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Assassin Bug Identification – How Long Do Assassin Bug Eggs Take To Hatch

Assassin Bug Identification – How Long Do Assassin Bug Eggs Take To Hatch


By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist

Beneficial insects are crucial to healthy gardens. The assassin bug is one such helpful insect. What do assassin bugs look like? Recognizing this garden predator as a good garden helper rather than a potentially scary threat puts a natural perspective on the normal cycle of life in your landscape. Assassin bug identification will also prevent some nasty and very painful bites that may occur accidentally.

What Do Assassin Bugs Look Like?

Assassin bugs occur in much of North America but also Central and South America, Europe, Africa and Asia. There are several species of the insect, all of which are natural ambush hunters that inject a toxin into prey which dissolves their soft tissues. These bites are fatal to their insect victims but may also cause allergic reactions in humans, resulting in painful itching and burning at the injection site.

Assassin bugs have several stages of life. Assassin bug eggs may be found in cracks, under rocks and in other sheltered locations. The tiny clusters of eggs hatch to become assassin bug nymphs, which are the larvae of the insect. Assassin bug nymphs are less than ½ inch (1.2 cm.) long, and are orange and black striped with an almost translucent base color.

The adult form of the insect may grow up to an inch (2.5 cm.) in length. These have a 3-part body consisting of a head, thorax and abdomen. The head is cone shaped and sports a curved beak from which the insect injects its toxin. They also bear long antennae and six long legs. Assassin bug identification also notes that the insect is beige with black markings and folded wings perched on its back.

How Long Do Assassin Bugs Take to Hatch?

Assassin bug eggs are laid in summer, but how long do assassin bugs take to hatch? Eggs will hatch shortly after they are laid; however, it can take an entire year for nymphs to reach maturity. Young insects overwinter in bark, under logs and in crevasses. They are semi-dormant during the winter and will molt in spring, with their final adult form revealed in June.

That is a whole year from hatching, and produces only one generation of assassin bugs per year. The wingless nymphs grow and molt 4 times, and in some species 7 times, over the course of the year. Adult form is achieved once the insects have wings.

Assassin Bugs in Gardens

Assassin bugs inject a poison into their prey through their beak. This proboscis-like appendage delivers toxin into the vascular system and causes almost instant immobilization and simultaneous liquefaction of internal fluids. These fluids are sucked out of the prey. The prey is left behind as just a husk.

If you are unlucky enough to get an assassin bug bite, you will know it. The pain is quite sharp and intense. Most people who get bitten simply get a red bump with some accompanying itching once the pain fades. However, some people are actually allergic to the toxin and more intense experiences face these sensitive individuals.

The bug’s toxin is never fatal but it can cause increased pain, swelling, and itching that can last several days to a week. For this reason, assassin bug identification can help keep you out of the insect’s way while it does its beneficial work of ridding your garden of pesky insects.

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CLOSED: Assasin bug or leaf footed?

I found an earlier post debating whether this is an immature assasin bug (good) or an immature leaf footed bug (bad). I've had them all around my garden all summer but this is the first time I've seen a crowd of them in any one spot. Can anyone confirm which this is?

Hi Thea! I think those are most likely Leaf-footed bugs, it's hard to tell when their tibia hasn't enlarged. But, the Leaf-foots are gregarious whereas the Assassins aren't unless they are newborns, those look a little older.

The Leaf-foots are supposed to excrete a foul smelling gunk when disturbed. you could go try that for us. I don't know if the nymphs do. could you do that for us? LOL

Also, the Leaf-foots have a 4 segmented beak, you might have to get real close for that one. we'll be anxiously waiting for what you find out!

Oh my goodness Fly, what an assignment. I'll do my best, but if you don't hear from me again you'll know the tribe got the better of me, with their foul smelling gunk and their beaks. They may not like me peering that closely at them, with my magnifying glass!!

Haha. good luck! Don't forget the goggles!

Those look suspiciously like assassin bugs nymphs (good guys). If there are only two dots on their backs - I'm wrong.

You can also look for what they are eating. Is their needle like mouth part (proboscus or beak) stuck into the plant? Bad guys.

AIso, the assassin bugs (good guys) have short proboscuses (or is that probosci)? Here's a link to an assassin bug nymph. Notice the beak and its shape? Leaf-footed bugs have longer and thinner beaks. http://bugguide.net/node/view/85103

Looks like a herd of Leaffooted Stinkbug nymphs. They travel in "herds."

