Do Assassin Bugs Fly? Truth Revealed

Assassin bugs have been creating a furor recently, with reports of these bugs increasing across America. But do assassin bugs fly too? Can they harm humans in any way? Let’s find out.

Assassin bugs have an ominous name, but the name does not come from these bugs hurting humans! These bugs are named assassins because they are particularly good at killing their prey, which is small insects and spiders.

In this article, we look at whether these bugs can fly and explore some of the common bugs of these species to understand their flying abilities.

Do Assassin Bugs Fly

Do Assassin Bugs Have Wings?

Yes, they do. Assassin bugs are from a class of insects known as Reduviidae, part of the order Hemiptera. Hemiptera is also known as “true bugs.”

True bugs have dual wings, one being leathery and the other being membranous. Assassin bugs also have the same characteristic wings as other true bugs.

These wings fold back on the body of the bug, creating a pattern that looks similar to an X on its back when the insect is at rest.

True bugs also have specialized mouthparts for sucking and piercing things – among plant eaters; this is useful for piercing the flesh of the plant, whereas, for carnivores, there is a more deadly use.

Can Assassin Bugs Fly?

Despite that rather long explanation of their beautiful X-shaped wings, these bugs aren’t the best fliers of the insect kingdom.

In fact, various entomologists have described their flying capabilities to be clumsy at best. Perhaps it is for the best that they don’t need to fly much to get their food.

They have a tubular-shaped head in the front with a protruding rostrum that helps them suck out the juices from their prey. These bugs also have small eyes and longish, spindly legs.

Among the few species that can fly well, these assassin bugs have a tendency to chase after light. If you have bright lights indoors and a crack in the wall or ceiling, these bugs will fly right in, seeking warmth.

Do Assassin Bugs Fly

Some Common Species of Assassin Bugs and Whether They Can Fly

There are nearly 7,000 species of assassin bugs. Many of them are hard to distinguish from other insects, and you might end up squishing one for no reason. Here are a few assassin bugs you should know about.

The Wheel Bug

Wheel bugs are about 1.25 inches long and one of the most easily recognized and prevalent type of assassin bugs.

Wheel bugs are slow movers, and they can fly.

These bugs are grey and carry a half-moon crest on their backs. Wheel bugs are on top of the food chain as far as insects are concerned, with very few natural predators.

If they are present in your garden, it signifies that there is a healthy ecosystem with food to go around for everyone.

Ambush Bugs

Ambush bugs are more brightly colored and available in red, orange, and yellowish varieties.

Jagged ambush bugs have wings and can fly, but they don’t do it often.

These bugs are versatile in their hunting capabilities; they can do it just about anywhere.

But their favorite spot is to sit on flowers and wait for their prey, which comes automatically drawn to the nectar of the flower.

Their long legs help them grab onto their prey and hold it down.

Do Assassin Bugs Fly

Pale Green Assassin Bug

As the name suggests, these bugs are pale green in color, which acts somewhat like camouflage for them when they are hunting.

These bugs don’t have wings in their youth but can fly as adults. But their hunting style makes up for that drawback.

The first method they use is to make maximum use of their camouflage and wait for insects in tree leaves hidden in plain sight.

But when other bugs become wise to their hunting game plan, they will crawl down and force their prey into a confrontation.

Pale green assassins can lay as many as 50 eggs in one go. Their eggs are brown in color.

Milkweed Assassins

Milkweed Assassins (Zelus longipes) are quite common in the southern parts of America. They are rather short in their species, ending up at about three-quarters of an inch when fully grown.

These bugs are either orange-black or brown-black in color. They love to hunt among most types of crops, but milkweeds are their favorites.

Milkweed assassins cannot fly. You can find them in corn fields, hunting for fall armyworms on foot. They are excellent for protecting your crops against other bugs.

Their hunting technique sets them apart from their brethren in the assassin bug category. These bugs lay out a sticky substance on leaves, which traps their potential prey, making them an easy target.

Kissing Bugs

Kissing bugs are the most infamous type of assassin bugs. They are named so because they love biting human faces near the mouth and eyes, trying to suck the blood out of them.

Adult kissing bugs can fly, but the younger ones cannot.

Despite the rather ominous reputation they carry, kissing bug bites are mostly harmless. Kissing bugs will bite you in the same place as many as 15 times.

While you will not care much for the redness or swelling, it is hard to tell the difference from other bug bites.

These bugs are largely present in the southern parts of America. They love to hide under porches and in logs of wood. If you have a farm with a chicken coop or dog house, you might find kissing bugs there as well.

There are two complications, though rare, that need special mention in regard to Kissing bugs:

Do Assassin Bugs Fly

Allergies

If you are allergic to bug saliva, a kissing bug’s bit can become a big problem. It may cause itching, swelling, and redness in the area.

But in some serious cases, the patient might end up with an anaphylactic shock, unable to breathe, and facing a severe drop in blood pressure, which can be fatal.

Chagas Disease:

Kissing bugs are sometimes carriers of Chagas disease. In most cases, Chagas disease is not a big deal. But in some cases, the symptoms can lead to heart disease or intestinal problems.

Unfortunately, there is no cure or vaccine for Chagas disease, and you have to carry it with you for the rest of your life.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can you tell an assassin bug?

Assassin bugs have a curved beak at the front of the mouth, which falls in a groove between the front legs.

This beak-like mouthpart helps to pry open the prey insect and suck in the liquids from its body. Most species are either black or brown, but some can be green, yellow, or other colors also.

Where are assassin bugs most commonly found?

Different species of assassin bugs have different habitats, but the most common ones, like the kissing bug and the wheel bug, are found all over America.

You might often see kissing bugs in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. They used to be limited to southern regions, but global warming has caused them to move to North America as well.

Why is it called an assassin bug?

They are called assassins because they can kill their prey almost instantly – just like an assassin can shoot down his victim with a single shot.

Their specialized mouthparts let them pierce the outer skin of their victim and suck out the body fluids, leaving the poor victim dead in the first bite itself.

What happens if an assassin bug bites you?

Most assassin bug bites don’t have any long-term effects. The kissing bug is the exception since it can sometimes be the carrier of Chagas disease.

