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Assassin Bug (Pselliopus spp.)

Detailing the identifying qualities of the Assassin Bug, including physical features and territorial reach.

 Updated: 2/2/2018; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©

  Assassin Bug  
Picture of Assassin-Bug

Rough handling can invite an intense and unforgettably painful 'bite' from the powerful fang of an Assassin Bug juvenile or adult.

The strong beak found on Assassin bugs is used to repeatedly, and violently, stab its prey to death, hence the name 'assassin'. This insect can also inflict terribly painful bites on careless humans and may be best left observed and not handled. The long, pointy 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. Assassin Bugs move quickly and nimbly, surprising their victims. 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 body fluids are subsequently sucked out.

Adults have narrow heads and wider abdomens. Many are black with red or orange markings on them though some are brown. The sides of the abdomen are flared upward and may have a checkered pattern on them. A long fang hides under the head. Nymphs (juveniles) are smaller, though somewhat similar in appearance. They also tend to have abdomens that rise upward at the sides. They may lift the tip of the abdomen in the air when walking or resting, like their 'butt' is in the air. This posture mimics certain types of stinging insects when they are under threat and may be a defensive warning. The irony is that the real danger from Assassin Bugs originates at this insect's front end.

Most of North America is home to some type of Assassin Bug. The Wheel Bug is a commonly seen member of the Assassin Bug family. Its red and black nymphs are often sighted crawling in large groups on branches during spring and summer. Because of their diet, they are a helpful aid in controlling unwanted insect populations in a garden.

Picture of the Assassin Bug
Picture of the Assassin Bug

Assassin Bug Information

Category: True Bug
Common Name: Assassin Bug
Scientific Name: Pselliopus 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: Pselliopus
       Arrow graphic Species: spp.

Size, Identifying Tags and Territorial Reach

Size (Adult, Length): Size (Adult, Length): 12 mm to 13 mm (0.468 inches to 0.507 inches)
Identifying Colors: red; orange; black; white; gray
Additional Descriptors: mouth, stripes, long legs, fang, harmful, biting, stinging

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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