With such a deadly name, It’s no wonder that they sound so dangerous. But this isn’t the only name that this bug goes by. Conenose bug, Triatoma bug and even wheel bug can be attributed to this insect. And they can be ugly. Sharp edges, large oval body and elongated head of this insect look like something straight out of a movie about killer aliens. But we have to ask, can an assassin bug kill you? The answer is actually yes. Some species are blood feeders and complications from their bite can lead to Chagas disease, a disease for which there is no cure.
Not all the bugs from this family of insects are blood feeders. The true reason that these bugs are named assassin bugs, is because they are expert hunters. With legs designed to capture and hold prey, and a long, needle like proboscis that they use to inject their food with a two part death blow. All species of assassin bug will bite you in defense, and this bite can be very painful.
WHAT IS AN ASSASSIN BUG?
Assassin bugs are of the family Reduviidae and order Hemiptera. Their name conenose comes from their cone shaped head. They are about an inch in length and have a tear drop shape to them. They have three segments to their bodies, and the last segment stretches beyond their wings. The proboscis folds neatly under their bodies. The wheel bug is actually a separate species of assassin bug that has a profusion out its back that resembles half of a cog or wheel. They are usually colored light brown to black, sometimes with paler markings dependent upon the species.
Assassin bugs are nocturnal creatures. This is especially advantageous to the blood feeding variety that feed on sleeping animals and people. Flat bugs, ambush bugs and leaf footed bugs are all in the same family of insect as the conenose. These insects are found all across the Americas. Most Oklahoma exterminators can identify them. This includes the United States, Mexico and Guatemala. Assassin bugs are not found outside of North and Central America.
The most prominent disease that can be transmitted by the conenose is Chagas disease. The conenose is a blood feeder that can be found predominantly inside of tree trunks, but can also find their way into homes. They will feed off of rats, squirrels and small rodents, but also humans. When biting humans, they prefer to bite around the lips and face. It’s for this reason that they are also known as the “kissing bug”. Their saliva has a numbing agent that allows them to feed undetected for anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes at a time. As they feed, they will also defecate. If the insect is carrying the disease, their feces will be rich in Trypanosoma cruzi, the parasite which causes Chagas. The sleeping individual will rub or scratch their face in their sleep, moving the infected feces into the open wound caused by the bite.
Can an assassin bug kill you? This disease is rare in the United States, but much more common in Central America. Chagas affects 8 million people in this part of the world. The disease has two distinct phases: the acute phase and the chronic phase. Right after transmission, the infected person will have a reaction to the infection, usually inflammation around the infected site. It’s during this phase that antiparasitic treatments can be administered quite effectively. After this, comes the chronic phase. This part of the disease continues, often for the rest of the persons life, with no complications. But people with weakened immune systems can be at risk for further complications. See a medical physician if you believe you may be showing symptoms of this disease.
The lifecycle of the assassin bug starts with their unique mating ritual. Starting in early summer, the males will start to approach the females. They will use ritualized behaviors that include jumping, antennae touching, and hesitant approaches to impress the female. Once the female has chosen her mate, they will copulate, and then the male will protect the female from other competing males. The female will then lay her eggs in clusters in the stem of a plant or leaf. Displaying simple metamorphosis, the young hatchlings, or nymphs, will closely resemble their parents. They are simply smaller versions of the adult assassin bugs, with no wings. They will go through up to seven molts before obtaining their wings in adulthood. Its in adulthood that they overwinter. But can an assassin bug kill you?
In captivity, assassin bugs have been known to survive for up to two years. But in nature, it is unknown how long they can live. Of course in the wild there are other factors that can cut their lives short. In their nymph stages, they are very susceptible to being preyed upon. During these stages, they are still hunters, but they are also easy prey for other insects and small animals. Even other larger assassin bugs may feed upon these insects in their vulnerable state. This is when a Tulsa pest control company can be most effective. Often, the nymphs will cover themselves in leaves and dirt in order to hide from larger bugs and animals.
THE HUNTER AND THE PREY
Assassin bugs get their food from one of two food sources: hunting other bugs, or feeding on blood meals. The chosen food is dependent upon the species of assassin bug. The majority of these species simply hunt for their next meal, and they are very good at it. They are built for hunting. They have long elongated heads with a long beak like mouth that folds under their body. Their front legs are particularly adept at reaching out and grasping their prey. They will sneak up on their prey, grab it with their front legs, and then repeatedly stab it with their mouth. This is where they get the name assassin bug from.
Their mouth will inject a secretion that dissolves the insides of their prey, kill bacteria and mobilize or kill their prey. After the digestive enzymes have done their work, they will suck the nutrient rich material out of the bug and feed on it. Ambush bugs, another kind of assassin bug, will hide on a flower and wait for unsuspecting insects to walk under them. Then they pounce on the bug and kill it. If it takes too long to capture prey in this way, they can tide themselves over with nectar from the flower. Assassin bugs keep many insect populations in check including aphids, caterpillars and cockroaches.
HOW TO HANDLE AN ASSASSIN BUG
Their beak like mouth is not only good for hunting, but for defense as well. This being true, it is important that you never pick up an assassin bug without gloves. When in danger, they will bite. For the most part, assassin bugs are good to have in your yard to keep other insects numbers down. Can an assassin bug kill you? But if you are having an excessive amount of these insects, or are finding them in your home, then contact us for help. Here at TermMax Pest Control, we have trained Tulsa exterminators that can take care of all your pest control needs.