Insect Identification
Insect Identification

Assassin Bug - (Pselliopus barberi)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 5/13/2015

The wicked 'bite' of any Assassin Bug, juvenile or adult, is said to be extremely painful to humans.

The strong beak found on Assassin bugs is used to repeatedly, and violently, stab its prey to death, hence the name 'assassin'. This insect will also inflict terribly painful bites to careless humans and is best left observed, but not handled.

The beak is kept tucked under the head when not in use and makes noise when moved back-and-forth. They do not feed on plants, but they hunt on them. They can be found on shrubs, ground cover and garden plants as they search for insect prey. Once a prey item is caught, Assassin bugs use their powerful front legs to hold the insect down while it is stabbed to death and its body fluids are sucked out.

Nymphs (juveniles) are somewhat different in appearance and tend to have abdomens that curl upward at the sides. This gives them the appearance of having their 'butt' in the air like a stinging insect under threat would look. The irony is that the real danger and pain is inflicted from this insect's front end.

This particular species has a range that spans from Texas to the Atlantic coast, however, most of North America is home to some type of Assassin Bug. The Wheel Bug is a specific member of the Assassin Bug family. Its red and black nymphs are commonly sighted across the continent.

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Category: True Bug
Common name: Assassin Bug
Scientific Name: Pselliopus barberi

  Kingdom: Animalia
   Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
     Order: Hemiptera
      Family: Reduviidae
       Genus: Pselliopus
        Species: barberi

Adult Size (Length): 12mm to 13mm (0.47in to 0.51in)

Identifying Colors: red; orange; black; white; gray

Additional Descriptors: mouth, stripes, long legs, fang, harmful, biting, stinging

North American Reach (Though Not Limited To*): Alabama; Alaska; Arizona; Arkansas; California; Colorado; Connecticut; Delaware; Florida; Georgia; Hawaii; Idaho; Illinois; Indiana; Iowa; Kansas; Kentucky; Louisiana; Maine; Maryland; Massachusetts; Michigan; Minnesota; Mississippi; Missouri; Montana; Nebraska; Nevada; New Hampshire; New Jersey; New Mexico; New York; North Carolina; North Dakota; Ohio; Oklahoma; Oregon; Pennsylvania; Rhode Island; South Carolina; South Dakota; Tennessee; Texas; Utah; Vermont; Virginia; Washington; West Virginia; Wisconsin; Wyoming; Alberta; British Columbia; Manitoba; New Brunswick; Newfoundland and Labrador; Nova Scotia; Ontario; Prince Edward Island; Quebec; Saskatchewan; Mexico

* Keep in mind that insect reach is not governed by lines on a map and therefore may appear in areas/regions/states beyond those listed above.