Thursday, 15 July 2010

the assassin bug

This assassin bug is fairly common in Singapore. I've see it in my garden occasionally and have also encountered it at parks and nature reserves. They are just one of many different species of assassin bugs found in Singapore.

Assassin bugs belong to the family, Reduviidae which is a large, cosmopolitan family of predatory insects in the suborder Heteroptera. It includes assassin bugs (genera include Melanolestes, Platymeris, Pselliopus, Rasahus, Reduvius, Rhiginia, Sinea, Triatoma, and Zelus), wheel bugs (Arilus cristatus), and thread-legged bugs (the subfamily Emesinae, including the genus Emesaya). There are about 7000 species altogether, making it one of the largest families in the Hemiptera.

Adult insects often range from 4 to 40 mm. They most commonly have an elongated head with a distinct narrowed neck, long legs, and a prominent, segmented tube for feeding (rostrum). Most species are dark in color with hues of brown, black, red, or orange. The most distinctive feature of the family is that the tip of the rostrum fits into a groove in the prosternum, where it is rasped against ridges there (a stridulitrum) to produce sound, a tactic often used to intimidate predators. If harassment continues, they can use their rostrum to deliver a painful bite which in some species can be medically significant.

They use the long rostrum to inject a lethal saliva that liquefies the insides of the prey, which are then sucked out. The legs of some of these bugs are covered in tiny hairs that serve to make them sticky to hold onto their prey while they feed. The saliva is commonly effective at killing substantially larger prey than the bug itself. As nymphs, some species will cover and camouflage themselves with debris, or the remains of dead prey insects. Some species have been known to feed on cockroaches or bedbugs (in the case of the masked hunter) and are regarded in many locations as beneficial. Some people breed them as pets and for insect control.

Some assassin bug groups specialize on certain prey groups, such as ants (feather-legged bugs - Holoptilinae), termites, or diplopods (Ectrichodiinae).

Some blood-sucking species, particularly Triatoma spp. and other members of the subfamily Triatominae (e.g., Paratriatoma hirsuta) , are also known as kissing bugs due to their habit of biting humans in their sleep on the soft tissue of the lips and eyes; a number of these haematophagous species, located in Central and South America, are able to transmit a potentially fatal trypanosome disease known as Chagas disease (American trypanosomiasis). (Text: From Wikipedia)


  1. Hi there - I'm very impressed by your blog! I've lived in Singapore for over 15 years and have always been fascinated by the rich diversity of insects, birds and wildlife in general here.

    Howwver we have a problem with assassin bugs! I was wondering whether you know anything about getting rid of them? We have bamboo in the front of our house as a wall between our house and the semi d neighbours. We have noticed assassin bugs in the bamboo previously, but not for a while. But my neighbours are complaining about being bitten at night. We haven't had this problem, but I close the windows of the only bedroom at the front around midnight so my daughter only sleeps with open windows there from about 8 till 12. Our neighbours keep the windows open all night at the front. I'd like to help the neighbours and try to get rid of the bugs, but I don't generally do pest spraying/fogging and am not sure what to do. If you have any recommendations that would be great! Thank you. From Sonya -

  2. Hi there, I don't know if this reply is welll to late, but it is very very very unlikely that you get bitten by these creatures. there are indeed a few bloodsucking species, but this is much more a problem in the Americanas. Here in Singapore, I would say your neighbours have bed bugs (different families) or some other insects. The ones shown on the images above feed only on other insects, so killing those would just eliminate the natural enemies of what is buggering you :)


    Claas Damken