Apart from this, bites from assassin bugs can often be treated in the same way as other bug bites. Apply ice packs to the area where the bite has occurred,. If it was a painful bite, take an antihistamine for the pain and swelling.

Wrap Up

So now you know that assassin bugs can fly. Well, there’s really no need to worry, even though they do fly. Firstly, they are pretty clumsy at doing it, and secondly, they can’t really harm humans much.

These bugs are sometimes attracted to lights, so if you have some of them in your garden, they might come inside looking for warmth.

Don’t squish them, just suck them up with a vacuum and return them back to your garden, where they belong.

Thank you for reading!

Reader Emails

Over the years, many of our readers have shared their experiences with these bugs; some of them could see them flying, while others felt that they didn’t fly.

The answer is, of course, somewhere in the middle, but it might interest you to go through their observations.

Letter 1 – Assassin Bug from India

 

Blue-Black-Golden Bug
Location: India, Khajuraho, Garden of Taj Chandela
December 19, 2011 8:49 am
Date: 7. Nov. 2011, 2:00 p.m.
Wonderful Blue-Black-Golden Bug sitting in the garden.
Can anybody help to identify this insect?
Thank you very much,
Juergen J. Mueller

This is an Assassin Bug, but your photo is too small to post.

Signature: Juergen J. MuellerAssasin Bug
Location: Location: India, Khajuraho, Garden of Taj Chandela
December 19, 2011 2:04 pm
Thank you,
hier is a larger photo from the Assassin Bug for posting.
Date: 7. Nov. 2011, 2:00 p.m.
Juergen J. Mueller
Signature: Juergen J. Mueller

Assassin Bug from India

Hi again Juergen,
Thank you for sending a larger photo.  We have posted your request.  The detail in the larger image may help us identify the species of predatory Assassin Bug.

Karl provides an identification:  December 29, 2011
Re: Assassin Bug from India – December 19, 2011
Hi Daniel and Juergen:
I believe your Assassin Bug belongs to the genus Sycanus (Reduvidae: Harpactorinae). There are at least 18 species listed for India and many look quite similar, so getting a species identification is going to be difficult. You can check out these images of S. collaris from Thailand and S. croceovittatus from Hong Kong and Russia (?).  Both species look quite similar to your Assassin Bug and both also occur in India. The concern I have is that most, but not all, Sycanus species display a fairly prominent scutellar spine (sticking out from the middle of the back) and I don’t really see one in the posted image. Apparently the spine is sometimes missing from individuals of ‘spined’ species (I can’t see one on the bug featured in the Hong Kong link, above, either). It could be one of several species that have a reduced spine or none at all. Perhaps it is there but not visible due to lighting or the angle of the shot, or it may have lost its spine. I hope this helps. Regards. Karl

Letter 2 – Assassin Bug from Peru

 

Rainforest Bug – Glossy Orange Black
Location: Loreto, Peru
May 4, 2012 9:54 am
This interesting bug was photographed from canoe on a treetrunk about 2ft above flooded forest water level on Apr 3, 2012 in early evening. In flooded jungle surrounding Tahuayo River (a few hours upstream from Iquitos). Any help identifying would be appreciated.
Signature: Wayne Godbehere

Assassin Bug

Hi Wayne,
This is an Assassin Bug in the family Reduviidae, and its bright aposomatic (warning) coloration is so distinctive, we figured it would not be too difficult to identify.  Within minutes, we matched it to photos of
Calliclopius negripes, commonly called Bee Killers.  Your individual is a nymph based on its undeveloped wings.  The black front legs and red hind legs as well as the white antennae are very distinctive features.  The first matching image we found was on FlickR, and it showed a black winged adult, but it was identified as the genus Calliclopius.  Additional searching produced an image of nymphs on Michael Lustbader Photography where the species name was indicated.

Thank-you so much… I was having no luck searching for this one… I have been able to identify many of my other insect shots from the trip, but still searching for some (and still sorting through 3000 photos)….

Letter 3 – Assassin Bug

 

Subject: Black & White Bug with Orange Border
Location: West central Florida
August 8, 2012 10:04 pm
Greetings and thank you so much for helping to identify this bug I found hanging out near the porch light tonight. He’s a little over an inch long and lives in west central Florida. I was thinking maybe seed bug but couldn’t find a match on the site. What do you think?
Signature: Emmy

Assassin Bug: Microtomus purcis

Hi Emmy,
This is an Assassin Bug, not a Seed Bug.  There are many Seed Bugs with color patterns similar to your species, and the coloration and markings are very unique for an Assassin Bug, so your error is very understandable.  This boldly colored Assassin Bug, which has no species specific common name, is
Microtomus purcis and you can see other nice photographs of this species on BugGuide which states:  “Beneficial predator of insects but can inflict painful bite on humans.”  That statement applies to many other Assassin Bugs as well.

Letter 4 – Assassin Bug: Mictomus purcis

 

Subject: Found this bug… need help
Location: North of Houston TX
August 13, 2012 9:46 pm
Just curious… I work as a fire fighter and at the station i found this bug. Its august here and I work just north of Houston TX. It was out side near our trash bin just laying on the concrete. I attached a picture of it. Just thought it looked interesting and wanted to know what it was. thanks
Signature: David Mays

Assassin Bugs

Hi David,
This is an Assassin Bug, Mictomus purcis, a species with no common name.  Like other Assassin Bugs, they might bite if carelessly handled, so caution needs to be exercised when encountering Assassin Bugs.

Letter 5 – Assassin Bug

 

Subject: Backyard Insect ID Help
Location: Vacaville, CA
October 9, 2012 2:41 pm
Dear sir,
I found this insect in my backyard and would like to know both its common name and the scientific name.
I used a 1:1 macro lens and basically an additional closeup lens so the image is much much larger than life size.
Thank you for your time.
I don’t mind you blogging about the image I took. Feel free to blog and educational use.
Signature: Ronald Nyein Zaw Tan

Assassin Bug

Hi Ronald,
This is a beneficial, predatory Assassin Bug in the genus
Zelus, and we just finished posting a photo of another individual from Escondido, CA that was unnecessarily squished after the photo was taken.  It might be the Leafhopper Assassin Bug, Zelus renardii, which is pictured on BugGuide and which is found in California.

