Masked hunter bugs and kissing bugs are two different insects often mistaken for each other due to their similar appearance. However, they have distinct characteristics and behaviors that set them apart. The masked hunter bug, scientifically known as Reduvius personatus, is a type of assassin bug that preys on other insects, particularly those found indoors. Originating from Europe, it is now common in the eastern United States, including Minnesota. On the other hand, kissing bugs, also known as conenose bugs, belong to the Triatominae subfamily and are primarily known for their painless bites on humans and animals as they feed on blood.
One key difference between these two bugs lies in their physical appearance. Masked hunters have a stout, beak-like mouthpart, while kissing bugs possess long, slender mouthparts. Furthermore, the prothorax (a trapezoidal region behind the head) of a masked hunter appears bulging and muscular when observed under magnification. Another notable difference is their feeding habits. While masked hunters feed on insects and help control pest populations, kissing bugs feed on the blood of vertebrates, which can sometimes transmit diseases such as Chagas disease.
In conclusion, it is essential to recognize the differences between masked hunter bugs and kissing bugs to better understand their individual behaviors, potential threats, and the necessary precautions one should take in case of an encounter with either bug. By knowing their specific characteristics, people can make informed decisions about pest control and personal safety.
Masked Hunter vs Kissing Bug
The masked hunter bug and the kissing bug are two distinct insects with significant differences in their appearance and behavior. Let’s examine their main features and characteristics:
- Masked Hunter Bug (Reduvius personatus):
- Kissing Bug (Triatominae):
|Feature||Masked Hunter||Kissing Bug|
|Mouthparts||Stout, beak-like||Long, slender|
|Feeding Behavior||Predatory; hunts insects||Blood-feeding|
|Effect on Humans||Bites if handled, painful but harmless (source)||Painless bite, can transmit pathogens (source)|
|Typical Behavior||Ambush predator||Nocturnal, attracted to light|
In summary, while both bugs share some similarities, such as being true bugs in the order Hemiptera, they have important differences in their appearance, feeding habits, and interaction with humans. Masked hunter bugs prey on other insects and can bite if handled, whereas kissing bugs rely on vertebrate blood meals and can transmit pathogens when they bite.
Identification and Characteristics
The masked hunter (Reduvius personatus) is a type of assassin bug belonging to the Reduviidae family. Some distinguishing features include:
- Dark brown or black body
- Bulging, trapezoidal region behind the head (prothorax)
- Stout, beak-like mouthparts
These insects exhibit interesting camouflage behavior, often covering themselves with dust or other debris to blend in with their surroundings. They generally do not require medical attention if they accidentally bite you.
Kissing bugs, also known as conenose bugs, belong to the Reduviidae family, specifically the subfamily Triatominae. Two common species are Triatoma sanguisuga and Triatoma protracta. Key identification features include:
- Dark brown or black body with patterns and markings on the abdomen
- Long, slender mouthparts
- Cone-shaped head
They are typically larger, ranging from 0.5 to over 1 inch in length. Kissing bugs are known for their painless bites on humans and can transmit diseases like Chagas.
