Sunday, September 18, 2016

Assassin Bug

We were removing some dried sunflowers from our front yard, when we noticed a colorful insect flying past at about eye level. Initially, all we could see was a reddish blur.

It didn't look familiar so we followed it over to the sunflower plant it landed on, to see what it was. The insect landed on a leaf, then quickly crawled and hid on the underside. After a bit of searching (and patience), we were able to re-find it and get some pictures.

We compared our photos to one of our insect guide books, and found its identity:
Bee Assassin Bug, Apiomerus spissipes.

This colorful insect gets its equally colorful name from the practice of lying in wait for prey, then seizing and stabbing it with its sharp beak (proboscis).

It injects a digestive secretion which paralyzes the victim and liquefies the internal tissues. The fluids are then sucked out through the straw-like proboscis. The sharp beak is segmented, and can be folded back into a groove between the front legs when the insect is as rest.

The Bee Assassin Bug has strong forelimbs, with short hairs that help it hold onto its prey. In addition to bees, this predator also feeds on caterpillars, beetles, and insect pests such as flies and mosquitos. In spite of its name, its affect on the bee population is minimal so it is generally regarded as being beneficial in the garden.

Many people refer to any insect as a "bug", but bugs are actually a certain type of insect. True bugs (order Hemiptera) have specialized mouth parts made for sucking -  either plant juices, blood, or animal prey.

Other common true bugs include cicadas, leafhoppers, aphids, stink bugs, bed bugs and kissing bugs.

"Sometimes opportunities float right past your nose. Work hard, apply yourself, and be ready. When an opportunity comes, you can grab it."
~ Julie Andrews

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