Black Corsair Bug: Essential Facts and Tips

The Black Corsair Bug, a fascinating yet lesser-known insect, has some intriguing characteristics that make it stand out amongst its peers.

Featuring a unique appearance with a dark, somewhat intimidating color, these bugs have become a topic of interest for many who cross their path.

In this article, we will explore all there is to know about the Black Corsair Bug, from its habitat and behavior to its distinctive features.

Black Corsair Bug
Black Corsair

Though they may appear menacing at first, it’s important to remember that Black Corsair Bugs are just another part of the complex world of insects.

Their impressive attributes, such as their ability to survive in various environments and their fascinating life cycle are topics of great interest to bug enthusiasts.

Some key features of the Black Corsair Bug include:

  • Dark coloration, typically black or dark brown
  • Strong, agile legs
  • Piercing and sucking mouthparts
  • Predatory nature, primarily feeding on other insects

By the end of this article, you’ll have a comprehensive understanding of the Black Corsair Bug, and hopefully, a newfound appreciation for this intriguing insect.

And who knows? The next time you come across one, you might even be excited about the encounter!

Black Corsair Bug Overview

Characteristics

The Black Corsair (Melanolestes picipes) is a species of assassin bug that belongs to the family Reduviidae. These insects’ striking features include their:

  • Glossy black color
  • Long, slender body (reaching lengths of approximately 20mm)
  • Powerful beak used for piercing and feeding

Some examples of Black Corsair’s unique behavior:

  • They are nocturnal predators
  • Known for delivering a painful bite if disturbed

Classification and Family

The Black Corsair Bug belongs to the Heteroptera order, with the following classification:

  • Order: Heteroptera
  • Family: Reduviidae
  • Genus: Melanolestes
  • Species: Melanolestes picipes

Habitat and Behavior

Geographical Range

The Black Corsair Bug, also known as the Masked Hunter Bug, can be found in various regions across the United States1.

This insect has a wide geographical range, including:

  • North America
  • Europe
  • Central America
  • South America

Living Environment

These bugs are known to be nocturnal, seeking shelter during the day under stones, logs, and piles of weeds2.

At night, they emerge to hunt their prey, which includes:

  • Cicadas
  • Hoppers
  • Aphids

Black Corsair Bugs are known to enter homes, where they can overwinter1.

They are attracted to lights and may find their way indoors through doors and windows.

Biology and Reproduction

Mating Process

  • Males use spongy pads to mount females
  • Males stridulate to communicate

The Black Corsair Bug’s mating process involves males using spongy pads on their legs to securely mount females.

During courtship, the male Black Corsair Bug also stridulates, producing sounds to communicate with the female.

Egg-Laying and Development

  • Female lays eggs in soil
  • Beak used to dig holes for eggs

Black Corsair Bugs lay their eggs in the soil.

The female uses her beak-like mouthpart to dig small holes where she deposits her eggs. A female Black Corsair Bug lays around 50 eggs in a soil patch.

The eggs then develop and hatch, releasing young bugs into their environment.

The Black Corsair’s Bite

Painful Bite Symptoms

The Black Corsair bug can deliver a painful bite to humans. When bitten by this bug, people typically experience:

  • Sharp, intense pain at the bite site
  • Redness and swelling around the bite area

These symptoms are more severe during the summer months when the bugs are active. To identify a Black Corsair bite, look for:

  • A small puncture wound at the bite site
  • The presence of the bug itself or other signs, such as sighting them in the area where you were bitten

First Aid and Treatment

If you have been bitten by a Black Corsair bug, it’s essential to administer first aid immediately and follow up with proper treatment. Here’s what to do:

  1. Clean the wound with soap and water to reduce the risk of infection.
  2. Apply ice to the bite area to minimize swelling and soothe the pain.

After attending to the wound, you can take over-the-counter pain relievers to alleviate the discomfort – but it’s always best to consult a healthcare professional for appropriate advice and treatment.