|Feature||Masked Hunter||Kissing Bug|
|Order & Family||Hemiptera, Reduviidae||Hemiptera, Reduviidae|
|Body Color||Dark brown or black||Dark brown or black with patterns|
|Mouthparts||Stout, beak-like||Long, slender|
|Head Shape||Bulging, trapezoidal||Long, cone-shaped|
|Size||Smaller||Ranging 0.5 to over 1 inch|
|Biting||Painful, doesn’t transmit pathogens||Painless, can transmit Chagas|
Habitat and Life Cycle
The masked hunter (Reduvius personatus) is originally from Europe and has spread to North America, particularly the Midwest, including states like Wisconsin (source). These insects thrive both indoors and outdoors, with nymphs often being found in homes during the summer months. Masked hunters prefer habitats with a food source, such as rodents or other insects. According to the University of Wisconsin-Madison Insect Diagnostic Lab, these bugs have a life cycle that includes:
- Overwintering as eggs
- Developing into nymphs in the spring
- Maturing into adults during the summer
Kissing bugs (from the insect Order Hemiptera) are more prevalent in Central America and the southern parts of North America, such as Texas (source). They are primarily nocturnal and found outdoors, often near rodent nests. The life cycle of kissing bugs typically consists of:
- Overwintering as nymphs or adults
- Going through multiple nymph stages before maturing
- Adults actively feeding and reproducing in the warmer months
When comparing the two bugs, there are a few notable differences:
|Feature||Masked Hunter||Kissing Bug|
|Origin||Europe||Central and North America|
|Habitat||Indoors and outdoors||Mostly outdoors|
|Primary Food Source||Insects and rodents||Blood from rodents and humans|
|Overwintering||As eggs||As nymphs or adults|
|Activity||Any time of day||Mostly nocturnal|
Feeding and Behavior
The masked hunter (Reduvius personatus) is a type of assassin bug known for preying on various arthropods. Their diet primarily includes pests like bed bugs and spiders. When feeding, they use their stout, beak-like mouthparts to penetrate the exoskeleton of their prey and inject a lethal saliva.
- Attracted to lights
- Can inflict a painful bite if disturbed
- Control pest populations
Kissing bugs, also known as conenose bugs, belong to a different family of insects and are primarily blood-sucking insects that feed on rodents, wild animals, and occasionally humans. Their bites can cause swelling, and some individuals may develop allergies. These bugs have a distinct, long, cone-shaped head and slender mouthparts.
- Active during the night
- Possible vector for Chagas disease
|Feature||Masked Hunter||Kissing Bug|
|Diet||Pests (e.g., bed bugs, spiders)||Blood (e.g., rodents, wild animals, humans)|
|Mouthparts||Stout, beak-like||Long, slender|
|Bite Consequence||Painful, but rarely cause problems||Allergies, potential disease vector|
|Activity||Attracted to lights||Most active at night|
Health Risks and Medical Attention
The masked hunter (Reduvius personatus) is a type of assassin bug commonly found in the eastern United States, including Minnesota, and is primarily considered a nuisance indoors1. If handled carelessly, they can bite people, but bites generally don’t require medical attention1. In the case of masked hunters, the main points to consider are:
Kissing bugs, or conenose bugs, are blood-sucking insects known for transmitting Trypanosoma cruzi, the parasite that causes Chagas disease2. Bites from kissing bugs can result in allergic reactions2. They have long, slender, sucking mouthparts and are mostly active at night2. Key points about kissing bugs include:
Comparison of Masked Hunter and Kissing Bug
|Masked Hunter||Kissing Bug|
|Bites||Can bite, but less harmful1||Can cause allergic reactions2|
|Disease Transmission||None||Chagas disease2|
|Identifying Features||Stout beak-like mouthparts1||Long, slender mouthparts2|
|Activity||Indoors, nuisance1||Mostly active at night2|
Remember that it’s essential to accurately identify bugs to determine the risks associated with them. Knowing the differences between masked hunters and kissing bugs can help mitigate potential health risks and ensure proper handling if encountered.
Prevention and Control
Preventing and controlling masked hunter bugs and kissing bugs begins with understanding their preferred environments. Both types of bugs tend to dwell in crevices and small spaces inside buildings – and since masked hunter bugs are predators to other insects (such as earwigs), their presence is often an indicator of infestations.
To protect your home from these bugs, take the following steps:
- Seal cracks and gaps in walls, floors, and around windows and doors.
- Remove clutter to minimize hiding places.
- Keep trash cans and pet food in sealed containers.
- Maintain a clean environment to discourage insect populations.
When it comes to controlling existing populations of masked hunter bugs and kissing bugs, there are some methods to consider:
- Vacuuming to remove immature bugs.
- Applying diatomaceous earth to affected areas.
- Using glue traps and insecticides for severe infestations.