This message was edited Oct 23, 2007 4:27 PM

This one is an assassin bug nymph. It has the shorter proboscis. The others may be leaf-footed stinkbugs because of the aggregation. But at this instar, I would think the widening in the tibia would be noticable. Therefore, I recommended the other tests: number of dots on the back, and whether or not they were eating the plant.
Since this was posted a week ago, thea should know for sure by now.

Thea, can you still see them?

Upon closer inspection, they do look like they are a respectable distance from each other, unlike the leaf foots that don't seem to care if they have their own personal space.

I think CJ may be right and they are Assassin nymphs.

Thanks ya'll!! We've had my brother in law from CT here for a few days, and he thinks I'm nutty enough as it is, I didn't want him to catch me out in the garden with my magnifying glass trying to identify my little orange creatures! But he's gone now, and I've just been out there checking them out, and I think that they ARE assassin bug nymphs. The only black dots they have, and they're not really dots, are meeting around the critters' waists (waists. well you know what I mean, where they would wear a belt if they had belts). I see more black dots on the illustrations of leaf footed nymphs than I see on my guys. I cannot for the life of me see their little proboscises, even with my magnifying glass. But I don't see any leaf sucking going on. I DID have plenty of the darned leaf footed bugs around all summer, and those flat bugs that I think are stink bugs, they ruined my tomatoes, so I MUST have their nymphs around somewhere, but these are not them, I'm pretty sure.


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Growing Small Farms is the program of Debbie Roos, Agriculture Agent for the Chatham County Center of North Carolina Cooperative Extension.

From Bear Creek to Bynum, Silk Hope to Moncure, the Chatham County landscape is dotted with small farms. Farmers throughout the county are known for growing a great diversity of agricultural products, including vegetables, fruits, cut flowers, herbs, poultry, beef, pork, dairy products, and other goods. As one of the few counties in the state to actually experience an increase in the number of farms in the past decade, Chatham is also “growing small farms.”

Many of Chatham’s newer farms are owned by first-generation farmers attracted to the challenges and rewards of making a living from the land. Chatham has a large concentration of farms practicing organic and sustainable agriculture that strive to be environmentally responsible, economically viable, and socially just. In a time when the trend in conventional agriculture is towards fewer and larger farms and many of North Carolina’s “conventional” farmers are struggling, the sustainable and diverse agriculture practiced by Chatham’s small farms provides the best hope for keeping agriculture a viable part of the community.

Chatham’s proximity to upscale Triangle-area markets ensures a steady demand for the organic and sustainably-grown crops produced by area farmers. Four farmers’ markets in the county provide residents with ample opportunities to shop and interact with local growers throughout the long growing season. Many area farms offer opportunities for on-farm visits where visitors get the chance to make the connection between food and agriculture.

Small farms also provide many indirect benefits. They help maintain open space valued by people and wildlife. Visitors flock to Chatham for the beauty of its rural landscape. The challenge is to preserve this rural landscape in the face of development pressures from Raleigh and Chapel Hill. One way to preserve the rural landscape is to help keep farms in the county.

The Chatham County Center of North Carolina Cooperative Extension has long recognized the value and importance of the sustainable agriculture practiced by small farms in the area. In 1994, the Chatham County Center created a new county agent position to support the unique needs of these small farmers. Today, this position is fully funded by the Chatham County government, which recognizes the value of sustainable agriculture to the county. Chatham County Agricultural Extension Agent Debbie Roos works with farmers to promote increased awareness, understanding, and practice of sustainable agriculture through monthly educational workshops, a website, on-farm visits, and other consultation.

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Special Adaptations and Defenses

Toxins in the assassin bug's saliva paralyze its prey. Many have sticky hairs on their front legs, which help them grasp other insects. Some assassin bug nymphs camouflage themselves with debris, from dust bunnies to insect carcasses.

Assassin bugs do whatever it takes to catch a meal. Many employ specialized behaviors or modified body parts designed to fool their prey. One termite-hunting species in Costa Rica uses the dead termite carcasses as bait to attract live ones, then pounces on the unsuspecting insect and eats it. Certain assassin bugs in southeast Asia will stick their hairy front legs in tree resin, and use it to attract bees.


Are assassin bugs beneficial?

There's no need to panic when you see an assassin bug, although he cautions it's best not to touch them because they can inflict rather painful bites. The bug that presents perhaps the most danger is the kissing bug its bite is painless, but can cause allergic reaction, as well as Chagas disease.

Secondly, do assassin bugs eat ladybugs? Ladybugs are not commonly eaten by birds or other vertebrates, who avoid them because they exude a distasteful fluid and commonly play dead to avoid being preyed upon. However, several insects, such as assassin bugs and stink bugs, as well as spiders and toads may commonly kill lady beetles.

Beside this, are assassin bugs good for plants?