Identification and Prevention

Distinguishing Features

The Black Corsair Bug (Melanolestes abdominalis) is a type of true bug belonging to the arthropods and hexapods group. Here are some key features to distinguish them:

  • Dark black or dark brown color
  • Narrow head with prominent eyes
  • Strong and piercing mouthparts
  • Long, flat wings that cover a smaller pair of wings underneath
  • Slightly larger than the average true bug

The Black Corsair is often mistaken for the Kissing Bug, but there are differences:

FeatureBlack CorsairKissing Bug
SizeSlightly largerMedium-sized
ColorDark black/brownReddish-brown
MouthpartsStrong, piercingCone-shaped
WingsLong, flat wingsShort, rounded wings

Keeping Black Corsairs Away

To prevent Black Corsairs from invading your space, consider these steps:

  • Reduce outdoor lighting: These bugs are attracted to light, so minimizing bright lights outdoors can help keep them away.
  • Seal cracks and entry points: Ensure that your home is sealed properly, preventing the bugs from entering.
  • Clean up debris: Remove any debris or clutter around your property, as these insects tend to hide in such places.
  • Use bug traps: Set up insect traps around your home to catch and remove Black Corsairs.

Remember, keeping your surroundings clean and well-maintained is the key to preventing a Black Corsair bug infestation.

Is the Black Corsair Bug Dangerous?

The Black Corsair bug is known for its painful bite. However, they are not known to transmit diseases.

These bugs are flightless, making it easier to avoid them compared to other insects.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the Black Corsair Bug, scientifically known as Melanolestes picipes, is a lesser-known insect with a distinctive dark appearance.

While it may seem intimidating, it plays a crucial role in the ecosystem as a predator of other insects.

Native to various regions across the Americas, this nocturnal bug is known for its painful bite, though it doesn’t transmit diseases.

It’s essential to differentiate it from other similar-looking bugs, like the Kissing Bug. Preventative measures, such as reducing outdoor lighting and sealing entry points, can help avoid encounters with this intriguing insect.

Footnotes

  1. Masked Hunter Bug – Wisconsin Horticulture 2

  2. Assassin Bug | NC State Extension – North Carolina State University

Reader Emails

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

Letter 1 – Black Corsairs

Subject: Kissing bug?
Location: Windsor, Ontario
June 21, 2016 4:28 pm
Hello,
I have found a few of these in my apartment. I am afraid they might be kissing bugs (triatomine bug) but I can’t be sure. I have taken the best pictures I could with the equipment at hand. I would be very thankful if you could help me identify them.
Best,
Signature: Odissei

Black Corsairs
Black Corsairs

Dear Odissei,
Though they resemble Kissing Bugs as well as being classified in the same family Reduviidae, the Assassin Bugs, as Kissing Bugs, these Black Corsairs,
Melanolestes abdominalis, are not considered a dangerous species.  According to BugGuide:  “Can inflict a painful bite but does not feed on blood and does not transmit diseases.” 

BugGuide also notes:  “Females often flightless, tend to live under logs, stones, etc. Adults overwinter under logs, in piles of weeds, etc. Males seen in open in spring. During mating, males use spongy pads on legs to mount females. Female stridulates with beak during mating. Eggs laid singly into soil beneath rocks. Males come to lights in summer.”

Black Corsair
Black Corsair

Letter 2 – Black Corsair: Painful biter

Subject: Red/black flying and it bites or stings
Location: Princeton TX a lot of trees around our house
April 28, 2013 9:37 pm
I got bit or stung by this lil guy on my back…very painful very swollen… red body black head wings and legs there are a lot of them in the house we just found please help identify this guy so I know how to get rid of them. Thanks Nicole
Signature: Nicole Russell

Black Corsair
Black Corsair

Hi Nicole,
Your photos are quite blurry, but we can tell by the shape, coloration and your description that this is a Black Corsair,
Melanolestes picipes, a species of Assassin Bug.  The bite is reported to be quite painful, but not dangerous.  You can get more information on the Black Corsair on BugGuide.