Letter 6 – Assassin Bug: Bee Killer from Costa Rica

 

Subject: Costa Rican Bug
Location: Drake Bay, Costa Rica
September 2, 2012 9:25 pm
Hi Bugman,
You guys are the best! We can spend hours at a time on your site. We found this cool bug while hiking in Drake Bay, Costa Rica. It was just on the ground on top of some leaves. I can’t seem to identify it. Can you please tell me what it is?
Signature: Jennifer and Bella

Bee Killer eating Ant

Hi again Jennifer and Bella,
We were immediately certain that this insect is an Assassin Bug in the family Reduviidae, and though our initial web search turned up numerous matching images, we could not get a species identification.  The red flags at the tail end are quite distinctive.  Finally, we found a matching photo on FlickR that identified this Assassin Bug as a Bee Killer,
Apiomerus vexillarius.  Discover Lifehas a matching image of a mounted specimen that confirms the species identification.  The Bee Killer Assassin Bugs often prey upon bees and other members in the order Hymenoptera.  Your individual appears to be preying upon an Ant.  Assassin Bugs should be handled with caution as they can deliver a painful bite.

Bee Killer

 

Letter 7 – Assassin Bug from India

 

Subject: assassin bug
Location: India, Kerala
December 21, 2012 3:09 pm
Dear Bugman Team!!
this year i found this assassin bug in the south of india..the only problem is that i can’t identify the species of this assassin bug.
I found it at the end of february in kearla (at night)
Please help me,
thank you very much,
Angelika
Signature: Assassin Bug

Assassin Bug

Hi Angelika,
This is one beautiful and impressive Assassin Bug that is also quite distinctive looking.
  We did not have any luck in our initial internet search, but we hope to be able to provide you with a species identification before too much time elapses.

Assassin Bug

Sadly, there are not as many databases for identifying insects from South Asia as there are from North America, Australia and the U.K.

Assassin Bug

 

Letter 8 – Assassin Bug from Malaysia

 

Subject: Interesting orange and turquoise bug
Location: Taman Negara, Malaysia
February 11, 2013 4:10 pm
Dear bugman,
We saw this interesting bug on the rough bark of a tree not far from a small river in the jungle of Taman Negara, Malaysia. We have searched may bug-identification sites, but have not been able to find anything like it, and are hoping that you can help.
Signature: Tricia

Assassin Bug

Hi Tricia,
This looks to us like an Assassin Bug in the family Reduviidae.  We will try to determine a species identification for you.

Letter 9 – Assassin Bug from Brazil

 

Subject: Assassin Bug
Location: Uberlandia, Brazil
March 6, 2013 5:56 am
I woke up and when I got up from bed I felt a weird burn/sting on my knee, under my pajama pants. I stich a little thinking it was a regular psichological stich, when i got stronger pain. I though it could be small ants, so i took off my pants and saw this bug, which looks like an assassin bug. I have 3 marks on my knee. What bug is this? It kinda looks like the Orange Corsair Assassin Bug, But it is main black, with some white on some parts os its ”legs” and the only orange are its wings, or what looks like. See pics below. What bug could it be? Would it be dangerous, and carry chagas or any other deseases? Thanks!
Signature: Daniel Zorzo

Assassin Bug
Assassin Bug

Dear Daniel,
This is a species of Assassin Bug, and it might be in the genus
Rasahus which includes the CorsairsCorsairs along with most Assassin Bugs are harmless, though many species will bite if provoked, carelessly handled, or encountered accidentally.  Corsairs are prone to biting quicker than most other Assassin Bugs, but they do not act as vectors for Chagas Disease.  Chagas Disease is spread by Blood Sucking Conenose Bugs.

Letter 10 – Assassin Bug Metamorphosis

 

Subject: Orange Morph Bug
Location: Lebanon, PA
July 10, 2013 4:33 am
I may have been mistaken, but this bug started out way smaller, black legs. Reminded me of a spider with bent up legs. I don’t know a lot about bugs, and I run from them screaming. I live in a house in Lebanon, PA. The area is woods, and the Tulip Popler is the most common tree around here.
Thank you, screaming-like-a-little-girl
Signature: Chris

Assassin Bug Metamorphosis
Assassin Bug Metamorphosis

Hi Chris,
Your photograph has captured an Assassin Bug in the process of metamorphosis.  We believe it is a Wheel Bug.  Many insects change color and darken after metamorphosis.  This Wheel Bug numph should turn dark gray.

That makes absolute sense. The Wheel-bug is common, here, in its horrifying beauty, with the cog-wheel. Since I have been running away from its adult form, I was unfamiliar with its pre-morph stage(s).
I saw the bug the evening before, and it hadn’t moved until morning hours. Then I saw something orange popping out of his back which reminded me of wings (an indicator of having my eye-sight checked) and then what looked like an orange spider on the back of the bug. For a suburban guy who moved into the wilderness, I have been introduced to the most intriguing insect-life. This includes red wasps, blue-iridescent-winged and black neon-yellow-striped thorax wasps (of which I will most certainly NOT have pictures), Luna-moth and other.
Again, thank you very much for your very fast response.
Truly
Chris

Dear Chris,
Thank you for supplying our readers with a colorful description of the metamorphosis of a Wheel Bug.

Letter 11 – Assassin Bug

 

Subject: Is this a Bloodsucking Conenose Assassin Bug?
Location: Central Louisiana
July 23, 2013 1:56 pm
My baby girl found this in our house, picked it up and it stung her. The bite seems fine. After much research I think its an assassin bug, but I’m not sure. The photo is not the best, but all I’ve got with my right now is my tablet camera.
Signature: Niki

Assassin Bug
Assassin Bug

Dear Niki,
This is not a Blood Sucking Conenose, but it is an Assassin Bug,
Microtomus purcisAccording to BugGuide:  “Beneficial predator of insects but can inflict painful bite on humans.”