- Hiring a professional exterminator for large-scale issues.
|Masked Hunter Bug||Kissing Bug|
|Risks||Bites when threatened (not dangerous)||Bites can transmit Chagas disease|
|Habitat||Crevices, cluttered areas in buildings||Found in similar environments as Masked Hunter Bugs|
Lastly, it’s important to note the difference between these two true bugs. While masked hunter bugs prey on other insects and can help control pest populations, kissing bugs pose a greater risk due to their potential to transmit Chagas disease through their feces.
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 – Masked Hunter
What the heck is this??
Location: Oakville, Ontario, Canada. Kitchen, house.
April 2, 2011 7:49 pm
I recently found this scuttering around on the floor of my kitchen. Currently, I have it trapped inside a cup. Can you tell me what this is and if I should be careful around it or not? Thank you!
This is an immature Masked Hunter. a species of Assassin Bug. Before they become winged adults, Masked Hunters have a sticky surface that attracts dust and lint which camouflages them in their environment. They prey upon other insects. They are also sometimes called Bed Bug Hunters which would imply that Bed Bugs are among their typical prey, in which case they should be welcomed into homes considering that instances of Bed Bug infestations have been getting recent media coverage. We have never received a report of a person being bitten by a Masked Hunter, though that is a possibility if they are carelessly handled. Slide a postcard under the cup and remove the Masked Hunter to the outside if you do not want it patrolling your home for prey.
Letter 2 – Masked Hunter in Canada
a troll in my house
Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
September 10, 2010 7:07 am
One day I saw a bug on my basement stairs – something I had never seen before. He slowly crawled behind the carpeting on the stairs, and I let him be … but I was SO curious to know what he was. Then the other evening I found one outside when I was moving some interlock brick that had been piled up in my garage for awhile. So, I snapped a few (not great) photos in the dark before letting him go.
I found your site today and I LOVE it. Can you help me identify my new friend? He moves with a slow, deliberate crawl. His body is quite flattened (dorso-ventrally)and his front legs are often positioned like a crab spider’s (though he only has 6 legs). His back legs almost seem like legs for jumping, but he doesn’t jump – just the slow crawl. And the oddest thing is the way his body looks a little woolly, like he’s been rolled in drywall dust. But both indoor and outdoor specimens were like that, so it’s the bug’s own ”coat”. Is it possible that he’s an instar of some other kind of bug? thanks for any info you can provide.
Before we answer your question, we have to compliment you on getting our attention with your subject line, and then your letter proved to be equally charming. Your troll is a Masked Hunter, and it really has been rolling around in drywall dust in a manner of sorts. It is also an earlier instar and doesn’t much resemble the adult Masked Hunter. The Masked Hunter, Reduvius personatus, is a species of Assassin Bug and the glossy black winged adult doesn’t look much like this immature nymph with its sticky body surface that accumulates dust, lint and sand or whatever other debris it encounters in its environment. This “coat” of debris acts to camouflage the Masked Hunter, making it an effective predator. It is also known as a Bed Bug Hunter, a name that should bring comfort to those who are unfortunate enough to have encountered those blood suckers that are increasing in numbers to epidemic proportions in many urban areas. We also offer some words of caution regarding the Masked Hunter, because this beneficial nocturnal predator is also capable of delivering a painful bite if it is carelessly handled. You can read BugGuide for additional information on the Masked Hunter. Thank you again for starting our morning off with such a fun posting. Your attitude toward the unknown creatures that share your home is refreshing.
This is so exciting!!! Thank you very much for such a fast (and super-informative) response. Biology is so cool … you can live for many years, and still find something super-new and weird that you’ve never seen before.
And yes, I’m willing to share my house with lots of things, though I do draw the line. But for the most part all the house centipedes take care of things for me (I was so happy to see that you advocate letting them roam – once I found out that they’re top predators, I decided to learn to cope with the heebie-jeebies they give me, and everyone thinks I’m nuts).
With all the junk that’s on the web, it is such a treat to find a gem like your web site. I’ll be visiting a lot.
See you again, then! And thanks!
Letter 3 – Masked Hunter
what’s this bug?
