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 ©www.InsectIdentification.org
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.