Description & Statistics
In Amalus sp. and Beharus lunatus L. & S., the fore tibiae and the reduced tarsi are covered with fresh resin, by which the prey, consisting mainly of ants of the genus Dolichoderus, is captured (China 1932). Clausen (1940) remarked on an observation by E. E. Green in Ceylon on the habits of Physorhynchus linnaei Stal. The apterous females, which are only 1/6th in. long, attack the giant millepede. This host, which is almost 6 in. long., is completely and permanently paralyzed, and the beak is inserted for feeding into the ventral area near the caudal end of the body. In Australia, Pristhesancus papuensis Stal, is an important natural enemy of plant bugs, but is occasionally attacks honeybees.
All active stages of Zelus peregrinus Kirk. are predaceous, subsisting largely on aphids in fruit trees and leafhoppers in cane fields (Swezey 1905). However, they are not completely beneficial because extensive attack on coccinellid larvae has been observed. Plank (1939) found nymphs and adults of Peregrinator biannulipes Montr. associated with powder-post beetles, Dinoderus minutus F. in bamboo in Puerto Rico. Both nymphs and adults attack the beetles when they emerge from their galleries.
Reduviidae is a large family with over 3,000 species described as of 2000. Although they occur worldwide, reduviids are most abundant in tropical and subtropical climates. Diagnostic characters of these "assassin bugs" include their elongated shape, and their head usually has a transverse groove between the eyes; ocelli usually present; rostrum 3-segmented, usually curved, and fitting into a groove in the prosternum. The front femora are usually thickened. These brown to black, medium or large sized bugs may inflict painful bites.
Most Reduviidae are predators of different stages and groups of insects that frequent plants in a variety of terrestrial habitats. Their prey includes of aphids, leafhoppers and caterpillars. Some species are hematophagous on mammalian and avian blood, and some species serve as vectors of human trypanosomiasis. One species has been used in biological pest control of the rhinoceros beetle on Pacific islands (e.g., Fiji).
The name comes from Reduvius which derives from the Latin reduvia meaning hangnail or remnant). It 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), = (Arilus cristatus), and thread-legged bugs (the subfamily Emesinae, including the genus Emesaya). There are about 7009 species known, in this one of the largest families in the Hemiptera.
Adult insects often range from 4.1 to 40.4 mm. Long. They most often have an elongated head with a distinct narrowed neck, long legs, and a conspicuous, segmented tube for feeding (rostrum). Most species are dark in color with shades of brown, black, red, or orange. The most obvious charactaer of the family is in the tip of the rostrum, which
fits into a groove in the prosternum, where it is rasped against ridges there (a stridulitrum) to produce sound. This behavior is often used to ward off predators. If aggression continues, they area able to use their rostrum to create a painful bite which in some species can be medically important
The long rostrum is able to inject a lethal saliva that liquefies the body contents of the prey, which are then sucked out. The legs of some species are covered in tiny hairs that makes them sticky and enables them to hold onto their prey while they feed. The saliva is also effective at killing much larger prey. The nymphs of some species will cover and camouflage themselves with debris, or the remains of dead insects. Some species also feed on cockroaches or bedbugs and thus are beneficial. Sometimes they are reared for insect control.
A few groups of assassin bugs specialize on certain prey, such as ants, termites, or diplopods (Ectrichodiinae).
Some blood-sucking species, especially Triatoma spp. and others of the subfamily Triatominae (e.g., Paratriatoma hirsuta) , are also known as kissing bugs due to their behavior of biting humans in their sleep on the soft tissue of the lips and eyes; a number of these haematophagous species, located in tropical America, are able to transmit a sometimes fatal trypanosome disease known as Chagas disease (American trypanosomiasis).
Fracker, S. B. 1912. A systematic outline of the Reduviidae of North America. Proc. Iowa Acad. Sci. 19: 217-47.
Miller, N. C. E. 1971. The Biology of the Heteroptera. E. W. Classey Ltd., Hampton Middlesex, England. 206 p.
Weirauch, Christiane & Munro, James B. 2009. Molecular phylogeny of the assassin bugs (Hemiptera: Reduviidae), based on mitochondrial and nuclear ribosomal genes. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution: 53 (2009) 287–299