Facts about assassin bugs

Assassin bug facts

  • Assassin bugs lie in ambush for their insect prey. They then inject their victim with a lethal toxin
  • Assassin bugs feed by external digestion, which means that they push their beak into their victims body and inject a very toxic, or poisonous, liquid that affects the nerves and liquifies the muscles and tissues of their prey. Most other insects that eat like this have two tubes in their beak; one for injecting the fluid and one for sucking in their food. But assassin bugs have only one large tube that does both jobs. This larger tube allows them to inject a larger amount of the toxic digestive fluid so that prey many times their size can be quickly overcome. Once the insides of the prey are turned into a liquid, the assassin bug uses its rostrum to suck out the liquefied tissues in much the same way we use a straw to drink a milkshake!
  • Assassin bugs get their name because of the speed that they have to grab and poison their prey. They are carnivorous and use their powerful, jack-knife forelegs to grab their prey. They have sticky pads on these front legs, made up of thousands of tiny hairs, that stick to their victims and keep them from getting away. Some assassin bugs actively hunt their prey, while others patiently wait until their prey comes close enough to grab.
  • The toxic saliva of some assassin bugs can cause temporary blindness
  • The saliva of the assassin bug starts to work almost immediately. Cockroaches have been seen to die in only 3 or 4 seconds, and caterpillars more than 400 times their weight can die in only 10 seconds! A feast this size can last for days or even weeks.
  • Not all assasin bugs feed on insects and other invertebrates. Some tropical species attack mammals, birds, and reptiles and actually suck their blood!
  • Assassin bugs probably have the most painful bites caused by insects. Some South American species of assassin bugs also transmit a parasite to man that causes Chagas disease, often leading to heart failure.

  • Assassin bugs, sometimes known as conenoses or “kissing bugs,” are occasionally found in the home (bathtubs, sinks, drains, etc.) and, if handled carelessly, can inflict a very painful bite, causing a severe reaction in some persons. Some are attracted to lights and require blood meals to complete their development. Many are bloodsucking parasites of mammals, including humans. Others are predators, feeding on bed bugs, flies, caterpillars and other insects.

(Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet)

  • Kissing bugs   (hmm, I’ve never tried, but there’s nowt so queer as folk)

Kissing bugs can be the source of nocturnal dermatologic wounds in the mid to southern latitudes in the United States. (serve them right, I say). The insects are obligate blood feeders and though the bites may be asymptomatic, a variety of dermatologic eruptions or death from anaphylaxis can result. The various dermatologic forms of the bite can be mistaken for herpes zoster, erythema multiforme and the ubiquitous catch-all diagnoses of “spider-bite.”

see article by Rick Vetter MS Dermatology Online Journal 7(1):6