Location: thumb of Michigan
March 19, 2011 2:46 pm
I found this bug on my beige carpet. I couldn’t tell it was a bug until it moved. It is almost like a white fruity pebble. It looks like the carpet. Doesn’t appear to fly.
This positively fascinating creature is called a Masked Hunter, and it is an immature Assassin Bug. The nymphs have a sticky surface that attracts lint and dust, masking the predator by making it blend into its surroundings. Several years ago we posted a photo of a Masked Hunter that was covered in blue fibers from a carpet, and now we have your beige carpet fiber individual as well. Nymphs lack wings, but the black adults are winged and capable of flight.
So this makes me worry that we have bedbugs??? If we found this one does this mean there is more? Thanks!
If you have more Masked Hunter, that would be a good thing. They are sometimes called Masked Bedbug Hunters, but we have started using the shortened name since Bedbug paranoia is sweeping the planet. Nearly every Bedbug identification request we receive is actually a Carpet Beetle. Masked Hunters are not species specific predators.
Letter 4 – Masked Hunter
Insect with Fungus?
February 3, 2010
Is there an insect that normally looks “dusty?” Or is this fungus?
This insect was alive in December when it was found inside a house. No others were found. It was about 6 mm long. It may have been more plump before it was kept in a pill bottle for over a week.
The surface of an immature Masked Hunter is sticky and it attracts lint and dust which helps to camouflage this predator.
Letter 5 – Masked Hunter
Black Bug is South Dakota
Location: South Dakota
January 1, 2011 12:40 am
It is almost January, 30 minutes away to be exact. I am in Brookings South Dakota. This bug flew into my bathroom and surprised me. Reminded me a bit of a boxelder bug but without the red. Is it unusual to see bugs in the dead of winter?
This is a species of Assassin Bug known as a Masked Hunter, Reduvius personatus. The common name Masked Hunter refers to the ability of the immature insect to camouflage itself with dust and debris because of its sticky body surface. The debris is often accumulated in its immediate surroundings. We have one image in our archive of an immature Masked Hunter covered in turquoise fibers because the house in which it was living had a turquoise carpet. Masked Hunters are beneficial predators in the home and they are also known as Masked Bed Bug Hunters, a fact that should bring comfort to many who worry about the prevalence of media attention to the epidemic of Bed Bugs nationwide. According to BugGuide, the Masked Hunter is: “Capable of inflicting a painful bite if handled but does not feed on blood, and does not transmit disease“, so it should be handled with care.
Letter 6 – Masked Hunter
A mysterious white bug
Location: Brossard, Québec, Canada
June 18, 2011 10:00 pm
I found this intriguing bug in my house today, near the patio door.
It was approximately 1 cm long.
I tried to blow on it (in case the white stuff covering it was mere dust) but the appearance of the bug did not change at all.
Do you have any idea of what it could be?
Thank you in advance!
Signature: Marie Charbonneau
Your insect is a species of Assassin Bug known as the Masked Hunter, or sometimes a Bed Bug Hunter, Reduvius personatus. The exoskeleton of the immature Masked Hunter is sticky and attracts all manner of lint and debris, effectively camouflaging the predator in its environment. Since they prey upon a variety of insects, including Bed Bugs, they are considered beneficial insects.
Letter 7 – Masked Hunter Unmasked
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
May 9, 2011 9:10 am
I have seen this bug a few time around where I live in Toronto, Ontario. sometimes they are larger and have a sort of dust appearance, like a moth. this particular beatle like guy was in my wife’s pants leg when she put them on and bit her behind her knee. There was a chunk of skin missing with swelling, not unlike a horsefly bite. During the ensuing mayem the bug got a bit smooshed. After a few hours of curiosity research I am still not sure what it is. Can you assist? thanks!
