Animal Species:Feather-legged Assassin Bug

Assassin bugs are a large family of bugs that are found everywhere in Australia.The Feather-legged Assassin Bug is a specialist predator of ants.

Feather-legged Assassin Bug feeding

M Bulbert © Australian Museum

Standard Common Name

Feather-legged Assassin Bug

Size range

1 cm

Distribution

The Feather-legged Assassin Bug is found in eastern Australia.

Habitat

The Feather-legged Assassin Bug lives in urban areas, coastal heath, forests and woodlands.

Feeding and Diet

Unlike most bugs which feed on plant juices, assassin bugs are predators. They ambush their prey, usually other insects such as beetles or caterpillars, piercing them with their curved mouthparts (rostrum). Once the prey has been punctured and is held fast, the assassin injects a powerful saliva. This fluid immobilises the prey and dissolves its tissues.

Other behaviours and adaptations

The Feather-legged Assassin Bug is a specialist predator of ants. They are found under the bark of eucalyptus trees. They position themselves somewhere on an ant trail with their long legs raised. This exposes a gland which produces a scent attractive to ants. When an ant investigates the gland and tastes the substance coming from it, it is the last thing it will do. The substance paralyses the inquisitive victim and the bug drives its rostrum into the ant. When the bug's digestive saliva juices have done their job, the ant is sucked dry.

Classification

Species:
femoralis
Genus:
Ptilocnemis
Family:
Reduviidae
Superfamily:
Reduvioidea
Infraorder:
Cimicomorpha
Suborder:
Heteroptera
Order:
Hemiptera
Class:
Insecta
Subphylum:
Uniramia
Phylum:
Arthopoda
Kingdom:
Animalia

What does this mean?


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Tags bugs, insects, arthropods, invertebrates, identification, wildlife of sydney,

4 comments

David Britton - 8.07 AM, 26 July 2011

Most ant predators or parasites rely on two mechanisms to avoid becoming prey themselves. One is to use mechanical protection (armour-plating, long setae, scales), and the other is to use various chemical deceptions. I suspect chemicals are used in this case. Matthew Bulbert has been studying these insects at Macquarie University, and may be able to give you more information about their behaviour.

sramctc - 3.07 PM, 25 July 2011
Hi, I saw a video on youtube about this bug. I just wonder why ants don't attack it at once if it is treated as "food".
David Britton - 2.03 PM, 14 March 2011

Hi Scott

They also probably have an identity crisis! It is a spider wasp (Family Pompilidae), and it will be a she, not a he. They stock their nests with paralysed spiders, which act as live food storage for the developing wasp larvae.

Scotty - 10.03 AM, 14 March 2011
Found this assassin bug with his prey, on my patio, whenever I went near to take a pic he leapt towards me, I think he may have anger issues.

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