Assassin Bugs: The Good, Bad and Creepy


Chances are that you’ve come across an assassin bug at one point or another because they’re prevalent throughout the United States as well as the rest of the world.  They are a family of insects that includes around 140 species, and some can be dangerous to humans.  However, they also get a bad reputation thanks to these few harmful species, and many actually do us a lot more harm than good.


The Good

Assassin bugs are generalists in terms of their dietary preferences, and some of the more-appetizing insects they eat are the ones that cause the most damage to garden crops.  In fact, few species of predatory insect offer the wide-ranging level of protection that we get from assassin bugs, and their presence can be just as, if not more, effective than pesticides, and they’re a lot safer too.  To attract assassin bugs to your garden, just plant crops and flowers that attracts insects that they enjoy eating.


The Bad

Some species of assassin bugs, the kissing bug in particular, can spread disease through their bites.  Most people are bitten around their lips while they sleep.  The most common is chagas disease, and it’s caused by a parasite that is found in the feces of infected insects.  Kissing bugs commonly defecate near to where they bit their victim, and this is how the parasite enters the body.  Fortunately, most people who are infected won’t develop symptoms, but those who do should get tested in order to obtain prompt treatment.  While symptoms tend to be mild at the outset, left untreated, the disease can lead to life-threatening cardiovascular problems.


The Ugly

Some assassin bugs are downright scary-looking, and some of the larger ones in different parts of the world are known to attack humans.  Bites from kissing bugs are not considered attacks.  Severe attacks can lead to a variety of infections due to the destructive nature of the venom they introduce around the bite site that liquefies skin and tissues.  Fortunately, being attacked is a rare occurrence, and most species in the United States don’t pose a real threat.


These attacks reflect how assassin bugs hunt and feed off of their prey.  They are excellent stalkers, but they are also quite adept with pouncing prey that happens to cross their paths at the right time as well.  The insects have sharp, long beaks which penetrate the skeletons of their prey.  They then inject a toxin that dissolves their innards before sucking up the liquid through their beaks as well.  Some species will also take the empty carcasses on their backs when finished as a way to add an extra layer of protection that can deter predators.


While assassin bugs don’t pose much of a threat except in limited circumstances, it’s best to keep them outside whenever possible.  They can quickly become a nuisance, and you never know when you’ll end up with a disease-carrying species in your home, cabin or tent.  However, it’s equally important to avoid panicking if you see them on your property because they provide us with so many benefits as well.


Learn more about what species of assassin bugs are in your area so that you can identify those that are helpful as well as which have the potential to cause harm.  The more informed you are can help you to take advantage of this natural resource while minimizing risk at the same time.



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