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Temporal range: Cenomanian–Recent
Assassin bug (Rhynocoris iracundus) with bee (Apis ssp) prey.jpg
Assassin bug ( Rhynocoris iracundus ) with bee prey
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hemiptera
Infraorder: Cimicomorpha
Family: Reduviidae
Latreille, 1807

Microtominae (=Hammacerinae)


The Reduviidae are a large cosmopolitan family of the order Hemiptera (true bugs). Among the Hemiptera and together with the Nabidae almost all species are terrestrial ambush predators: most other predatory Hemiptera are aquatic. The main examples of nonpredatory Reduviidae are some blood-sucking ectoparasites in the subfamily Triatominae. Though spectacular exceptions are known, most members of the family are fairly easily recognizable; they have a relatively narrow neck, sturdy build, and formidable curved proboscis (sometimes called a rostrum). Large specimens should be handled with caution, if at all, because they sometimes defend themselves with a very painful stab from the proboscis.


The Reduviidae are members of the suborder Heteroptera of the order Hemiptera. The family members are almost all predatory, except for a few blood-sucking species, some of which are important as disease vectors. About 7000 species have been described, in more than 20 recognized subfamilies, making it one of the largest families in the Hemiptera.

The name Reduviidae is derived from the type genus, Reduvius . That name, in turn, comes from the Latin reduvia , meaning "hangnail" or "remnant". Possibly this name was inspired by the lateral flanges on the abdomen of many species.

Common genera include:

While members of most subfamilies have no common names other than assassin bugs, among the many subfamilies are a few with their own common names that are reasonably widely recognized, such as:


A Zelus nymph from the Southeastern United States Zelus bug nymph.jpg
A Zelus nymph from the Southeastern United States

Adult insects range from about 4.0 to 40 mm, depending on the species. They most commonly have an elongated head with a distinct narrowed 'neck', long legs, and prominent, segmented, tubular mouthparts, most commonly called the proboscis, but some authors use the term "rostrum". Most species are bright in colour with hues of brown, black, red, or orange.

Nymph, found in Nepal Nymph of Reduviidae, found in Nepal.jpg
Nymph, found in Nepal

The most distinctive feature of the family is that the tip of the proboscis fits into a ridged groove in the prosternum, where it can be used to produce sound by stridulation. Sound is made by rasping the proboscis against ridges in this groove stridulitrum (stridulatory organ). These sounds are often used to discourage predators. When harassed, many species can deliver a painful stab with the proboscis, injecting venom or digestive juices. The effects can be intensely painful and the injection from some species may be medically significant.


Orange assassin bug (Gminatus australis) feeding on a beetle Gminatus australis with Beetle.jpg
Orange assassin bug (Gminatus australis) feeding on a beetle
A reduviid camouflaged with debris, Australia Reduviidae camouflaged with debris.jpg
A reduviid camouflaged with debris, Australia
Rhynocoris - predatory flower assassin bug from South Africa, may bite when carelessly handled, painful after effects often persist for months Reduviidae Rhinocoris - Flower assassin bug 1197.jpg
Rhynocoris – predatory flower assassin bug from South Africa, may bite when carelessly handled, painful after effects often persist for months

Predatory Reduviidae use the long rostrum to inject a lethal saliva that liquefies the insides of the prey, which are then sucked out. The saliva contains enzymes that digest the tissues they swallow. This process is generally referred to as extraoral digestion. [2] The saliva is commonly effective at killing prey substantially larger than the bug itself.

The legs of some Reduviidae have areas covered in tiny hairs that aid in holding onto their prey while they feed. Others, members of the subfamily Phymatinae in particular, have forelegs that resemble those of the praying mantis, and they catch and hold their prey in a similar way to mantises.