Signature: Mike from Toronto
We believe based on your photos and your written description that this is an immature Masked Hunter, Reduvius personatus, a species of Assassin Bug. You can compare your individual to these images posted to BugGuide. The common name Masked Hunter is a reference to the dusty appearance of the immature insects. They have a sticky exoskeleton that attracts lint and dust, which creates a camouflage, effectively masking the appearance of the insect. Your individual is immature as evidenced by the underdeveloped wing pads. It is possible that this is a newly metamorphosed individual that has still not attracted any dust or lint to its new exoskeleton. Masked Hunters are predators, and they are reported to be very effective against Bed Bugs. They do not prey on humans or other warm blooded prey, but if they are carelessly handled or if they are caught in a person’s clothing, the result might be a painful bite like the one experienced by your wife. Though they might bite, Masked Hunters are considered beneficial and they are not dangerous.
well alright! that bug has a pretty badass name, Masked hunter indeed.
Nice to know about another insect that doesn’t have a bad rap with us.
thanks again for your kind attention!
Letter 8 – Masked Hunter
Subject: Mummified spider that is alive
August 6, 2016 4:27 am
I unrolled my toilet paper and found a white still spider that looked like it was mumified. However when my husband went to see it began to move. Is this a local bug or has it been living in my toilet paper since the production plant?
Signature: Please help
This is not a mummified Spider. It is a living predator. Many of our submissions of Masked Hunters come from Ontario, so it is safe to say this is a local bug, though it was originally introduced from Europe. Masked Hunters are predators that will help rid your home of unwanted critters like Bed Bugs and Cockroaches. The immature Masked Hunter is sticky, and all manner of lint and debris adhere to the Masked Hunter, effectively camouflaging it in its environment.
Letter 9 – Adult Masked Hunter
beetle? in Minnesota…sorry
These bugs seem to come out of nowhere. I’ve tried to i.d. them without adding to your long list of requests, but no luck. Thanks so much for this great website. It’s terrific.
Morgan in Minnesota
This is not a beetle. It is an Assassin Bug known as the Masked Hunter, Reduvius personatus. The immature insects are sticky and attract lint, masking them from potential enemies. Masked Hunters are predators and one of their favorite foods are Bed Bugs, making Masked Hunters welcome additions in the home. According to BugGuide: “Adults can inflict a painful bite if mishandled. Individuals may occasionally enter homes in search of invertebrate prey but they have no interest in humans, do not feed on blood, and do not transmit any diseases.”
Letter 10 – Masked Hunter
what’s this bug?
First of all, We love your great web site! It is always one of the first listed when I google search for bugs with my daycare kids. You have gave us lots of great information in the past about spiders, beetles and most recently the praying mantis. We had one living on a scarlet runner bean plant right outside our back door and directly under the porch light (lots of dinner) for 5 weeks before it disappeared. This is the first time I’m emailed you with a question. I found this interesting alien-like fellow in the bottom of my pantry when I cleaned it this afternoon. I had discovered an old zip bag of walnuts that had small weevils in it (just the little tiny dark ones that often pop out in old bags of flour). I pulled everything out (nothing else appeared infested thank goodness) and this guy was jitterly trying to hide under everything I pulled out of the pantry. He is very frightened acting and seems very harmless, doesn’t seem to be able to fly or jump. He appears to be covered in flour or some other white hairy looking substance, but I didn’t have any flour spilled in the cupboard at all. I assume he is some type of panty weevil, but what??? I’ve never seen anything like it and have no idea what to do with it. I think the kids will all be very interested after they get up from their naps and get home from school to see it. If you could give me more information I would be thrilled!
Thanks so much!
We love hearing that people use the site for research instead of just sending in a photo. Most everything we get asked about has already been posted. This is a Masked Hunter, Reduvius personatus, one of the Assassin Bugs. It was probably feasting on the grain weevils before being displaced from its home. They also hunt Bedbugs.
Letter 11 – Adult Masked Hunter
I have found this critter on three occasions and I cannot identify it from my search on the net. The first was found in the bathroom and he was promptly disposed of mainly because he landed on my leg. The second was found again in the bathroom, but this one was on the floor and very slow moving. He was held for interrogation but I couldn’t get anything out of him. The third (pictured) was found about a week later in the basement, but he was already dead. None have been found since (approx 2 weeks). My pictures are not great, but from a rough description he has wings, short antennae, a snout, and 3/4" long. From my search I thought maybe he was a wood boring beetle, which concerns me as I have a fairly old house that I only moved into a few months back. However if he’s not a wood borer then I’m also concerned as I’d like to know if they’ve come from outside or in… Located in Southern Ontario, Canada.
