Over the last few months ...

Over the last few months ...

Over the last few months, I've helped to identify a whole lot of cool insects sent in by some of the wonderful folks who follow our VMNH Facebook page. During that time, many folks have sent in pictures of assassin bug nymphs, and I can certainly see why; they're unusual-looking little critters!

Assassin bugs belong to the family Reduviidae, a large family of true bugs that can be found throughout the world. Almost all assassin bugs are ambush predators, and they attack their prey by stabbing it with their sharp proboscis and injecting it with venom and/or digestive enzymes, depending on the species. Some species also have little hairs or spines on their legs to help them hold their prey while they suck up the delicious juices.

According to VMNH Associate Curator of Invertebrate Zoology Dr. Kal Ivanov, this particular assassin bug nymph belongs to the genus Pselliopus, which contains 27 species. It is either Pselliopus barberi or Pselliopus cinctus; according to Dr. Ivanov, it's hard to tell the difference between the two species until they reach their adult form.

Perhaps the most famous assassin bug in our neck of the woods is Arilus cristatus, the wheel bug. Wheel bugs are mostly gray in color and their defining feature is a hump on their back that sort of resembles a wheel or a mohawk. I see them every year, so hopefully I can spot one soon and post a picture!

Assassin bugs are very beneficial insects to have in the garden as they prey on a lot of common garden pests. However, you should be careful handling any assassin bugs as they can bite if they feel threatened.

Thank you to Dr. Kal Ivanov for helping me identify this one! #BenInNature

Social distancing can be difficult, but it presents a great opportunity to become reacquainted with nature. While he is working from home, Administrator of Science Ben Williams is venturing outdoors each day to record a snapshot of the unique sights that can be found in the natural world.

If you discover something in nature that you would like help identifying, be sure to message us right here on Facebook with a picture (please include location and date of picture) and we'll have our experts help you identify it!

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