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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 ¬©

  Ambush Bug  
Picture of Ambush-Bug

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.

Picture of the Ambush Bug
Picture of the Ambush Bug

Ambush Bug Information

Category: True Bug
Common Name: Ambush Bug
Scientific Name: Phymata spp

Taxonomy Hierarchy

 Arrow graphic Kingdom: Animalia
  Arrow graphic Phylum: Arthropoda
   Arrow graphic Class: Insecta
    Arrow graphic Order: Hemiptera
     Arrow graphic Family: Reduviidae
      Arrow graphic Genus: Phymata
       Arrow graphic Species: spp

Size, Identifying Tags and Territorial Reach

Size (Adult, Length): Size (Adult, Length): 8 mm to 10 mm (0.312 inches to 0.39 inches)
Identifying Colors: yellow, brown, green
Additional Descriptors: spotted, flower, flying, helpful, flared, raised, sides, banded, bumpy

North American Territorial 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

A Note About Territorial Reach: Keep in mind that an insect's reach is not limited by lines drawn on a map and therefore species may appear in areas, regions and/or states beyond those listed above. Insects are driven by environmental factors, food supplies and mating patterns and do not nescessarily work within hard-and-fast territorial lines like we humans do.

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