Monday, November 11, 2013

Creature Feature #27: Assassin Bug

The Assassin Bugs include nine separate genera of predatory insects, all a part of the larger Family, Reduviidae. I am not sure precisely what species I have illustrated for you. Anyhow, these hunters use a variety of techniques to capture their prey - including lie-and-wait ambushing, camouflaging itself with dust or other particles; hunting spiders by plucking the strings of their web, pretending to be prey, to lure the arachnid out before grabbing it; others drink the blood of mammals; some will cover their legs in resin to attract bees. They are sneaky and devious hunters.

Once they have their invertebrate prey within their grasp (some species have specially modified forelegs for strong grasping, like those of a praying mantis), it is injected with an enzyme that paralyzes it and liquifies its internal organs, turning them to mush (yuck). The assassin bug then sucks out the juicy innards. The "beak" of the assassin bug is in several parts - the piercing mouthpart that injects the venom and a sort of "straw" that is then inserted - presumerably in the hole already bored - to suck out the insides.

 But the depredations of this little insect do not end there - some species, in Malaysia, decorate their carapace with the hard outer shells of their drained prey, creating an extra exoskeleton armour. Different species hunt different prey and they are of interest to humans for the role they can play in biological control.

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