Black Corsair
Black Corsair

Letter 3 – Corsair and resulting Bite

Subject: What’s This Bug?
Location: Louisiana
December 9, 2012 11:53 pm
This bug stung me and I dont know what it is, it’s stinger was on it’s head. It looks like a wasp sting.
Signature: Pat

Corsair

Dear Pat,
This Assassin Bug is a Corsair,
Rasahus hamatus, and though it is not an aggressive species, it will bite if carelessly handled or threatened.  Accidentally brushing up against one might also result in a bite and though there are no lasting effects, the bite is reported to be quite painful.  You may read more about the Corsair on BugGuide.

Bite of a Corsair

Letter 4 – Black Corsair

Subject: What’s that bug
Location: Brampton Ontario Canada
June 11, 2014 9:40 pm
Found this bug in my kitchen don’t know what it is
It looks to have wings and a long stinger on its nose
Signature: Thanks alvaro

Black Corsair
Black Corsair

Dear Alvaro,
This appears to be a Black Corsair,
Melanolestes picipes, a predatory species of Assassin Bug.  Though they are considered beneficial, you should be forewarned that Black Corsairs might bite if carelessly handled.  More information is available on BugGuide.

Letter 5 – Black Corsair

Subject:  Potential invasive?
Geographic location of the bug:  Palouse WA
Date: 06/26/2021
Time: 01:53 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Found three of these in my house, was looking online to see if they were a native species but the only bugs I could find that resembled them were native to the southern states (texas, arizona etc)
How you want your letter signed:  Problems on the Palouse?

Black Corsair

This is a Black Corsair, Melanolestes picipes, and it is a native species, but Washington does not have any sightings according to BugGuide, however, that is only an indication that there have not been any submissions from Washington.  Exercise caution with the Black Corsair.  It can bite and the bite is reported to be painful.  According to BugEric

“Be careful that you don’t ever mindlessly swat one of these insects if it lands on you.  the defensive bites of assassin bugs in general are excruciating, and the odds of being bitten go up when the Black Corsair comes to town. 

Because they are attracted to lights, and run and fly with great speed and afility, the males may find their way indoors.”  According to BugGuide:  “Can inflict a painful bite but does not feed on blood and does not transmit diseases.”

Letter 6 – Corsair from Philippines

What kind of bug is this
May 4, 2010
These bugs have a sting that creates swelling, pain with hot sensation, followed by itchyness. The bug is located on the Luzon Island of the Philippines.
Al Jolie
Tarlac, Philippines. Luzon Island

Corsair Assassin Bugs

Hi Al,
These are Assassin Bugs, and they appear to be Corsairs in the subfamily Peiratinae.  BugGuide has information on the Corsairs, but the website is devoted to North American species.  BugGuide does note:  “Members of this subfamily are known for their notoriously painful bites.

Letter 7 – Western Corsair

unknown orange and black beetle
Location: northern california central valley
August 21, 2011 11:39 pm
Hi, I’ve come across 3 of these bugs in my establishment in the past two days. My son tried picking one up and it either stung or bit him with excruciating pain. These bugs can fly and only seem to appear in the evening.
Signature: bryan

Western Corsair

Hi Bryan,
This is an Assassin Bug known as a Western Corsair or Orange Spotted Assassin Bug,
Rasahus thoracicus.  Most Assassin Bugs are not aggressive, but they are predators and they are capable of biting humans with their mouths adapted for piercing and sucking fluids from prey. 

According to BugGuide: “The western corsair feeds primarily on other insects and does not seek out warm-blooded animals or require a blood meal in order to reproduce. However, if it is picked up, it can inflict a bite that is quite painful.”

Letter 8 – Black Corsair bites television viewer!!!