As nymphs, some species cover and camouflage themselves effectively with debris or the remains of dead prey insects. The nymphal instars of the species Acanthaspis pedestris present one good example of this behaviour where they occur in Tamil Nadu in India. Another well-known species is Reduvius personatus , known as the masked hunter because of its habit of camouflaging itself with dust. Some species tend to feed on pests such as cockroaches or bedbugs and are accordingly popular in regions where people regard their hunting as beneficial. Reduvius personatus is an example, and some people breed them as pets and for pest control. Some assassin bug subfamilies are adapted to hunting certain types of prey. For example, the Ectrichodiinae eat millipedes, and feather-legged bugs eat ants. A spectacular example of the latter is Ptilocnemus lemur , an Australian species in which the adult attacks and eats ants, but the nymph waits until the ant bites the feathery tufts on its hind legs, upon which it whips around and pierces the ant's head with its proboscis, and proceeds to feed. [3]

Some research on the nature of the venom from certain Reduviidae is under way. The saliva of Rhynocoris marginatus showed some insecticidal activity in vitro , in tests on lepidopteran pests. The effects included reduction of food consumption, assimilation, and use. Its antiaggregation factors also affected the aggregation and mobility of haemocytes. [4]

The saliva of the species Rhynocoris marginatus (Fab.) and Catamirus brevipennis (Servile) have been studied because of their activity against human pathogenic Gram-negative bacteria (including strains of Escherichia coli , Pseudomonas aeruginosa , Proteus vulgaris , and Salmonella typhimurium ) and the Gram-positive ( Streptococcus pyogenes ).

Some species are bloodsuckers rather than predators, and they are accordingly far less welcome to humans. Triatoma species and other members of the subfamily Triatominae, such as Rhodnius species, Panstrongylus megistus , and Paratriatoma hirsuta , are known as kissing bugs, because they tend to bite sleeping humans in the soft tissue around the lips and eyes. A more serious problem than their bites is the fact that several of these haematophagous Central and South American species transmit the potentially fatal trypanosomal Chagas disease, sometimes called American trypanosomiasis. This results in the death of 12,000 people a year. [5]

Phylogeny and evolutionary history

reduviid egg mass Assassin Bug Nest.jpg
reduviid egg mass

Current taxonomy is based on morphological characteristics. The first cladistic analysis based on molecular data (mitochondrial and nuclear ribosomal DNA) was published in 2009 and called into question the monophyly of some current groups, such as the Emesinae. [6] The oldest fossils of the family are from the Late Cretaceous (Cenomanian) aged Burmese amber, represented by nymphs [7] and the genus Paleotriatoma, belonging to the subfamily Triatominae. [8]

Example species

Related Research Articles

Hemiptera Order of insects often called bugs

The Hemiptera or true bugs are an order of insects comprising some 50,000 to 80,000 species of groups such as the cicadas, aphids, planthoppers, leafhoppers, bed bugs and shield bugs. They range in size from 1 mm (0.04 in) to around 15 cm (6 in), and share a common arrangement of sucking mouthparts. The name "true bugs" is often limited to the suborder Heteroptera. Many insects commonly known as "bugs", especially in American English, belong to other orders; for example, the lovebug is a fly and the May bug and ladybug are beetles.

Western conifer seed bug species of insect

The western conifer seed bug, sometimes abbreviated as WCSB, is a species of true bug (Hemiptera) in the family Coreidae. It is native to North America west of the Rocky Mountains but has in recent times expanded its range to eastern North America, to include Nova Scotia, Maine, Connecticut, and New Hampshire, and has become an accidental introduced species in parts of Europe.

Triatominae subfamily of insects

The members of the Triatominae, a subfamily of the Reduviidae, are also known as conenose bugs, kissing bugs, or vampire bugs. Other local names for them used in Latin America include barbeiros, vinchucas, pitos, chipos and chinches. Most of the 130 or more species of this subfamily feed on vertebrate blood; a very few species feed on other invertebrates. They are mainly found and widespread in the Americas, with a few species present in Asia, Africa, and Australia. These bugs usually share shelter with nesting vertebrates, from which they suck blood. In areas where Chagas disease occurs, all triatomine species are potential vectors of the Chagas disease parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, but only those species that are well adapted to living with humans are considered important vectors. Proteins released from their bites have been known to induce anaphylaxis in sensitive and sensitized individuals.