We just heard from Eric Eaton who corrected us on this one. It “is actually an adult masked hunter, Reduvius personatus, which hunts bedbugs, not humans, thank God:-)” Bugs from this group are also known as masked hunters because they are sticky and often accumulate dust, as your specimen demonstrates.
Letter 12 – Masked Hunter
Can you identify this?
Hi – can you help?
Over the last few years we’ve found three or four of these in our home. As it’s an old house (about 300 years old) I’m a bit worried that they might might be doing damage to hidden woodwork, but I don’t want to harm them if possible. They don’t seem to have any wings, and mostly they don’t move although they can shift fast when they need to. They have flattened concave bodies and flattened limbs, and they almost look as though they’re covered in dust. I’ve tried to identify them from keys and from pictures, including those on your wonderful site, but I haven’t got anywhere.
This is a species of Assassin Bug known as a Masked Bedbug Hunter, Reduvius personatus. The immature insects have a sticky surface that collects dust and lint, masking them.
Letter 13 – Masked Hunter
This just in…. not. We found this character on the side of a house in NE Pennsylvania in August of 2000, in the days before we figured out how to focus the camera we had at the time. Never saw another like it. For years we’ve just looked back at the photo and laughed — what could it be? Why did it seem lichen-encrusted? Now, of course, there’s your extraordinary website, so we’re hoping for an ID. Whaddayasay?
Jim & Sandy
bizarroid found on your site
Never mind this one. Found it on your site — a Masked Bedbug Hunter if I’ve ever seen one.
Hi again Jim and Sandy,
How nice to see you don’t take all of your great photos in Puerto Rico. Also very happy you successfully identified your Masked Bedbug Hunter on our site.
Letter 14 – BUG OF THE MONTH MARCH 2009: Masked Hunter
Little fat dirty bug
Sat, Feb 28, 2009 at 1:30 PM
I found this on my front porch. It was skittish, sluggish runner, but not exactly slow. I have seen one other of these, and they cover themselves with dirt, sand, and look moldy & or dirty!
It’s new to me, I don’t even know what category to look under, it’s not a beetle, has no wings, etc. I am very interested in knowing what it is!
This is an immature Masked Hunter, Reduvius personatus. It is interesting that you mention the insect being fat because if does look fatter than most specimens we receive, however it is a very close match to one image posted to BugGuide. We are not used to seeing them covered in sand as most specimens sent to us for identification are found indoors and they are covered in lint. According to BugGuide: “Nymphs cover themselves with dust, lint, sand, and other debris – which usually matches the color of their immediate surroundings and makes the nymphs difficult to detect” and “the sticky body surface of the nymph accumulates a coating of dust, lint, sand, etcetera, which masks the presence of the predatory nymph .” Masked Hunters feed on a variety of insects. They are Assassin Bugs and will inflict a painful bite if mishandled, but they are not aggressive. We are happy to inform you that your letter and photo will be featured all month as our Bug of the Month for March 2009.
Letter 15 – Exuvia of a Cicada
Subject: What is this
Location: Florida orlando
August 19, 2016 3:32 pm
Found it in Orlando
Signature: K webb
Dear K Webb,
This is the exuvia or cast off exoskeleton of a Masked Hunter. All insects molt or shed their skins, and the remains are called the exuvia. The Masked Hunter is a predatory Assassin Bug often found in homes. The immature Masked Hunter has a sticky exoskeleton that attracts dust and debris, very effectively masking it in its surrounding. When it molts, the Masked Hunter leaves behind its exuvia, and it is naked until more dust and debris sticks to it. Though they may bite if carelessly handled, Masked Hunters are harmless.
Update: Cicada Exuvia
Thanks to the readers who wrote in. We retract our original identification. We should look more closely in the future. Our eyes were playing tricks on us.