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Ambush Bug (Phymata spp)


Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Ambush Bug



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Image Credit: Manon D. from Quebec, Canada
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Image Credit: Manzeal Khanal, taken in Uvalde, TX
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Image Credit: Alex -icycatelf- Bowen
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Image Credit: Loretta P. from Troy, ME
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Image Credit: Manon D. from Quebec, Canada
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Image Credit: Carolyn J.
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Image Credit: Alex -icycatelf- Bowen
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Image Credit: John O. from AR
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Image Credit: Dflyer
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Image Credit: Manon D. from Quebec, Canada
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Image Credit: Dflyer
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Image Credit: Courtney S. from Vermillion, SD
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Image Credit: Manon D. from Quebec, Canada
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Image Credit: Loretta P. from Troy, ME
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Ambush Bugs truly live up to their name, waiting patiently for unsuspecting insects to get just close enough to become lunch.



Updated: 01/26/2021; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
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.




General Characteristics
Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Flying insect icon
Helpful insect icon
Patterned insect icon
Striped or banded insect icon


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Taxonomic Hierarchy
Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Hemiptera
        Family: Reduviidae
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          Genus: Phymata
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            Species: spp
Identifying Information
Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Phymata spp
Category: True Bug
Size (Adult; Length): 8mm to 10mm (0.31" to 0.39")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: yellow, brown, green
Descriptors: spotted, flower, flying, helpful, flared, raised, sides, banded, bumpy
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Relative Size Comparison
Typical Size Between 8mm (0.3in) and 10mm (0.4in)
Lo: 8mm
Md: 9mm
Hi: 10mm
Territorial Map*
U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Canadian territory of Alberta graphic
Canadian territory of British Columbia graphic
Canadian territory of Manitoba graphic
Canadian territory of New Brunswick graphic
Canadian territory of Newfoundland and Labrador graphic
Canadian territory of Ontario graphic
Canadian territory of Quebec graphic
Canadian territory of Saskatchewan graphic
Territory map graphic of the country of Mexico
Contiguous United States shape map layer graphic
Alaska  
Hawaii  
Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Ambush Bug may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Ambush Bug. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.

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