Where Do Assassin Bugs Live? Their Habitat Revealed

Assassin bugs can bite humans, so it is important to understand what these bugs are all about. For example, where do assassin bugs live? What do they eat? Let’s find out the answers to these questions below.

The assassin bug is one of those garden pests that you wouldn’t want indoors at any cost. These bugs can be a menace and a gardener’s friend at the same time.

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While these beneficial insects help keep gardens free of aphids and other pests, some of them are notorious for biting humans, and one in particular (the kissing bug) on the face!

Read on to learn how and where you can find these insects in and around your home.

Where Do Assassin Bugs Live
Common Assassin Bug

 

What are They?

The assassin bug earns its name from its unique hunting technique – it preys on garden pests by stabbing them with its beak. There are over 7,000 species of assassin bugs.

Wheel bugs, kissing bugs, and milkweed assassins are among the common assassin bugs you will find in North America.

You can easily identify an assassin bug thanks to its unique appearance. These insects have dark gray or tan bodies with spiky bumps on their backs.

Depending on the species, the bug may also have a longer bump under its abdomen and red dots on the sides.

Some assassin bug species are more colorful, which helps them camouflage. When fully grown, most assassin bugs are between 0.5 to 0.75 inches long. They have a shield-shaped body and a curved straw-like proboscis.

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Where Do They Live?

Although assassin bugs weren’t as common in North America earlier, you can now find plenty of them in the southern two-thirds of the country.

As with many other species, global warming has forced assassin bugs to spread to what were earlier colder regions.

These bugs are particularly abundant in Texas, Arizona, California, and New Mexico. Besides the US, you can also find them in South America and Latin America.

It’s hard to pinpoint a particular assassin bug habitat, for these predatory insects can thrive in a variety of environments. These range from dense forests and mountains to homes and chicken coops!

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As long as you live in one of the regions where these bugs are found, you can never rule out the chance of one of them ending up in your mattress.

Assassin Bug

 

Do They Bite?

It’s mostly the painful bites of the assassin bug that make this otherwise beneficial insect an unpleasant guest.

Some assassin bugs, like the kissing bug, bite humans and other vertebrae to suck blood using their proboscis.

They bite repeatedly and usually target areas around the eyes or the lips. However, you should note that most species of assassin bugs usually don’t bite humans.

Besides being painful, the bite of an assassin bug can give rise to symptoms like hives, breathing difficulties, swelling, etc., if you are allergic.

If you find an assassin bug in your home, you should handle it carefully to avoid getting bitten.

Do They Spread Disease?

Yes, and this is yet another reason why you should stay clear of assassin bugs and keep them out of your home.

Apart from the symptoms caused by its bite, the kissing bug is a spreader of the Chagas disease to humans.

The virus that causes this disease hides in the fecal matter of these bugs. It is a potentially life-threatening parasitic disease with symptoms like body aches, fever, headache, and fatigue.

What makes it worse is the fact that we don’t have a cure or vaccine for Chagas disease yet – you will have to live with it once infected.

Assassin Bug

 

Are They Poisonous?

Yes, assassin bugs produce two different venoms, each of which contains more than 100 different toxins. It uses one of these venoms while hunting and feeding.

Like the venom of many other predatory insects, it paralyzes the prey and liquefies its insides. The bug uses another venom to defend itself from predators.

However, this venom is not potent enough to affect humans if you get bitten, so you don’t have to be worried about that.

Are They Beneficial?

Despite their tendency to bite humans, assassin bugs are beneficial insects that can help keep your garden free of pests.

They are a generalist predator species that hunt a vast range of insects for feeding, including larvae and nymphs of leaf beetles, true bugs and sawflies, and caterpillars.

Assassin bugs are indiscriminate eaters, so they also end up eating other beneficial bugs, which is counterproductive.

If you have a garden, keeping some assassin bugs there might be a good idea, but don’t let their population grow too large.

If you find one or two assassin bugs in your home, just capture them and release them out in your garden.

Do They Fly?

Yes, assassin bugs are winged insects capable of flying. However, most assassin bug species are rather bad fliers.

The bee assassin bug is an exception to this and is quite good at flying. This bug happens to be a particularly successful predator, thanks to the sticky hairs on its front legs, which help it grab its prey better.

Where Do Assassin Bugs Live? Explained

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Where do assassin bugs like to live?

Assassin bugs are hardy insects capable of thriving even in harsh environments. However, they are more predominant in tropical regions.

Indoors, they love to stay in cold and dark places during the day. Some bugs, like the kissing bug, find mattresses and bed linens to be a perfect hideout.

What are assassin bugs attracted to?

