ASSASSIN BUG

assassin bug

Assassin bugs, sometimes known as conenoses or “kissing bugs,” are occasionally found in the home (bathtubs, sinks, drains, etc.) and, if handled carelessly, can inflict a very painful bite, causing a severe reaction in some persons. Some are attracted to lights and require blood meals to complete their development. Many are bloodsucking parasites of mammals, including humans. Others are predators, feeding on bed bugs, flies, caterpillars and other insects. Most are found in late June to early August. These bugs have a long narrow head, short beak, long slender antennae and an abdomen often widened at the middle. Occasionally, they are confused with the leaf-footed bug which is distinguished by its flattened hind legs.

IDENTIFICATION

BLOODSUCKING CONENOSE

Adults are 1 to 2cm long, brownish-black, broad, stout-bodied with six reddish orange spots on each side of the abdomen, above and below. Eyes are large with an elongate protruding head. The beak is slender and tapered and almost bare. It is kept folded back between the front legs when not used. Adults are winged and able to fly. They are found in nests of rats and will feed on any animal including humans.

The bloodsucking bugs are active at night usually feeding on sleeping victims. These bugs are usually found outdoors in hollow trees. Indoors, they are found in bedding, floor and wall cracks, under furniture, etc. They are poor flyers and sometimes attracted to lights. Bites are sometimes painless, but may cause a severe reaction. They are more often a problem to people living in wooded areas.

MASKED HUNTER

Adults are 1 to 2cm long, chocolate brown, beak curved, with slender antennae and walking-type legs. They are called “kissing bugs” and are attracted to lights. They are very active and enter houses in search of bed bugs, flies, and other insects. Bites are very painful on humans.

BLACK CORSAIR

Adults are black and 1.4 to 1.7cm long. They resemble the masked hunter except have short wings. Adults overwinter under stones and are collected in early spring. Bites are painful to humans.

WHEEL BUG

Adults are 3cm long and have a slender, long antennae (reddish-brown). The body is greyish-black with an upright one-half “cogwheel-like” crest on the thorax bearing 8 to 12 protruding teeth-like structures. The membrane of the front wing is coppery coloured. Wheel bugs are rather uncommon, but attract attention when found due to their bizarre appearance. They are voracious predators, attacking large caterpillars, such as tomato hornworms, and suck them dry. They will not bite humans readily, but when they do, the bite is very painful.

SPINED ASSASSIN BUG

Adults are 1 to 1.4cm long, brown coloured, narrow, angular, and rough-bodied. The head, thorax and front leg are covered with spines and the female’s abdomen is wavy.

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FIRST AID

Bites may be hardly felt by the bloodsucking conenose in contrast to painful bites by the masked hunter, black corsair, and wheel bug. Sensitive individuals may experience burning pain, intense itching and much swelling with red blotches and welts over the body. If bitten, remain calm and safely collect the bug for positive identification. Do not handle bugs without gloves. Contact your local poison information centre to seek medical help.

CONTROL MEASURES

PREVENTION

All potential breeding areas such as rodent and bird nests and trash piles in or near houses should be eliminated. Since these bugs fly at night and are attracted to light, adequate screening must be used around windows and doors. Use non-attractive insect yellow lights, if possible. Be sure to caulk and seal any openings into the house. Should a bug alight on one’s face or hand, it should be brushed off gently since it is likely to bite if pinched or crushed. Usually only a few individual bugs are found in the home at one time except for the bloodsucking conenose, which may be in groups of 10 to 15 at a time or scattered singly. Do not handle bugs. Use a broom and dustpan or vacuum cleaner to collect and discard individuals.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

HYG-2083-97

William F. Lyon

 Keith L. Smith, Associate Vice President for Ag. Adm. and Director, OSU Extension. 

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