Wheel bug species of insect

The wheel bug is a species of large assassin bug in the family Reduviidae. The species is one of the largest terrestrial true bugs in North America, reaching up to 1.5 inches (38 mm) in length in their adult stage. They are sexually dimorphic, in that males are somewhat smaller than the females. A characteristic structure is the wheel-shaped pronotal armor. Wheel bugs prey on caterpillars and beetles, such as Japanese beetles, the cabbage worm, orange dogs, tent caterpillars, and the Mexican bean beetle, all of which they pierce with their beak to inject salivary fluids that dissolve soft tissue. Wheel bugs are most active in daylight, though they may engage in predatory behaviors at night in areas illuminated by lights. Because most of their prey are pests, wheel bugs are considered beneficial.

<i>Triatoma</i> genus of insects

Triatoma is a genus of assassin bug in the subfamily Triatominae. The members of Triatoma are blood-sucking insects that can transmit serious diseases, such as Chagas disease. Their saliva may also trigger allergic reactions in sensitive individuals, up to and including severe anaphylactic shock.

Miridae family of insects

The Miridae are a large and diverse insect family at one time known by the taxonomic synonym Capsidae. Species in the family may be referred to as capsid bugs or "mirid bugs". Common names include plant bugs, leaf bugs, and grass bugs. It is the largest family of true bugs belonging to the suborder Heteroptera; it includes over 10,000 known species, and new ones are being described constantly. Most widely known mirids are species that are notorious agricultural pests that pierce plant tissues, feed on the sap, and sometimes transmit viral plant diseases. Some species however, are predatory.

Belostomatidae family of insects

Belostomatidae is a family of freshwater hemipteran insects known as giant water bugs or colloquially as toe-biters, Indian toe-biters, electric-light bugs, alligator ticks, or alligator fleas. They are the largest insects in the order Hemiptera. There are about 170 species found in freshwater habitats worldwide, with more than 110 in the Neotropics, more than 20 in Africa, almost as many in the Nearctic, and far fewer elsewhere. These predators are typically encountered in freshwater ponds, marshes and slow-flowing streams. Most species are at least 2 cm (0.8 in) long, although smaller species, down to 0.9 cm (0.35 in), also exist. The largest are members of the genus Lethocerus, which can exceed 12 cm (4.5 in) and nearly reach the length of some of the largest beetles in the world. Giant water bugs are a popular food in parts of Asia.

<i>Reduvius personatus</i> species of insect

Reduvius personatus or the masked hunter is an insect belonging to the assassin bug (Reduviidae) family. The name is because its nymphs camouflage themselves with dust. The masked hunter is a predator of small arthropods, including woodlice, lacewings, earwigs, bed bugs and termites. Masked hunters do not feed on human blood, but can bite humans in self-defense when mishandled. The bite can be extremely painful, but masked hunters do not carry Chagas disease.

Emesinae subfamily of insects

The Emesinae, or thread-legged bugs, are a subfamily of the Reduviidae. They are conspicuously different from the other reduviids by their very slender body form. They are stalking, predatory insects that can be collected on palm fronds, cliffs, spider webbing, or near lights at night. They walk on their mid and hind legs; the front pair is raptorial. Some groups specialize on spiders. Very little is known about emesines except that many species are found in the tropics. Pedro Wygodzinsky wrote the most recent revision of this group.

Insect mouthparts Wikimedia disambiguation page

Insects have a range of mouthparts, adapted to particular modes of feeding. The earliest insects had chewing mouthparts. Specialization has mostly been for piercing and sucking, although a range of specializations exist, as these modes of feeding have evolved a number of times (for example, mosquitoes and aphids both pierce and suck, however female mosquitoes feed on animal blood whereas aphids feed on plant fluids. In this page, the individual mouthparts are introduced for chewing insects. Specializations are generally described thereafter.