Various flowers like marigolds, tansy, and dill tend to attract assassin bugs. This is something you can utilize to draw assassin bugs to your garden.

These bugs are also drawn to bright lights in houses at night, which is how they end up indoors.

How do you repel assassin bugs?

Seal up cracks and crevices to deny the bugs entry points. You can also install screens over your doors and windows and use bug-free light bulbs at home.

Synthetic pyrethroid sprays are effective at repelling assassin bugs, but using pesticides indoors might be unsafe.

What eats an assassin bug?

While the assassin bug is a powerful and skilled predator, there’s no dearth of predators that prey on assassin bugs either.

Praying mantises, rodents, spiders, and birds are some of them. Assassin bug nymphs often get eaten up by the larger assassin bugs too.

Wrapping up

If you live in American states such as Texas, California or Arizona, you have a good chance of finding a spined assassin bug on your property. If it’s in your home, carefully remove it and put it out in your garden.

Both wingless nymphs and full-grown assassin bugs are beneficial insects, so you can use both of them in your garden to control other pests.

However, make sure not to let their population grow too much. Thank you for reading!

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.

    View all posts
  • 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.

    View all posts

98 thoughts on “Where Do Assassin Bugs Live? Their Habitat Revealed”

  1. Unnecessary? Now that’s being a bit harsh isn’t it? 😉 I don’t like to kill unnecessarily (my housemate thinks I’m nuts when I scoop up scorpions and release them into the garden) but if I was getting bitten by something that felt like a wasp, I think I’d do just about anything to be rid of it! Perhaps an “2nd-degree bugslaughter” subcategory? 😀 I love your site!

    Reply
  2. Wow, I can’t believe someone from my home town sent in a pic and it was posted! Small world!
    The assassin bug is awesome, is it from the family Reduviidae? I don’t see the ‘wheel’ on the back as in other assassin bugs or would this be a nymph?

    Reply
  3. I agree. I try to be tolerant, but if I were being stung or bitten it would be an immediate reaction to end the stinging/biting and prevent future attack. I vote for second degree bug slaughter in self defense.

    Reply
  4. Hello,

    This image holds high scientific value and I would like to discuss this with you, as well as copyrights. If you could please contact me at mfort001@ucr.edu, I will provide you with more details.

    Best regards,
    Michael Forthman

    Reply
    • Hi Michael,
      Thanks for your interest. The copyright for this image remains with the photographer, Arend van de Wetering, though What’s That Bug? reserves the right to publish it on our website and other What’s That Bug? authorized publications. We are no longer in contact with Mr. van de Wetering, though we can try to search our archives for contact information. Please provide details.

      Reply
  5. Hello, because this is part of an ongoing scientific research project, I cannot disclose details over a public forum. Please contact me at the e-mail provided for details.

    Reply
  6. Thanks a lot for the info! And within the day!

    The head and feeding tube are strikingly similar to other assassin bug pictures. I can’t seem to match it with one of the different subfamilies since as you’ve said it’s probably an immature specimen.

    Thanks again for the great website and service!

    Reply
  7. Looks like Ectomocoris patricius, although not certain on species. This is one of the corsairs in the Peiratinae, a ground hunter, so it would NOT be considered one of the bee assassins.

    Reply
  8. This is a Zelus nymph. More common is Z. luridus but this looks a little odd, and it could be Z. cervicalis. Probably NOT Z. tetracanthus.

    Reply
  9. 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
  10. This is indeed a species of Stenolemus, and there are about a half-dozen species in Australia and a few more in New Guinea. I believe that S. bituberus and S. bispinosus are two of the more common species in the region.

    Reply
  11. Ooohh! I might be able to do more with this later. This is an assassin bug nymph in the subfamily Harpactorinae. The eyes nearer to the apex of the head remind me of Vesbius, but I think there are a few genera with similar head morphology. The slightly nodulose legs also might be important, but with nymphs, not all structures remain through to adulthood.

    Reply
  12. The habitus, particularly the eyes near the front of the head, does instantly suggest Vesbius, and I have no real reason to doubt the species ID since it is probably a comparatively common species in the region.

    Reply
  13. Certainly a species of Ectomocoris, although there may be several that look like this. I think E. patricius is a better match.

    Reply
  14. I’m leaning toward (and pretty sure) this is Zelus renardii, but there is a small possibility that it is Z. luridus.

    Reply
  15. This is a species of Heza. Probably will not get a species on this one as there are about 10 species with sharp spines on the anterior pronotal lobe. Would need a cleaner look at the connexival spines to make more headway.

    Reply
  16. Does look like a Zelus nymph. One species, Z. renardii, is established in Hawaii, but this doesn’t look quite right. Species in Indiana are Z. luridus and Z. tetracanthus, and I’d guess your nymph is probably the latter species.