Subject: Attacked while watching TV
Location: Central Mississippi
April 3, 2014 8:37 pm
Dear Bugmen, This bug came out of nowhere and flew right down the leg of my shorts and gave me a decent sized sting (or bite?).

It appears to have a stinger on its head, and it did put out a pretty foul smell. Its been a few minutes so i guess I’m not going to die but I’m sure curious what he was. Any ideas?
Signature: Bewildered in Mississippi

Black Corsair
Black Corsair

Dear Bewildered in Mississippi,
This Assassin Bug appears to be a Black Corsair,
Melanolestes picipes, and though they are not considered dangerous, the bite is reported to be quite painful.  You can compare your individual to this image posted to BugGuide

It is noted on BugGuide that:  “Males seen in open in spring, presumably searching for females? During mating, spongy pads on legs are used by males to mount females. …  Males come to lights in summer.”  BugGuide also notes:  “Caution: reported to sometimes bite humans (when handled).”

Letter 9 – Black Corsair

Subject: Is this a kissing bug??
Location: Detroit Michigan
July 6, 2016 3:54 pm
Hey, I saw a bug in my room last night on the window. It was at 11:00 pm. I have never seen it before. I believe that I have been bitten before. The bites are on my arm and upper back. Three in total. They look like small, round scabs. I’m not sure if these bites and this bug are related.
Signature: Meghan

Black Corsair
Black Corsair

Dear Meghan,
In our opinion, this is a Black Corsair and not a Kissing Bug.  You can compare your image to this BugGuide image of a Black Corsair.  According to BugGuide:  “Can inflict a painful bite but does not feed on blood and does not transmit diseases.”

Letter 10 – Black Corsair bites Canadian

Subject:  I got bit by this bug an i don’t know what it is
Geographic location of the bug:  Canada
Date: 06/28/2021
Time: 03:18 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hey so this bug bit me an idk if it’s A Black Corsair or a kissing bug
How you want your letter signed:  Not sure

Black Corsair

We just created another new posting with a Black Corsair, and that is what you have encountered.  This is not a Kissing Bug.  You have confused the two which is understandable as both are Assassin Bugs and both will bite, but according to BugGuide, unlike the Kissing Bug which spreads Chagas Disease, the Black Corsair:  “Can inflict a painful bite but does not feed on blood and does not transmit diseases.”

Letter 11 – Flightless Female Black Corsair

odd bug
Location: fredericksburg, va
September 11, 2011 10:57 pm
this bug was in our house today 9.11.11 & bit my husband. apparently it hurt quite a bit. we live in fredericksburg, va & are trying to determine what it is so we can decide if we need to get an exterminator.
Signature: evelyn

Flightless Female Black Corsair

Hi Evelyn,
Regarding the Black Corsair, according to BugGuide:  “Females are (often) flightless, tend to live under logs, stones, etc. Adults overwinter under logs, in piles of weeds, etc. Males seen in open in spring, presumably searching for females?

During mating, spongy pads on legs are used by males to mount females. Female is reported to stridulate with beak during mating, perhaps (?) to deter attack by male. Eggs are laid singly into soil beneath rocks. Males come to lights in summer.” 

The Black Corsair is an Assassin Bug that preys upon insects, but like many Assassin Bugs, it will bite humans if carelessly handled or if it feels threatened.  You do not need to exterminate based on this unusual indoor visitor. 

Letter 12 – Corsair

Is this a kissing bug?
Location: Katy, TX
September 26, 2011 10:36 pm
Hi, I was bitten by this bug while I was trying to pick it up in my bathroom. The bite is very painful and the skin around the wound swells. After searching around the internet, I am worrying if it is the kissing bug which carrys Chagas disease. What is the difference between this two species? Thank you!
Signature: Hao

Corsair

Dear Hao,
This is a Corsair,
Rasahus biguttatus, not a Kissing Bug.  Corsairs are in the same family, Reduviidae, as the Kissing Bugs, but Corsairs do not spread Chagas Disease.  We based our identification on BugGuide.  The bite of the Corsair is reported to be quite painful.

