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Last updated on April 24, 2014 at 1:21 EDT

Reduviidae

Reduviidae is a family of predatory insects in the suborder Heteroptera. It includes assassin bugs and wheel bugs (genera include Arilus, Melanolestes, Psellipus, Reduvius, Rhiginia, Sinea, Triatoma, and Zelus), ambush bugs (genera include Apiomerus and Phymata), and thread-legged bugs (the subfamily Emesinae, including the genus Emesaya).

Physical characteristics

There are more than 150 species in North America alone, with species existing all over the world. Adult bugs often range from 0.5 to 1.5 inches (11 to 33 mm). They have thick forewings, long legs, and a segmented beak. Most species are dark in color with hues of brown, black, red, or orange.

Feeding

It uses its long proboscis to inject a lethal toxin that liquefies the insides of its prey. It then sucks out the liquefied remains. The legs of these bugs are covered in tiny hairs that serve to make them sticky to hold onto their prey while it feeds. The venom is effective for even larger insects. Some species are also able to spit their venom at the eyes of predators from up to a foot away.

They have been known to feed on cockroaches and are regarded in many locations as beneficial. Some people breed them as pets and for insect control.

Human contact

The assassin bug has been known to bite humans when not handled carefully. For some species the bite is known to be very painful, sometimes with effects lasting up to four months, at times causing allergic reactions.

A few species located in Central and South America sometimes carry a fatal trypanosome disease known as Chagas disease (American trypanosomiasis).

Some reduviidea, particularly Triatoma spp., are also known as kissing bugs due to the most common location of bites on humans being near the soft tissue of the lips.

Reduviidae