Ambush Bug (Phymata spp)
Detailing the identifying qualities of the Ambush Bug, including physical features and territorial reach.
Updated: 1/30/2018; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
Ambush Bugs truly live up to their name, waiting patiently for unsuspecting insects to get just close enough to become lunch.
Perfectly camouflaged on sunflowers, and decently so among other blooms, Ambush Bugs are efficient insect predators. They are members of the Assassin Bug family and they are not picky eaters. Any insect that gets too close to an Ambush Bug is quickly grabbed with its strong front legs and held. A sharp beak is jabbed into the victim and its insides are sucked out. This insect can be helpful in protecting the plant from sap-sucking insects, but its non-discriminatory nature may result in the loss of some friendly pollinators as well. Ambush Bugs are known to take on insects much larger than themselves... and win.They can sit still for hours while waiting for a meal to approach.
Ambush bugs can vary slightly in color. Some are golden yellow and brown, while others are more green. The sides of the body are raised and the pronotum (shoulder plate) looks rigid and bumpy. Males are physically smaller than females and can often be seen riding on their mate's back (an example is shown in the photo gallery). Females will lay bunches of fertilized eggs on plant stems and cover them in a frothy coating, which may offer protection from desiccation as well as predation.
Look for Ambush Bugs in the center or perimeter of yellow flowers like Black-Eyed Susans and sunflowers. White daisies and colorful asters are also popular blossoms for this insect. They don't mind urban gardens, suburban backyards or meadows; any area with flowers and insects is a good place to search for them.