Naturally Talking: The murderer bugs | Information


The dictionary has several meanings for the word assassin. It’s called a worthless person, a hash consumer, or a contract killing. All of this is correct, but it also leaves out another fact. Of all of these things, there is also a family of bugs known as the Assassin Bugs.

These insects are found all over the world and can be a problem for humans. There are 110 species of these beetles that are native to North America, and some of them can be found in Indiana. While most assassin bugs are small and unobtrusive, some are a lot bigger.

They got their name for the way they hide in ambush, some even call themselves the ambush bug and catch other insects off guard and kill and devour them. A quick prick of its beak and the injection of a toxin that soon leaves the victim helpless allows the beetle to feed on insects that are much larger than itself.

The killer bugs suck the liquid out of their victims and hold onto it until the poor creature is nothing but a hollow shell. As expected, the bite from any of these insects can be very painful. I’ve never been bitten by a killer beetle, but my son Terry was unlucky enough to encounter one who was hiding in an ambush twice. Both times he never saw the beetle until he bit him as they are experts at using camouflage to hide. They like to hide in plants of the same color as their body. I was with my son both times when he came into contact with this species of insect and saw him pull back in pain. I gave him a while to let the pain subside and then asked him to describe the pain. He let me know that it was worse than any bee or wasp sting he had ever been exposed to.

I’ve talked to other people who were also bitten and most of them told me it was horrific. All of these came from a rather small species known as masked hunters. The masked hunter is not native to the United States, but like so many invasive species, it came across the ocean from either Europe or Africa and is now found throughout the United States including Indiana.

However, there are some other forms of a rather small one that you can come in contact with, but it’s one that you really need to watch out for. It’s the wheel flaw an inch and a half long. This is a native species that was once primarily found in the southern United States. However, due to increasing climate change, it is common to see them here in Hoosierland in late summer or early autumn. Every year I see more in vegetation, which contains a variety of other insect species. They feed on some species that we classify as harmful, such as hornworms and Japanese beetles.

When we had a large Japanese beetle infestation one year, I saw at least a dozen wheel bugs on plants that the beetles had started to feed on. This was really a sight, but I tried very hard not to get too close to the beetles as those who have been bitten by a wheel beetle say it is very painful indeed. The nymphs of the wheel bug have a light-colored abdomen that they usually keep upright.

Adults are brown or gray in hue and have a wheel-like protrusion on their backs which is quite unusual and earns them the name of wheel beetles. Another mistake we may have to look out for soon is another southern species that comes north when the weather warms up. This is the strain known as the kissing bug because of its habit of biting people’s lips, as the beetle feeds on insects like bed bugs at night and is a winner of Chagas disease, which we never want to get. More on this in a future column.