. Any help would be appreciated. Taken early April 2012. Signature: Wayng W G
Assassin Bug
Dear Wayng, This appears to be an Assassin Bug, and we found a very similar looking, though unidentified Assassin Bug from Peru on Shutterstock.  We then found a photo on FlickR identified as a Spiky Assassin bug in the genus Ricolla, and then we found another photo with the same identification, also on FlickR.  We finally found a matching image on the more reputable Fauna of Paraguay website and we are comfortable with that identification.

Letter 24 – Sycamore Assassin Bug

 

Amber Assassin Bug Location:  Cosby, TN December 30, 2012 Hi and Happy New Year! Found this black ‘n’ white adorned critter in my kitchen sink today.  I haven’t been able to find very much information about it, other than it’s been found in Florida, Maryland, Massachusette, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, and I was hoping that you might be able to provide more info. December 30, 2012 Cosby, TN ~ The Great Smoky Mountains Thanx, Renée
Sycamore Assassin Bug
Dear Renée, This is a Sycamore Assassin Bug in the genus Pselliopus.  According to BugGuide, there are three species found in the Eastern U.S. and we do not feel confident identifying your specimen to the species level as they look so similar.  Like other Assassin Bugs, they are predators and according to BugGuide, they search for their prey in:  “Meadows, fields; typically on flowers.”  BugGuide indicates that:  “Adults hibernate under rocks, bark, sometimes in groups” and since many Heteropterans or True Bugs seek shelter from the winter cold in homes, that could explain why you found this individual in your kitchen sink.  We don’t know where you found the name Amber Assassin Bug but we did find a BugGuide posting with that description for Pselliopus cinctus.  In the future, please use our standard form for submissions.

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

26 thoughts on “Assassin Bugs – All You Need To Know”

  1. I have recently found these bugs living on my shrubs in the front of our house. I first noticed them because my plants looked to have a black substance growing on them. A closer inspection showed them feeding and laying eggs. I was wondering if this is harmful in any way.

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  2. Agreed with Eric, this is almost certainly Pselliopus barberi, but a more detailed shot would be needed to be 100%.

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  3. This is definitely a species of Rhiginia, although it is NOT R. cruciata. It is probably R. crucifera, R. crudelis, or R. cinctiventris.

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  4. Awesome!! I just took some amazing photos of one of these, that I found on a bush outside! I really thought it was some type of assassin bug, but wasn’t sure. These are by far, one of my favorites.

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  5. We have wheel bugs that hatched today, January 10, 2015. Happy birthday wheel bugs! We live in Pittsburgh and want to know how to keep them alive until the spring. Please help.

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    • We just returned to California flying through Pittsburgh. It is very cold now and we are guessing you kept your Wheel Bug egg case indoors, hence the early hatching. These are predators and they may eat one another until it is warm enough to release them. You can also try small crickets from the pet store, though we suspect they may be too large for hatchling Wheel Bugs.

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  6. Unfortunately, Bugman, you were right. The nymphs ate each other and I am down to just one Wheel Bug. She ate the last two this week. I am sooo disappointed. We are in the dead of winter and I’ve been trying to find something for them to eat. I tried mealbugs but they were too big. Interestingly enough, they turned into beetles. I’ve been racking my brain trying to find out how to keep them alive and I read today to try wingless fruit flies. I went to Petco and got some. I think that this will work since they are so tiny. I just wish that I found out sooner.

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  7. We designated our lone Wheel Bug a girl and she’s eating!!!!! So, happy. They are very interesting and I’m excited to see her continue to grow until we can release her in the spring.

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  8. Aloha,
    Spotted one in State NAR in Kanaeo, Maui ( SSE) . Just found out what it was from our Dr. Fern Duvall here at State Forestry and Wildlife.

    Reply
  9. Aloha,
    Spotted one in State NAR in Kanaeo, Maui ( SSE) . Just found out what it was from our Dr. Fern Duvall here at State Forestry and Wildlife.

    Reply
  10. Hello, this species is not at all, the one that is commented. The taxonomy of this genus is yet to be studied but surely it has not been commented on

    Reply

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