Assassin bugs do not feed on plants, but hunt for insects on plants. They catch their prey and hold it down with their front legs. The process sounds brutal, but assassin bugs are good bugs. They eat aphids, flies, leafhoppers, asparagus beetle eggs and larvae, as well as small and medium sized caterpillars.

How do you get rid of assassin bugs?

  1. Seal gaps around windows and doors. Fill in any holes or cracks in walls or screens that could let kissing bugs into your house.
  2. Let your pets sleep inside, especially at night. Keep pets from sleeping in a bedroom.
  3. Clean up any piles of wood or rocks that are up against your house.


Maryland Grows

Wheel Bug (Arilus cristatus). Photo: Johnny N. Dell, Bugwood.org

In my college entomology class, I was required to put together an insect collection. At that time, I had no idea how handy that insect collection would be! I use it regularly now to show children in schools cool insect critters and also to share with Master Gardeners!

Luckily, at the time, I had two younger cousins who absolutely LOVED helping me gather insects. One of the critters they found for my collection was a wheel bug, which is a type of assassin bug. Have you ever seen this awesome predator ?

Just as the name states, it has spikes on its thorax which, to me, resemble dinosaur armor or maybe for the less creative thinker, spokes of a half-wheel. The saliva of the wheel bug contains venom that paralyzes the victim when pumped through the wheel bug’s beak after it silently stalks its prey and sticks the beak into them. The insect world can be a little gruesome! The digested body fluids of the prey are then sucked into the wheel bug’s stomach through another channel in the beak.

A wheel bug feeding on its prey. Photo: Ward Upham, Kansas State University, Bugwood.org

Wheel bugs are active during both the daytime and nighttime and are often considered shy and hide under leaves, so it is not too surprising to hear that most gardeners have never encountered this amazing insect!

According to the Maryland Home and Garden information Center , there are over 160 species of assassin bugs in North America, most of which survive the winter as adults in sheltered locations. All species of assassin bugs (family Reduviidae) are general predators that attack anything that comes across their path. This includes a wide-variety of insect pests in our gardens, such as caterpillars, beetles, true bugs (e.g., stink bugs), sawflies, and aphids. Unfortunately, they could feed on beneficial insects such as ladybird beetles, spiders, and honey bees too, if the opportunity presents itself.

Assassin bugs have a distinct “neck” that connects a small head with large eyes and sturdy beak that they use to pierce into their prey. They are considered true bugs, so they have 6 legs, three body parts, four wings, piercing-sucking mouthparts, and go through incomplete metamorphosis. That means the young bugs or nymphs look similar in shape to the adult, but they can be a different color. Sometimes the nymphs are mistaken for spiders because of their long legs.

Wheel bug nymphs emerging from eggs. Photo: Johnny N. Dell, Bugwood.org

Assassin bugs are good for our gardens so no control is necessary, although they can bite humans, so care should be taken to avoid picking them up or handling them. Usually they are not found in large numbers, just a few here and there. If you are lucky enough to find one in your yard or garden this year, take a picture and share it with a friend or family member! Let everyone know how awesome gardening is and how there is always a new “friend” to discover!

By Ashley Bodkins, Senior Agent Associate and Master Gardener Coordinator, Garrett County, Maryland, edited by Christa Carignan, Coordinator, Home & Garden Information Center, University of Maryland Extension. See more posts by Ashley and Christa.


Are assassin bugs beneficial?

There's no need to panic when you see an assassin bug, although he cautions it's best not to touch them because they can inflict rather painful bites. The bug that presents perhaps the most danger is the kissing bug its bite is painless, but can cause allergic reaction, as well as Chagas disease.

Likewise, do assassin bugs eat ladybugs? Ladybugs are not commonly eaten by birds or other vertebrates, who avoid them because they exude a distasteful fluid and commonly play dead to avoid being preyed upon. However, several insects, such as assassin bugs and stink bugs, as well as spiders and toads may commonly kill lady beetles.

Likewise, are assassin bugs good for plants?

Assassin bugs do not feed on plants, but hunt for insects on plants. They catch their prey and hold it down with their front legs. The process sounds brutal, but assassin bugs are good bugs. They eat aphids, flies, leafhoppers, asparagus beetle eggs and larvae, as well as small and medium sized caterpillars.

How do you get rid of assassin bugs?

  1. Seal gaps around windows and doors. Fill in any holes or cracks in walls or screens that could let kissing bugs into your house.
  2. Let your pets sleep inside, especially at night. Keep pets from sleeping in a bedroom.
  3. Clean up any piles of wood or rocks that are up against your house.


Watch the video: Assassin bug VS beetle, can break armor successfully?