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Assassin Bugs


Assassin Bugs(Family Reduviidae.)
This is a large and important family of bugs comprising more than two thousand species of which more than one hundred and fifty inhabit the United States. Its forms vary much in structure and have been divided among thirteen subfamilies and three hundred and thirty-six genera. All are predatory in their habits and feed on other insects which they pierce and whose blood they suck by means of their strong, sharp beaks. From this food some of the subfamilies are known as "cannibal bugs" or "pirate bugs". Comstock calls them the "assassins bugs". With many species the beak is so strong as to readily pierce the skins of human beings,and one species, known as the "blood sucking cone-nose" (Conorhinus sanguisuga) so often frequents houses, especially in the southwest, and is so fierce a biter that it is often referred to as "the gigantic bedbug." It seems, according to Schwarz, to normally inhabit the nests of field mice. Other species, especially Melanolestes picipes and Reduvius personatus, were especially abundant in the eastern states in some summers, and their bites were responsible for the extraordinary so-called "kissing bug" scare which was greatly advertised by the newspapers. A western species, Rasahus binotatus is also a severe biter.

Of these "kissing bugs", Reduvius personatus, is a cosmopolitan form which, in the northern states, is found in basements and cellars of dirty houses and preys upon bed-bugs and cockroaches. When immature it covers itself with dust and presents a very odd appearance. Some very odd species are found in the subfamily Emesidae, which have been called "thread-legged bugs". Their legs are excessively long and they have a peculiar habit of swinging the body up and down. One of them frequents spiders' webs and robs the spiders of their prey.

The eggs of nearly all Reduviids are of very strange appearance and are frequently distinguished by some form of protective resemblance. None of these predatory bugs seem to possess the strong and frequently disagreeable odor so characteristic of many of the plant bugs.