Letter 12 – Assassin Bug might be Wheel Bug

 

Subject: identification
Location: jeffersonville, indiana ohio valley
November 22, 2013 11:07 am
Hi bugman!
a friend found this sucker outside her door a couple nights in a row. at some point it managed to sneak into her house. personally i think it is someone’s pet that has gotten loose as i have not been able to find any indigenous species that are quite right. its body was about 4 inches in length not counting legs or antenna. she also said it reached up toward her when she tried to scoop it up and out of the house. she joked that it tried to punch her!
Signature: BUGMAN!!!

Wheel Bug, we believe
Wheel Bug, we believe

Though your photo is lacking in detail, this appears to us to be a Wheel Bug, the largest of the predatory North American Assassin Bugs, and we challenge the claim that it was four inches in length.  Two inches is a much closer estimate of its exact size.  The Ohio Birds and Biodiversity website has a wonderful profile on the Wheel Bug.

 

Letter 13 – Assassin Bug

 

Subject: unique bug
Location: Milford, Delaware
December 10, 2013 5:36 pm
This bug was found on our stove. Looks like a cross between a cricket and a roach. The chevron design is something we have never seen before. What is it, and should be afraid?
Signature: Maria

Assassin Bug:  Microtomus purcis
Assassin Bug: Microtomus purcis

Dear Maria,
This Assassin Bug,
Microtomus purcis, has no common name.  Like most members of its family, it is a beneficial predator, however, it might bite if carelessly handled.

 

Letter 14 – Assassin Bug from Madagascar

 

Subject: Madagascar insect
Location: Madagascar
December 12, 2013 9:20 pm
Hi Daniel
My guide from my recent Madagascar trip just sent me this interesting photo that I wanted to send you. Sorry the quality isn’t great because I had to zoom in quite a bit. Would you have any idea? This is the only photo I have unfortunately. It doesn’t look like anything I’ve seen before.
Thanks,
Signature: David

I’m looking at this again Daniel and what I thought were two “fangs” may be one “fang” and one of the insects forelegs on the far side. As a result I’m guessing maybe assasin bug nymph?

Assassin Bug Nymph
Assassin Bug Nymph

Hi David,
We believe you are correct that this is an Assassin Bug nymph, but we would not entirely discount the possibility that this is a representative from some group of insects that we are not familiar with.  There are also some anatomical similarities to the wingless Snow Scorpionfly photos posted to the Craneflies of Pennsylvania website and the Bug Tracks site (scroll down to see).

Letter 15 – Assassin Bug from Australia

 

Subject: Query of insect
Location: South West Rocks NSW
February 13, 2015 8:16 pm
Found this visitor in the garden at South West Rocks NSW and cant identify it. Can you help
Signature: Phil Young

Assassin Bug
Assassin Bug

Dear Phil,
This is a beneficial predatory Assassin Bug in the family Reduviidae, but we cannot find an exact visual match on the Brisbane Insect website.  Assassin Bugs should be handled with caution as they can deliver a painful bite. We found a close match on FlickR that is identified as the Common Assassin Bug,
Pristhesancus plagipennis.  The Common Assassin Bug is well represented on the Brisbane Insect Website, but the coloration looks different, so there may be regional variations, of something may be misidentified.

Assassin Bug
Assassin Bug

Thanks so much for the help with this. Not what I’d thought of. An always careful with insects and let them come and go. Glad to know it’s a beneficial predator. Again thank you. Phil

Letter 16 – Spined Assassin Bug

 

Subject: Lookin’ Right at me!
Location: Northwest New Jersey
December 6, 2015 10:31 pm
Nasty lookin sucker. I left it alone. Any idea what it is?
Signature: Flex

Spined Assassin Bug
Spined Assassin Bug

Dear Flex,
This looks like a predatory Spined Assassin Bug,
Sinea diadema, or another member of the genus, based on this BugGuide image.  Most Assassin Bugs do not aggressively bite humans, Kissing Bugs being the exceptions, but Assassin Bugs are capable of inflicting a painful bite if carelessly handled, threatened, or accidentally encountered.

Thanks
Somehow I knew not to try to convince it to climb up on my finger.
What a Mug!
Frank Lekstutis

 

Letter 17 – Assassin Bug

 

Subject: Brown bug w/ black stripe
Location: Kansas
December 14, 2015 9:29 am
My friend found this bug today. It was about a half inch long, not including the antennae. It’s back was concave with the black stripe between two ridges that look like the back of a tiny dinosaur.
Any idea what it is?
Signature: Lana

Assassin Bug
Assassin Bug

Dear Lana,
Based on this image posted to BugGuide, we believe we have correctly identified this immature Assassin Bug as
Fitchia aptera.  According to BugGuide it is generally found:  “on the ground about grass clumps in old fields.”

Letter 18 – Assassin Bug

 

Subject: Tennessee Bug
Location: Middle Tennessee
September 30, 2016 10:34 pm
I found this bug in the back room at work. It is usually rather warm back there and filled with spiders. I haven’t seen this one before. I’m curious to know exactly what it is.
Signature: Kent

Assassin Bug
Assassin Bug

Dear Kent,
Your predatory Assassin Bug is
Microtomus purcis based on images posted to BugGuide where its habitat is described as:  “under bark.”  Are you near a woods or is your jobsite made of wood?  It might have been living between wooden slats before accidentally finding its way into the back room.  Like other Assassin Bugs, it might bite if provoked.

Letter 19 – Assassin Bug

 

Subject: what’s that bug
Location: tx
December 4, 2016 5:23 pm
I was wondering what this bug is it stings an hurts like hell it has green legs all most like grass hopper an a body almost like wasp it leaves a welp that turns into red dot
Signature: Angela Clem

Assassin Bug
Assassin Bug

Dear Angela,
This is a beneficial, predatory Assassin Bug in the genus Zelus, probably a Leafhopper Assassin Bug.  Assassin Bugs do not sting.  They have mouths designed to pierce and suck, so you were bitten, not stung. Though it is painful, the bite if a Leafhopper Assassin Bug is not considered dangerous.

Assassin Bug Bite
Assassin Bug Bite

 

Letter 20 – Assassin Bug from Australia

 

Subject: F^©%ed up bug
Location: Brisbane
January 10, 2017 8:42 pm
Its got 6 legs, the bottom half is yellow with orange stripes on the side the top half is black, the legs are orange and black, the entanas are orange, looks like a stinger at the front, moves slow asf,
Signature: By tellin me what the fck this

Common Assassin Bug

We would urge you to handle this Common Assassin Bug, Pristhesancus plagipennis, which we identified on the Brisbane Insect site, with extreme caution.  Though it is not a dangerous species, it can deliver a painful bite.