Letter 13 – Corsair bites Child

Subject: bitting beetle
Location: New Orleans La.
January 13, 2013 5:39 pm
this bug bit my grandaughter on her finger as she was reaching in her bag to get her shoes. what kind of bug is this?
Signature: a concerned grandparent

Corsair

Dear Concerned Grandparent,
This Assassin Bug,
Rasahus hamatus, is commonly called a Corsair.  The bite is reported to be painful, but not dangerous.  See BugGuide for additional information.

Letter 14 – Corsair Bites Child

Subject:  Some kind of biting fly or wasp
Geographic location of the bug:  Simi Valley, CA
Date: 09/20/2018
Time: 08:50 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hello,
This bug landed on and bit my 7 year old. Can you please help identify it?
How you want your letter signed:  Terry Jenkin

Corsair

Dear Terry,
Though it is not considered dangerous, the bite of this Assassin Bug,
Rasahus hamatus, commonly called a Corsair, is reported to be quite painful, and the Corsair is also one of the members of the Assassin Bug family that seems to bite without being provoked.

Letter 15 – Corsair Bug?

wasp?
Dear Bugman,
My wife and I found this bug on our cat. It appeared to be either biting or stinging the cat. It was making the cat skittish, which is why we think it was biting or stinging the cat. It seems to be some kind of wasp, though none I have ever seen before.

We live in Hawaii, so it isn’t uncommon for us to see bugs we haven’t seen before. I have included two pictures, which I scaled down to make them more email friendly. They are somewhat limited due to the macro capabilities of our digital camera (and the fact the bag it is in is wet because I almost flushed the bug) but I hope they are sufficient for ID.

The cat seems to be recovering so we aren’t too worried, but I would like to know if it was stinging him. The unique feature on this bug seems to be the two yellowish dots on its back. It has 6 legs, two antennae that extend, then bend back toward the body. The legs farthest back are significantly longer than the other 4.

It has two wings, since I haven’t seen it fly I don’t know if they are one pair (like a bee) or two (like a dragonfly), but the wings extend just beyond the abdomen.

I can’t see a stinger, but I have only a small magnifying glass, if it has a stinger it isn’t readily visible to the naked or slightly assisted eye (unless it left it in the cat). Any ideas on what this bug is would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time and ability.
Sincerely,
Andrew & Mara Neboshynsky

Dear Andrew and Mara,
Definitely not a Wasp, but a True Bug: one of the Assassin Bugs, possibly a Corsair Bug from the genus Rasahus. These will bite if provoked and mishandled.

Update:April 27, 2013
corsair
Ectomocoris biguttulus

Letter 16 – Corsair from Mexico

Subject: Chagas disease.
Location: center Mexico
December 16, 2014 11:36 am
Dear friends:
I write from Mexico (center), and I really need to know what kind of insect is this. And if this could be a vector for the transmission of Chagas disease.
One of my relatives was bitten by this bug …
Signature: Cornejo

Corsair
Corsair

Dear Cornejo,
The Corsair or Orange Spotted Assassin Bug in the genus Rasahus is NOT a vector for Chagas Disease, but according to BugGuide: it is “said to be able to deliver a painful bite.”

Letter 17 – Corsair Nymph

Subject: Friend found a bug
Location: North carolina
May 21, 2016 8:56 pm
Spring time north Carolina friend got bit, she said it burned for a few minutes but now has gone away
Signature: James A Jendrusik

Corsair Nymph
Corsair Nymph

Dear James,
This is an immature Assassin Bug, and we believe it is one of the Corsairs in the subfamily Peiratinae based on this BugGuide image of
Sirthenea carinata, this BugGuide image of a nymph in the genus Rasahus, and most especially, this BugGuide image of Rasahus biguttatus, a species that according to BugGuide is called the Orange Spotted Assassin Bug and which is:  “Ground-loving, frequently found under rocks. Comes to lights.”

