What are assassin bugs? The word “assassin” conjures up images that are one of the cornerstones of popular entertainment: the sniper at the open window, the impeccably dressed agent with the silenced pistol, or perhaps the ninja moving soundlessly through the shadows.
Just like everything else under sun, none of the aforementioned cool stuff is new. Mother Nature did it first and does it unquestionably better than any movie or TV show. Enter - the reduviidae; also known, and for good reason, as the extremely cool assassin bug. They are the literal incarnation of the stealthy, ruthless killing machine in the bug world; manga worthy demon killers wearing the emptied husks of their victims like ghastly trophies. Read on for some amazing facts about the assassin bug.
One of the most popular ninja tropes is that of the shrouded killer who appears with the gentle sighing of a breeze then strikes. What the assassin bug does to its prey is very similar. It will often time its movements to coincide with the blowing of the wind, according to Dr. Bryan Grieg Fry of the University of Queensland. The assassin bug will also use its legs and body to mimic the erratic movements of the surroundings of its target under a gust of wind, hiding in plain sight as it steals inexorably up on its target. By the time the prey realizes that fluttering behind it isn’t a leaf blown by the wind, it’s already far too late
The assassin bug has a voracious appetite and has been known to kill and consume prey at least twice its own size. When the assassin bug strikes, it uses a prehensile beak that is not unlike a curving dagger. Once the creature is penetrated by the lightning quick flicking of the reduviidae’s proboscis, paralyzing venom and corrosive digestive acids flood through the hollow weapon. These caustic substances literally dissolve the insides of the still living victim, turning it into a soupy slime that is then sucked back up into the reduviidae. Of all the creatures who attack and feed this way, the assassin bug is the only one that uses just one weapon for both delivering venom and consumption of the prey. Let’s be honest, that’s some serious anime killer action right there.
Spiders are renowned for their stealth, ferocity, and natural weapons. A spider’s web is a massive network of vibrating threads that serve to inform the spider when prey has fallen into its trap, and usually ends up providing the arachnid a meal. The assassin bug, which is a spider eater, has learned to short circuit the spider’s defenses and can prey on the creature even in the heart of its web, where the spider would be at its most impregnable. By grasping the thread of the web with its two front legs, the assassin bug pulls the thread apart like taffy, but that’s not where the subterfuge ends.
The fluttering ends of the silken web segments alone could alert the spider to the presence of an intruder, so the assassin bug doesn’t just snap the web. Once it breaks, the assassin bug will slowly release the ends of the web so the vibrations don’t give away its presence or position. The spider often remains oblivious to its impending doom right up to the time it realizes its insides are being dissolved as a snack for the reduviidae. Assassin bugs will even to pretend to be caught in the spider’s web, only to attack and feed when the hungry spider comes looking for its presumed meal.
In 1987’s Predator, Arnold Schwarzenegger must do battle with an invisible foe dubbed “el demonio que hace trofeos de los hombres" or "the demon who makes trophies of men.” In the film, the Predator is an extraterrestrial sport hunter who wears the skulls and spinal columns of its victims as gruesome trophies. The assassin bug gives the Predator a run for its money, as it routinely affixes the empty husks of its victims to its back using a sticky secretion it produces exactly for that purpose.
The reason for this grisly and seemingly bizarre behavior appears to be two-fold. In addition to providing cover and concealment for the assassin bug, it also serves as assort of exo-skeletal armor. Should a predator such as a lizard decide it wants the assassin bug for its next meal the hunter will usually end up with a mouthful of dehydrated ant corpses, allowing the assassin bug to freely escape.