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Common Assassin Bug - Pristhesancus plagipennis

Family Reduviidae

This page contains pictures and information about Common Assassin Bugs that we found in the Brisbane area, Queensland, Australia.

Body length 25mm

This assassin bugs is quite common in Brisbane. We can sometimes find them hunting on the plants when we looking for some other insects. We found them in our backyard a few times. They are also known as Bee-Killers because one of their favorite prey is the honey bee. Actually they will feed on any insects that they can catch. 

As all assassin bugs, Common Assassin Bugs have their long head with powerful proboscis for puncturing their prey. Their legs are long so that they have long attack distance. Adult bugs are brown in colour with transparent wings. Nymphs are black with brightly orange abdomens. 

Females lay clusters of long red eggs. Nymphs pass through five growth stages to become an adult bugs. They are develop in incomplete metamorphosis and their young, the nymphs, look similar to the  adult excepts smaller and wingless. Later instars will have wing buds but still cannot fly. 

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Third or fourth instars, body length 15mm
 
We found this Common Assassin Bug nymph when it was chasing a small Flower Spider on the Hibiscus plants in our backyard in a mid autumn night. This look like the third or fourth instars. We only saw them once in our backyard. Its wings are not yet developed. As most Assassin Bugs, it is bright orange in colour with black legs and long antenna. Notice its strong and long mouth part, also know as Rostrum, is used for punch into their prey's body and suck their juice. They will give a very painful bite, so don't touch them.
 
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Fifth instars, body length 18mm
 
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This is the fifth instars Common Assassin Bug we found in the same area in later winter. Together with the Common Assassin Bug nymph and adult shown above and below. Notice its developing wing buds. The abdomen can be much larger if they are fully feed. So the nymph bugs in the above picture must be very Hungary. 
 
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Adult, body length 25mm
 
This adult Common Assassin Bug found on a oak tree in Wishart in mid-winter. They have their distinct neck between thorax and head. They are predators of other small insects and spiders. We see quite a number of them in winter but rarely see them in summer. We do not think they are active only in winter. The reason could be because there are plenty of food in summer. They can find prey easily and spend most of the time for hiding. In winter they have to wander around and look for prey.
 
 
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The picture show the close-up of the head of the Assassin Bug. Their piercing-sucking mouthparts, or Rostrum, can easily be seen which curve back towards body when not in use. They are used for punch into their prey's body and suck their juice. A bite from them can be very painful. 
 

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In early summer, we saw this  Bee-killer hiding on a grass behind a bundle of flowers, which was visiting by many honey-bees.

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Above picture shows the Assassin Bug attacking a Giant Grasshopper nymph.   


Assassin Bug Eggs and 1st Instars

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                                                                             Eggs, each size 1mm X 3mm
 
In late summer, we found a Common Assassin Bug and hoped that it is a female. We kept it in a large bottom and fed it with caterpillars. About a week later, the Assassin Bug laid a batch of eggs under the cover which we used to enclosed the bottom. The bug soon dead after laying those eggs. 
 
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Common Assassin Bug 1st instars, body length 5mm 
 
About two weeks later, many small bugs come out from those eggs. The small bugs look like black ants with orange abdomen. It would be hard to feed those small bugs. We put them back to our back into the field.
 
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Common Assassin Bug 2nd instars, body length 10mm  
 
Few weeks later in the early winter, we found this 2nd instars in the bush. We can see its strong mouth-parts well ready for hunting.
 
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Later in the coming years, we sometimes found this bug in our backyard. This bug might already established in our backyard. 
 

Reference:
1. Insects of Australia, CSIRO, Division of Entomology, Melbourne University Press, 2nd Edition 1991, pp 496.
2. Insects of Australia and New Zealand - R. J. Tillyard, Angus & Robertson, Ltd, Sydney, 1926, p150. 
3. Wildlife of Tropical North Queensland - Queensland Museum Publications 2000, p91.

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Last updated: March 22, 2008.