Letter 18 – Immature Corsair Bug from Oklahoma

Orange-red bug with odd ridged tail
October 10, 2009
Dear Bugman,
I’m trying to help my son with a Science project, but can’t figure out what this bug is! We found this little critter scampering across the kitchen floor in our typical suburban neighborhood, Can you help?
Bug-ignorant Dad
Norman, Oklahoma, USA

Unknown Assassin Bug
Corsair Bug Nymph

Dear Bug-ignorant Dad,
This is some species of Assassin Bug, and it appears to be an immature specimen since the wings are not fully developed.  We matched it to an unidentified Corsair Bug nymph posted to BugGuide, also from Oklahoma.  The person who posted those images states:  “Found under a rock. 

Hopefully these shots are better and maybe the ID can be gotten further.  I know from past encounters with these that they are fairly quick and agile. So, when I turned the rock over it started making it’s escape.

I didn’t have a container so I caught it in my hand and carried back to the house (a little over a quarter mile). I’m glad it didn’t decide to stab me with that proboscis!” Members of this genus are reported to have a very painful bite.

Daniel,
Thanks so much for your help.  It’s great to see that people with expertise in this field are willing to help those of use who are basically know – nothings.
Have a great day,
Kent

Letter 19 – Immature or brachypterous female Western Corsair Bug

Subject:  Bug found in pumpkin patch
Geographic location of the bug:  Petaluma, CA
Date: 10/21/2021
Time: 07:53 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  We were in a local pumpkin patch when my daughter turned a pumpkin over and found this bug scurrying away. We found several others during our time there.

They were about 1/2 – 3/4 inch long. A bug app I use identified it as possibly a blood-sucking conenose or a Spartocera fusca. I would love your thoughts!
How you want your letter signed:  Rose

Immature Western Corsair Bug OR

Dear Rose,
While this is an Assassin Bug, it is not a Blood Sucking Conenose Bug, AKA Kissing Bug, which spreads Chagas Disease.  Your individual is an immature Western Corsair Bug,
Rasahus thoracicus, which we verified on BugGuide.  According to BugGuide, some females are wingless: 

“Some brachypterous females in the guide may have been listed as immatures. It is hard to tell the difference. Nymph’s wing pads have a broader base. ‘Microwings’ of adult females are hinged, like full-sized wings.”  While they are not considered dangerous, Corsair Bugs might deliver a painful bite if carelessly handled.

Or possibly brachypterous female Western Corsair Bug

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.

13 thoughts on “Black Corsair Bug: Essential Facts and Tips”

  1. This was a new one for me, rather fun! A quick search of the Bishop Museum’s database indicates this must be the corsair Ectomocoris biguttulus (Peiratinae), endemic to southeastern parts of Asia, but long established on the Hawaiian islands.

    Reply
  2. Wow, little bugger hurts! While visiting my wife’s family I got bitten by one. I thought it was a beatle and grabbed it out of the food on a table and it bite me, felt like fire! Put ice on it and it helped, was still hurting for awhile, but not as much. Little bugger is a nasty pain generators

    Reply
  3. just got bitten by this bug rn. i immediately search it casue its the first time ive seen that bug, and im kinda nervous,great theres a site like this, i just put some onions and it kinda ease the pain.. hope that this bug is not as dangerous as i was thought it would be. its stings really hurt.

    Reply
  4. We are new to the Sacramento area, but this is one bug we’ve encountered twice in three months. Both my wife and I were bitten on the back by one. I managed to catch the culprit after my wife was bitten. Although slightly squashed, I was able to identify it. I suspect it was on a patio chair when we both leaned against it. The chair is under a patio light. So, I guess I’ll move the chair. In the meantime, what’s the likelihood it carries Chagas disease?

    Reply

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