<i>Rhynocoris</i> genus of insects

Rhynocoris is a genus of assassin bug, family (Reduviidae), in the subfamily Harpactorinae. Species are recorded from Asia, mainland Europe, Africa and North America.

Rhynocoris albopunctatus is a species of assassin bug family (Reduviidae), in the subfamily Harpactorinae. It is common in cotton plantations, especially near pastures where Stylosanthes gracilis is incorporated.

<i>Zelus renardii</i> species of insect

Zelus renardii, the leaf hopper assassin bug, is a predacious insect contained within tribe Harpactorini. Diurnal and found on both wild and crop plants, Z. renardii has spread from its native habitats in western North and Central America into three other biogeographic regions across the globe.

<i>Acanthaspis petax</i> species of insect

Acanthaspis petax is a species of assassin bug that preys primarily on ants, but also on a variety of small insects, such as flies, small grasshoppers and beetles. The nymphs of this species create a pile of ant carcasses on their backs for camouflage. The adults do not use camouflage and are coloured with a red and black pattern.

<i>Platymeris biguttatus</i> species of insect

Platymeris biguttatus or two-spotted assassin bug is a venomous predatory true bug of west and southwest African origin ranging in size from 10–40 mm. As a true bug of the order hemiptera, it has needle like mouth parts designed for sucking juices out of plants or other insects instead of chewing. P. biguttatus has sharp stylets in its proboscis or rostrum used to pierce the exoskeleton of its prey. Saliva is then injected into the prey which liquifies its tissues,and the rostrum is then used to suck out the digested fluids. If disturbed, it is capable of a defensive bite considered to be more painful than a bee sting. It is also known to spit venom that can cause temporary blindness in humans.

<i>Platymeris laevicollis</i> species of insect

Platymeris laevicollis is a venomous predatory true bug from central Africa that can be found in forests, scrublands, grasslands, and croplands. They are efficient predators and are used by farmers on coconut plantations to control herbivorous pests such as the rhinoceros beetle. As a true bug of the order Hemiptera, it has needle-like mouth parts designed for sucking juices out of plants or other insects instead of chewing. P. laevicollis has sharp stylets in its proboscis or rostrum used to pierce the exoskeleton of its prey. Saliva is then injected into the prey which liquifies its tissues,and the rostrum is then used to suck out the digested fluids. If disturbed, it is capable of a defensive bite considered to be more painful than a bee sting.

<i>Ptilocnemus lemur</i> species of insect

Ptilocnemus lemur is a species of feather-legged bug in the family Reduviidae native to Australia. Commonly known as the feather-legged assassin bug, it is a predator with a specialized gland called a trichome that it uses to attract and paralyse ants before feeding on them.

<i>Linshcosteus</i> genus of insects

Linshcosteus is a genus of assassin bugs in the subfamily Triatominae. It is the only genus of Triatomines restricted to the Old World within the mostly Neotropical subfamily Triatominae and consists of six species restricted to peninsular India. Within the Triatominae, the genus is differentiated by the lack of a prosternal stridulatory furrow and a short rostrum that does not reach the prosternum. Adults feed on vertebrate blood.

Rhynocoris longifrons is a species of assassin bug in the family Reduviidae. It is a predator of other insects and is found in Asia. Crops on which it is found feeding on pests include pigeon pea, cardamom and peanuts. The insects are potentially useful in biological control because they are more resistant to pesticides than are the pests they consume.

Rhynocoris marginatus is a species of assassin bug in the family Reduviidae. It is a predator of other insects and is found in Asia. Crops in India on which it has been found feeding on pests include sugarcane, pigeon pea, cardamom, cotton, tea, and peanuts. The insects are potentially useful in biological control because they are more resistant to pesticides than are the pests on which they feed.


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