Letter 21 – Assassin Bug

 

Subject: What bug is this?
Location: Buckeye, AZ
February 25, 2017 7:35 pm
My son found this bug on the carpet. He picked it up then dropped it on his leg and he said it bit him. We live in buckeye, AZ.
Signature: Jeff

Assassin Bug

Dear Jeff,
Assassin Bugs in the genus
Zelus will bite readily if carelessly handled, and the bite is reported to be quite painful, but it is not considered dangerous to humans.  This is a beneficial predator.

Letter 22 – Assassin Bug Numph from Java

 

Subject: Ant with bright red body, black booty.
Location: west Java
July 5, 2017 8:53 am
Hello, i found this little one crawling on a picture frame. it struck me as odd because i’ve never seen this specimen before.
Signature: Dee-dee

Assassin Bug Nymph

Dear Dee-Dee,
This is not an Ant.  It is an immature Assassin Bug, but we are not certain of the species.  Assassin Bugs are predators and they should be handled with caution as they may bite.

Letter 23 – Assassin Bug from India

 

Subject: Handsome beetle
Location: Bangalore, Karnataka, India.
July 5, 2017 10:28 am
Hello bugman,
Found this one in a park at my place. I think it’s a long horn beetle but I can’t recognise this species. Please provide details on conservation status, life span, reproduction of this bug. Also I found an egg case which probably belongs to this bug. Please take a look at it..
Signature: Gautam dikshit

Assassin Bug

Dear Guatam,
This is not a beetle.  It is an Assassin Bug in the family Reduviidae.  We are unable to provide a genus or species name, however, we did locate a matching image on India Biodiversity, but it is only identified to the family level.  Most Assassin Bugs mature in a single season and do not live more than a year.  What you have mistaken for an egg case appears to be the chrysalis of a butterfly, and is unrelated to the Assassin Bug.

Letter 24 – Assassin Bug from Brazil

 

Subject:  Assassin bug
Geographic location of the bug:  Mata Atlantica SE Brazil
Date: 11/27/2017
Time: 06:35 AM EDT
I think this is an assassin bug ( rhino)  Can you get it down to species for me please ?
How you want your letter signed:  GP

Assassin Bug

Dear GP,
This is a beautiful image of an Assassin Bug.  The closest match we were able to locate online is an image posted to FlickR that is only identified as being in the subfamily Harpactorinae.  Perhaps Cesar Crash who runs the Brazilian site Insetologia will have a suggestion.

Letter 25 – Assassin Bug from India

 

Subject:  What is this bug name
Geographic location of the bug:  India
Date: 12/28/2017
Time: 10:27 PM EDT
Hi ,
Can please let me know what bug it is
How you want your letter signed:  Yes [Prakash]

Assassin Bug

Dear Prakash,
This is a very beautiful Assassin Bug in the family Reduviidae, but we have not had any luck finding a matching image online that identifies the species.  This image from Alamy is similarly colored, but it has spines your individual lacks.  Handle Assassin Bugs with care.  They might bite.  Perhaps one of our readers will be able to provide a species identification.

Letter 26 – Assassin Bug

 

Subject:  Single spot, long-antennae bug
Geographic location of the bug:  Pollock Pines, California
Date: 08/04/2018
Time: 11:39 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Bugman, one evening, this bug landed on my laptop. What is it? Thank you.
How you want your letter signed:  ~ John

Assassin Bug: Rasahus hamatus

Dear ~ John,
We have always thought an Assassin Bug as distinctive as
Rasahus hamatus should have a common name, like perhaps “One Spot Assassin Bug”, but alas, no such common name exists.  Since it is in the Corsair subfamily Peiratinae, we often refer to it as a Corsair on our site.  Here is a matching image from BugGuide, and according to BugGuide:  “ground-living species frequently taken under stones; often comes to light.”  Perhaps a light and opened window caused it to be attracted to your laptop keyboard.  As with other Assassin Bugs which might bite if provoked, it should be handled with caution, especially since this species seems to be prone to biting

Fascinating information, Daniel. Thank you very much for the ID!
~ John

Letter 27 – Assassin Bug

 

Subject:  Ranch Bug
Geographic location of the bug:  Fillmore Ca
Date: 08/20/2018
Time: 11:31 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  I was bit by this bug on Saturday at a wedding on a Ranch. Immediately after my head felt like it was on Fire. Today I woke up with a bump. Would like to identify it.
How you want your letter signed:  Elizabeth Morales

Assassin Bug

Dear Elizabeth,
We always advise readers to handle Assassin Bugs with caution as they might bite.  The bite of most Assassin Bugs results in local pain and swelling, but is not considered dangerous.  Your individual is
Rasahus hamatus, and it tends to bite more readily than other Assassin Bugs.

Letter 28 – Bug of the Month February 2020: Assassin Bug

 

Subject:  Beautiful assassin
Geographic location of the bug:  Southern Utah
Date: 02/08/2020
Time: 07:20 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Found this beauty in my garage and looking for second opinions as to the ID.
How you want your letter signed:  Jason

Assassin Bug:  Fitchia spinosula

Dear Jason,
We believe we have correctly identified your Assassin Bug as
Fitchia spinosula based on this BugGuide image.  Because it does not have developed wings, we originally thought this was an immature individual, but according to BugGuide:  “Micropterous individuals are more common, although macropterous forms do exist. Macroptery is more common in males than females.”  According to Merriam-Webster, micropterous means “having small or rudimentary wings.”