    Reply
  17. This is a species of Stenopoda (Stenopodainae). A widespread species known from the Caribbean, Stenopoda cinerea, is probably the identity of this assassin.

    Reply
  18. Sorry, this isn’t an assassin bug. It’s a damsel bug (Nabidae), but I forget how the European species break down, genera-wise. Nabidae has a very convoluted taxonomic history.

    Reply
  19. Ok. I just came across a BLACK one that’s currently in my vacuum. My daughter was on her top bunk & came & got me. I’m glad she saw it, even in the dark!!!
    I’ve lived in Oahu, Hawaii going on 5 yrs now & I’ve NEVER seen this!!! Don’t think I ever want to again!!! Gross. But thanks for the post & identifying.

    Reply
  20. Ok. I just came across a BLACK one that’s currently in my vacuum. My daughter was on her top bunk & came & got me. I’m glad she saw it, even in the dark!!!
    I’ve lived in Oahu, Hawaii going on 5 yrs now & I’ve NEVER seen this!!! Don’t think I ever want to again!!! Gross. But thanks for the post & identifying.

    Reply
    • Your black Assassin Bug might have been an adult Masked Hunter, a species that is often found in homes. It is sometimes called a Masked Bed Bug Hunter, and since it can prey on the noxious Bed Bugs, it should be considered a beneficial species that might bite a human if it is carelessly handled or accidentally encountered.

      Reply
  21. I was just about to suggest Haematoloecha rubescens, having found one in Hilo, HI about ten years ago. I submitted that specimen to the Bishop Museum. The Hawaiian Terrestrial Arthropod Checklist only lists this species as being adventive on Oahu, but the most recent edition is 2002, I believe. Clearly it has spread out since the last surveys to at least the Big Island and Kauai. That’s too bad that it has infiltrated Alaka`i.

    Reply
  22. We have had black assassins bugs attack my husband several times in our home. Each time brought on Anaphylactic reactions which nearly killed him. Last night I spotted one on the ceiling – what a perfect location for it to wait for my husband to sit on the sofa and attack! He is fair skinned which perhaps makes him easy to spot. Does anyone know how to trap them?

    Reply
    • We have gotten several reports of people being bitten by Sycamore Assassin Bugs, and though the bite is reported to be somewhat painful, to the best of our knowledge, it is not considered dangerous.

      Reply
  23. Pls i need some help i think that insect bite me last night and I experience difficulty in breathing i also have some rashes. What should i do?

    Reply
  24. Silly folks, killing the insect that bit you is unnecessary because the insect that bit you was almost certainly doing so in an effort to save its own life. If you truly care about all life—large and small—take the bite/sting you likely deserve for being ignorant and let the little ones go. It’s not like killing them let’s them know they did something they shouldn’t have. If you can’t understand that, you’re not as tolerant as you think you are. Just because you get a little sting that goes away doesn’t mean killing the thing that bit you is justified.

    Hell, even if you get your leg bitten off by a shark, it’s your own fault for being in its domain—to kill the shark would be pointless, as it’s only doing exactly what it was designed to do: swim and eat.

    Reply
  25. Silly folks, killing the insect that bit you is unnecessary because the insect that bit you was almost certainly doing so in an effort to save its own life. If you truly care about all life—large and small—take the bite/sting you likely deserve for being ignorant and let the little ones go. It’s not like killing them let’s them know they did something they shouldn’t have. If you can’t understand that, you’re not as tolerant as you think you are. Just because you get a little sting that goes away doesn’t mean killing the thing that bit you is justified.

    Hell, even if you get your leg bitten off by a shark, it’s your own fault for being in its domain—to kill the shark would be pointless, as it’s only doing exactly what it was designed to do: swim and eat.

    Reply
  26. Bugman.
    I recently photographed the millipede assassins eating a millipede. I also made a video of it. I do not want to bug you with information if you are not interested.

    Lollie Venter
    Dordrecht
    Eastern Cape
    South Africa

    Reply
  27. Bugman.
    I recently photographed the millipede assassins eating a millipede. I also made a video of it. I do not want to bug you with information if you are not interested.

    Lollie Venter
    Dordrecht
    Eastern Cape
    South Africa

    Reply
  28. I was bitten on the leg by one of these Common Assassin bugs 4 days ago and it has turned out to be the worst bite I have ever had in my 59 years, followed by 9 wasps on the stomach and then a jumping ant on the knee. The bite area of 50mm is very firm and blistering with constant throbbing turning into an intense itching. Keep children away from them. Regards Bernie.