Reader Emails

5351

Letter 1 – Assassin Bug: Internal Parasite Excitement and Authenticity Question (resolved)

 

Bug found in Houston, Tx
My name is Codie I am 8 years old. I was playing outside, then I went to a pecan tree stump and I found this bug, (photo included). It has a orange thorax with black and white dots. It looked like it had very small black wings. Its face looked like it had a hook part that went all the way to it’s neck and it looked like it connected to the neck. The antenna were very big. They were bigger than the 6 legs. It had 3 body parts like an ant. It is an insect and the thorax was very big when I found it. Then a few days later we found out why the thorax was so big. It was because it had a baby. At first even when I caught it we didn’t know the bug and we didn’t know the name of the bug. When the baby was born it was white and looked like a cacoon and creeped around like a catapiller. When I put it in a smaller vile it started to turn red and it got hard and I think it died. Also, the thorax deflated on the mommy and had a hole in it where the baby came out. We still don’t know what it is. Do you know what this is? Thank you,
Codiemichael and Mommy Kerr

Hi Codie,
The photo you sent is of an immature Assassin Bug. These insects, like most insects, lay eggs and do not give birth. It is immature, and cannot reproduce until it becomes a winged adult. The action you describe sounds more like an internal parasite, but we do not know of another insect that parasitizes Assassin Bugs. It could be some type of fly or wasp that is responsible for the parasitization. You never said if the insect in the photograph died, though we suspect it did.

Love the site! But a request….
Your site and the service you kindly provide for free is wonderful. I have to check the site everyday. Just one request though….please don’t post anymore emails where a parent writes in as their child, complete with “baby” language and descriptions. It’s ignorant and annoying. It is one thing to relate a story involving the child (which can be cute) but quite another to take on the persona of the child. I admire your dedication to posting and the research and time put into the answers. Keep up the great work! You’re inspiring a wave of, well, if not bug love, at least bug appreciation.
-Shannon

Hi Shannon,
What’s That Bug? has always been child friendly and we do not really edit letters. We thought there were enough grammatical errors and misspellings to indicate that this was written by an 8 year old.

Thank you so much! Codie spends a lot of time on your site and has a huge interest in everything you have on there. After much searching and absolutely no luck, my son thought you might have the answer. He was so thrilled to see that his very first e-mail was published on your website too! (yes, he is the one who sent it, I just proof read it to make sure he included everything). Thanks for all your help.

Update: (01/20/2007) assassin bug parasite
I think your analysis is right on. Probably a tachinid fly, but in any event, the host-parasite relationship might very well be undocumented. If the kid can get the larva to pupate (maybe in a container with a shallow layer of soil), he might be able to get an adult he can take to an expert for an identification. Keep me posted.
Eric

Letter 2 – Assassin Bug

 

What the heck is this bug? Packs a whallop of a bite.
Can you help us identify this bug? Bit my wife tonite, and she had immediate pain, swelling, and a blood spot in the middle of the swelling where it bit her. Small bug, big bite. Thanks for your help.
Brian and Carrie Cantrall
Scottsdale, AZ

Hi Brian,
This is an Assassin Bug, probably in the genus Zelus.

Letter 3 – Assassin Bug

 

Please identify this bug – when you have time in your busy schedule.
I love your website! I would like to know what kind of bug this is. I came across him as I was photographing bumblebees enjoying these beautiful spiked flowers. I took the photo with my new Canon Digital Rebel XT, which I am really enjoying. Thanks for your help!
Patty Tucker

Hi Patty,
Thank you so much for your polite letter. We are growing weary of the demanding and insensitive tone of so many of the letters we receive. Our delete key is getting plenty of action. This is an Assassin Bug in the genus Pselliopus. We found a match on BugGuide.

Thanks for your quick reply. What a name for a bug! Funny!! I hate that people have to be rude and insensitive. What a waste of life and time! I could tell by the note on your website that you guys were overwhelmed with requests. I was hesitant about even sending my photo. Thanks for a speedy response and for having a great website. The good feeling you have to come away with from the numerous emails you receive, good and bad, is that you guys have created a wonderful, informative and fun website. Way to go! Have a great day!
Patty Tucker
Alabama

Letter 4 – Assassin Bug

 

mystery bug
I’m hoping you can identify this bug which I found as it bit or stung my foot in the middle of the night.in my bed no less. As you can imagine I’m not very keen on the idea of running into more of them and I really hope you and at least tell me what it is so I can get some more info. Thanks so much
Brian Becker
Southern California

Hi Brian,
This is an Assassin Bug in the genus Rasahus. We located it on BugGuide.

Letter 5 – Assassin Bug

 

Crazy Bug
This bug bit my friend, and his ankle is killing him, and he feels woozy. We’ve never seen anything like it. He lives in Woodland Hills, CA. Any help? Thanks.
Ryan

Hi Ryan,
This is an Assassin Bug. There are several species including Kissing Bugs and Cone-Nose Bug which are disease carrying vectors. Your particular Assassin Bug, though it will bite painfully, is not a long lasting problem. The effects of the bite should soon pass. We believe this is one of the Zelus Assassins. As a side note, because of your letter, we realized we have been spelling the word Assassin incorrectly for years and have been correcting all the errors we could locate on our site.

Letter 6 – Assassin Bug from Madagascar

 

Bright assasin-bug?
Hi,
I took these pictures a year ago in Madagascar and I’m struggling to identify the insect. It seems to have the same shape as some of the assassin bugs on your site, but none of them appeared to have the right colours. Do you have any idea what it is? Even the local guides said they hadn’t seen them before.
There are quite a few other bugs shown in the same section – http://www.jimkeir.co.uk/Madagascar/index.html . Help yourself Cheers,
Jim

Hi Jim,
We agree that this is probably an Assassin Bug. It most resembles the Bee Assassins in the genus Apiomeris, but all bets are off when it comes to the tropics. Many exotic species are described to science, and logged into museum collections, but there is not much information available to the lay person online regarding identification and imagery.

Letter 7 – Assassin Bug

 

patriotic beetle?
Was hoping the picture would turn out better – first try with new digital camera. This specimen was gracing our front door for several hours a few nights ago … ( northwest Arkansas, mid August) If you know him I’d like a name. TIA,
Mitch

Hi Mitch,
This is not a beetle. It is an Assassin Bug. Even though the photo is quite blurry, it is undoubtedly Microtomus purcis.

Letter 8 – Assassin Bug

 

MY NEW FAMILY MEMBER
THIS LITTLE GUY HAS TAKEN UP RESIDENCE ON THE TOP OF MY COMPUTER MONITOR.(HE HAS BEEN THERE FOR 2 DAYS NOW JUST WALKING AROUND EXPLORING). HE ALMOST DROWNED IN MY COFFEE CUP UNTIL I RESCUED HIM. NOW BACK TO NORMAL (IT SEEMS) I KIND OF LIKE THE LITTLE GUY. CAN YOU TELL ME WHAT HE IS AND WHAT SHOULD I DO TO KEEP HIM FROM STARVING TO DEATH. BTW…I NAMED HIM LARRY. THANKS FOR A GREAT WEBSITE.
JOHN

Hi John,
Larry is an Assassin Bug and Larry wants to eat insects.

Letter 9 – Assassin Bug

 

Thank you. Pic of Pselliopus sp.
Just wanted to thank you folks for the great site. After spending alot of time pulling hair searching the web for "orange bug" I found your site and was able to identify the bugs I came across while in the garage. I have included a picture of one of the several Assassin bugs (Pselliopus sp.) I found and identified thanks to your site. Thanks again,
Robert

Hi Robert,
Thank you for your kind letter and the photo of a Pselliopus Assassin Bug you contributed to our site.

Letter 10 – Assassin Bug from Peru

 

Big Assassin Bug from the Amazon!
December 19, 2009
Found this amazing specimen on a hike in the amazon, about two hours downstream from Iquitos, Peru. It was about the size of A. cristatus, maybe a little bigger.
Sebastian
About two hours downstream from Iquitos, Peru

Assassin Bug from Peru
Assassin Bug from Peru

Hi Sebastian,
That is sure one impressive Assassin Bug.  We don’t think we will be able to find a species name for you, but perhaps one of our readers will have luck in that department.

Letter 11 – Assassin Bug from Thailand

 

mystery bug in thailand
Location:  n.e. thailand
August 6, 2010 10:52 pm
hi, i found this odd creature resting on leaf in n.e thailand near mekong river. it seems to be some sort of bug. it seems to have very long antenna folded back. Im totally confused due to its strangeness. to make matters worse or better if one likes confusion I then found another creature similar in form but close up of eyes make me think weird spider. I will forward that one when processed. p.s really appreciate your educational site and thanks for IDing my leaf cricket as katydid nymph.
heiden999

Assassin Bug

Hi heiden999,
This is an Assassin Bug in the family Reduviidae.  It really is an unusual looking specimen.  We will try to determine the species.

Assassin Bug

Letter 12 – Assassin Bug from Australia

 

What Bug Is This? It Bit Me Last Night.
Location: New South Wales, Australia
February 3, 2011 6:05 pm
Hi, was laying in bed last night and felt a sharp pain in the back of my thigh and grabbed this bug off me… I have no idea what it is. It left a nice puncture mark and came up in a big welt. Just curious about its identity.. I’m thinking something in the Assassin Family
Signature: Regards Hannah

Assassin Bug

Hi Hannah,
You are correct that this is an Assassin Bug in the family Reduviidae, however, the photo has not been taken from the ideal angle for identification.  Your individual does not resemble the thicker bodied Assassin Bugs on the Brisbane Insect website, and it is impossible for us to determine if your individual is one of the more slender bodied Assassin Bugs pictured there.

Letter 13 – Assassin Bug from India is Sycanus species

 

giant red flying bug
Location: Andhra Pradesh, India
November 26, 2011 10:49 am
Hi – I’m in Andhra Pradesh, India in late November and this big red flying insect landed on my wall, the on the edge of my laptop. From the end of its back legs to the tips of its antennae it was about 5cm. It looked very bitey, so I caught it in a cup and released it outside.
Signature: Steve Sargent

Assassin Bug:  Sycanus species

Hi Steve,
This is an Assassin Bug in the family Reduviidae, though we need to try to research the species.  Most Assassin Bugs prey upon insects and other arthropods, though a few do suck blood from warm blooded prey including humans.  We hope our eventual identification will eliminate this brightly colored species as an insect that sucks human blood.  Even species that do not prey upon warm blooded hosts are capable of biting if they are carelessly handled and the bite is reported to be quite painful.


Hi  Daniel,  many thanks for identifying the bug.  It certainly did look potentially harmful, but beautiful, too.  Good luck with your work!
Steve

Update:  December 31, 2013
We have now received two comments indicating that this is a
Sycanus species, but we never sought a corroborating link until now.  This German Reduviidae site has a matching photo of Sycanus minor.  We also found this highly stylized drawing of Sycanus falleni on a Vietnamese stamp on ShutterstockSycanus insularis is pictured on Insect Fans, but you must scroll down to see the images.

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 – Assassin Bug and Ailanthus Webworm Moth

 

Very cool bugs… I am an avid gardener and I have never seen one of these before!
Hi there,
Bug #1: I found this bug on an annual Vinca plant I had potted on my back porch this past summer. It looks like he has sucking mouth parts. My plant seemed to be okay after he was done doing whatever it was he was doing. Bug#2: I spotted this guy on the side of my house one night. He seemed to be drawn towards the outdoor light. Sorry, the photo is not as good. I have tried to do my own research many times and have not had any luck. Have you ever typed "yellow bug" in your search engine? Ha! Ha! At the rate I am going we will all be extinct and it will not matter what the heck kind of bug this is anyway! Ha! Ha! Ha! You have a wonderful website. Every time I have been to your site to identify something I get side tracked. I don’t know what I like more, the cool bug photos or the stories that accompany them. Keep up the great work! Thank you for your time,
Barbara
Richmond, Virginia

Pselliopus Assassin Bug Ailanthus Webworm Moth

Hi Barbara,
Thanks for you nice letter. If an heroic attempt to prevent our extinction, we are thrilled to identify you Assassin Bug, an important predatory species that will devour many pests in your garden. This beauty is in the genus Pselliopus. We found a perfect match on BugGuide. Next time someone tries to type yellow bug into their search engine, they should be lead to the correct answer. Your second unknown is an Ailanthus Webworm Moth. We have heard that the innapropriately named Tree of Heaven, the Ailanthus Tree, has invaded nearly 30% of the Shenandoah National Forest, which is probably accounting for the increase in sightings of the lovely moth. The tree is a horrible invasive species that is found along the roadsides in most parts of the country. The tree spreads by seeds as well as a vigorous root system and is considered on of our most important exotic invaders. Sadly, the moth larvae just eat the leaves and are not wood borers which might actually help control the tree.