    Reply
  29. We over winter in Ocala, Florida, today we found several Milkweed
    Assassin Bug Nymph on our bushes in the front yard just off the patio. How do we get rid of them?. the stems are turning black as are the leaves while the underside of the leaves have white spots in them.

    Reply
  30. i think its not assasin bug , i have came across this ant like bug since my childhood. and moreover if u inspect closely you will notice that its mouth is like that of mosquito/butterfly which is elongated tube

    Reply
    • This is a matter of semantics. All Assassin Bugs do not spread Chagas. Some Assassin Bugs in the subfamily Triatominae are vectors for the disease.

      Reply
  31. Are these philippine assassin bugs dangerous because i’m scared. I just researched about the diseases they carry and i’m afraid of it. Please respond quickly because i’m terrified to death right now.

    Reply
  32. I was bitten 3 times while sleeping. These bites were over a 9-month period in Washington County, MD. The bites or stings were very painful. What was unusual was that each time I was bitten there were precisely three bites in a diagonal formation! I couldn’t stop the pain, itching & swelling until I put a wet bag of black tea on the bite. It turned from red to purple and wrinkled up, stopped spreading. When I got the second bite months later, the red scar of the first bite (both on my back) became irritated, came back and started itching as if I still had bacteria. The third bite was again while sleeping and under my left eye. The precise arrangements of the lumps reminded me of a wasp injecting me with eggs. I never saw what bit me — do you know What this could be? I’m going to the skin doc 4/30/19 as I still have swelling under & to the left side of my left eye & the remnants of the 3 bites.

    Reply
  33. Ive recently found these in my home too… and im looking for answers too as im reading about assassin bugs and Im worried cos i have an elderly pet dog and an 8 year old son. and it concerns me as its a bright coloured insect and looks poisonous to me.

    Reply
  34. One of these beautiful bugs landed on my hand when I was gardening the other day in UpCountry Maui. Got a couple really good pictures. I do have a question are they poisonous

    Reply
    • To the best of our knowledge, they are not dangerous, though many Assassin Bugs are capable of delivering a painful bite.

      Reply
  35. Bugman

    i curious to know what eats the millipede assasin bug ?
    i have recently found many millipedes being devoured by the assasin bug babies. They are especially visible on the paving after a rain storm.
    I live in Gauteng. I have never such an aggressive bug before.

    thank you
    Elizabeth R

    Reply
  36. Bugman

    i curious to know what eats the millipede assasin bug ?
    i have recently found many millipedes being devoured by the assasin bug babies. They are especially visible on the paving after a rain storm.
    I live in Gauteng. I have never such an aggressive bug before.

    thank you
    Elizabeth R

    Reply
  37. I just saw one at Volcanoes National Park (hiking at Pu’u Hulu Hulu). It illuminated a red color and I thought that it was a Firefly of some type. I took a picture I’d like to share for confirmation…

    Reply
  38. I’ve been studying the communal habits of Harpactorinae assassins in Kentucky (USA) I’ve seen evidence of them living together and even sharing meals at immature stages into 4th and 5th instar. Zelus longipes, Arilus cristatus only seem to do this in immature stages in the wild, however they seem to thrive in controlled conditions in groups throughout their entire life cycle.(I’m raising a 2nd captive bread generation of both right now, documenting the life cycle.) Pselliopus barberi, Pselliopus cinctus are solitary as nymphs, but will gather as adults to hibernate behind pine bark during the winter, they also mate in big clusters which I have observed once and too can be kept communally at around 3rd instar. Sinea diadema is one of the few I’ve observed who have to be kept individually. That’s just Harpactorinae, it seems like Reduviinae are even more tolerant of communal living, seen some others in an Assassin bug group on facebook posting pictures of groups of corsairs together under the same bark, then of course the Platymeris. sp. I’ve not been able to find any information online explaining this behaviour, I’ve tried asking the EKU Entomology department, but they couldn’t find anymore than I could. I’d love to know more about their social behaviour. I understand in China assassins from the genus sycanus are found together throughout different life stages. It must be far more common than people realize. Same is true of Ambush bugs, communal in captivity, mate in large groups in the wild. If anyone knows of any research info documenting some of these things, I’d love to see it. I have so many questions, haha.

    Reply
  39. Hi there are lots of red orange insects with two black dots on their flat abdomen with feelers and the colony are sucking our kalamansi fruits. I wonder what are they.

    Reply
    • Those sound like Orange Okra bugs. Google that and I’m sure you’ll find images that look like the bugs you describe, especially the two black spots on their back.

      Reply
  40. I have just encountered what this site has identified as the immature Australian assassin big here in Yorktown Virginia

    Reply

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