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.

44 thoughts on “Do Assassin Bugs Fly? Truth Revealed”

  1. Thanks for the quick response! To add information here for future users, I took the Assassin bug to a zoonosis center in my city and the professional told me that this is a Predator class/family of assassin bug, which only eats other insects. Also he confirmed what you posted, that it is harmless and the bite was some sort of defense mechanism. It does not carry chagas desease. Thanks again!

    Reply
  2. This is one of the 10 species of Southeast Asian resin bugs in the genus Amulius (Harpactorinae: Ectinoderini).

    Reply
  3. This is Zelus renardii, a common species in the Southwest.

    **Pardon me if this is a double-post; I was afraid my original comment did not go through.**

    Reply
  4. You are correct that this is a species of Rasahus, but without a straight dorsal view, you probably won’t get a species on this one.

    Reply
  5. I would agree that this is a Calliclopius nymph, although whether it is C. nigripes or an undescribed species I do not know.

    Reply
  6. half a year ago, I postet this foto of the assassin bug.
    now I think it is Brassivola hystrix, thank you for your tip Daniel Swanson!!

    one point of the description of Brassivola is “…with a long erect spine behind the base of each antenna, anteocular an postocular areas are equal in length,…”
    and one point of the description of Bartacus is “..Postocular area of the head longer than the anteocular,…, a strong erect spine before the base of each antenna”

    Here (and under the microscope) I can see the erect spine is behind the base of each antenna and the post- and anteocular area have nearly the same lenght…

    🙂

    Reply
    • I’m glad my comments could be helpful, but I would not be quite so set on the ID for a couple reasons. As I mentioned before, there are details that make either genus a problematic ID. I think I remember that your specimen, while very similar to, does not match B. hystrix in a couple color and morphological details. But these could be sexually dimorphic characters too.

      The other point is that the antennal spine character you mentioned is not helpful here because both are referring to the same thing, despite the confusing wording. The Brassivola wording means “behind” in the context of front to back, and the Bartacus wording means “before” in the context of from the base of the head to the apex. Both mean that the insect has what I call “postantennal spines” which are found in many, many genera of assassins.

      Despite all this cautionary advice, I was leaning toward Brassivola myself.

      Reply
  7. half a year ago, I postet this foto of the assassin bug.
    now I think it is Brassivola hystrix, thank you for your tip Daniel Swanson!!

    one point of the description of Brassivola is “…with a long erect spine behind the base of each antenna, anteocular an postocular areas are equal in length,…”
    and one point of the description of Bartacus is “..Postocular area of the head longer than the anteocular,…, a strong erect spine before the base of each antenna”

    Here (and under the microscope) I can see the erect spine is behind the base of each antenna and the post- and anteocular area have nearly the same lenght…

    🙂

    Reply
    • I’m glad my comments could be helpful, but I would not be quite so set on the ID for a couple reasons. As I mentioned before, there are details that make either genus a problematic ID. I think I remember that your specimen, while very similar to, does not match B. hystrix in a couple color and morphological details. But these could be sexually dimorphic characters too.

      The other point is that the antennal spine character you mentioned is not helpful here because both are referring to the same thing, despite the confusing wording. The Brassivola wording means “behind” in the context of front to back, and the Bartacus wording means “before” in the context of from the base of the head to the apex. Both mean that the insect has what I call “postantennal spines” which are found in many, many genera of assassins.

      Despite all this cautionary advice, I was leaning toward Brassivola myself.

      Reply
    • Yes, that is one image I used when I first investigated the identity of your insect. Notice the difference in intensity of the spotting and the different shape of the connexiva. But again, these may be sexually dimorphic.

      Reply
  8. Hi
    This species name is Sycanus sp. (Insecta: Hemiptera: Reduviidae: Harpactorinae). This is beneficial insect. Not bite to human.

    Reply
  9. Hi
    This species name is Sycanus sp. (Insecta: Hemiptera: Reduviidae: Harpactorinae). This is beneficial insect. Not bite to human.

    Reply
  10. Hola, saludos a todos.
    Tengo fotos de estos insectos en mi galería de Flickr:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/45726607@N03/11517815583/in/photostream/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/45726607@N03/11517701805/in/photostream/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/45726607@N03/11517693145/in/photostream/

    Los de mis fotos son muy parecidos, variando solo el color de las antenas.
    Las fotos fueron efectuadas el 21 de diciembre de 2013 en Maracay, estado Aragua, Venezuela, Cordillera de la costa, vertiente sur, aproximadamente a 600 mt. snm.
    El insecto está sobre un árbol llamado en mi país “Bucare”

    Reply
  11. Hola, saludos a todos.
    Tengo fotos de estos insectos en mi galería de Flickr:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/45726607@N03/11517815583/in/photostream/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/45726607@N03/11517701805/in/photostream/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/45726607@N03/11517693145/in/photostream/

    Los de mis fotos son muy parecidos, variando solo el color de las antenas.
    Las fotos fueron efectuadas el 21 de diciembre de 2013 en Maracay, estado Aragua, Venezuela, Cordillera de la costa, vertiente sur, aproximadamente a 600 mt. snm.
    El insecto está sobre un árbol llamado en mi país “Bucare”

    Reply
  12. I saw this very same bug. I live in Western Washington by the ocean. This bug looked EXACTLY like this. But, the grey backside was actually a second bug, I believe they were mating. I’d really like to know what type of bug this is, does the fact that they were two bugs change your theory in species?

    Reply
  13. I have been bitten by one of these on 1st February, 8th February today mark is still there and if touched it is very sore, at the time I had a headache for 3 days and felt sick.

    Reply
  14. Hey. Anyone ever have any luck with identifying species from this genus. I’ve only been able to find a partial list of 18 species, and 10 photos on individual species. I’m sure there is something tucked away in a PDF file somewhere. There is an actual entomology student from India who can not find an ID with… the whole internet working on it. Looks a bit like this one, and is not one of the 10 either. I feel like this is important. 😛

    Reply

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