Sunday, May 30, 2010

Assassin Bug with Red Eyes and Sticky Leg Hairs

 Possible Zelus species.

One of my major projects over the past two years has been to document in photos the insects that frequent our suburban yard here in Worthington.  I've let weeds grow up in a few places until my native plantings get established, and these small but wild grassy areas harbor a surprising amount of biodiversity.  Here is another member of the assassin bug family (Reduviidae), which also includes the infamous wheel bug.  I'm not exactly sure which species this red-eyed bug belongs to, but I think it could be a member of the genus Zelus.

What makes this genus interesting is that its members use a technique to catch prey which is downright plant-like. Do you see those tiny hairs on its long legs?  Supposedly, they are able to smear those hairs across a gland on their leg that produces a sticky resin.  If you've got long sticky legs, then all you need to do is hold them out in front of you and just wait to the prey comes to you. It's not dissimilar to how carnivorous sundew plants capture their prey. I didn't know this little tidbit of natural history information when I took this shot in the field-  I simply thought its outstretched arms made for an interesting photograph, but know I know the rest of the story.

Many of the members of the assassin bug family can inflict a painful bite with their long, piercing mouth-part. If one ever lands on you, the writers at Bug Guide recommend flicking away the creature, as squashing it will most likely cause it to bite you.  And I might be especially weary of members of the genus Zelus-  They are named after the minor Greek deity Zelos, who stood for the personification of zeal, rivalry and anger!  



  1. That's really a neat little bug.

  2. Nice to have info about this very cool bug along with your amazing picture

  3. My youngest son is unhappy about returning to Ohio from Yellowstone when the season is up in October. His girlfriend wants to come back to get some medical training and find a real job. I have been trying to tell him that even in Ohio, there are amazing nature opportunities. Your blog is a good example of what you can find in your back yard as well as nature trails in the area. I will be interested to see what you do in the winter. I need to encourage him to continue his nature interests even in the winter and even in Ohio. Thanks for a wonderful blog.

  4. So a little bit ago I was half asleep on my couch when my cat got on the arm of it and started batting at something right below my ear. So, I looked and jumped off the couch when I saw a bug that looked similar to the one in your picture, but was longer and skinnier, and a lighter green - almost yellowish -.

    I'm just glad that whatever it was didn't have time to bite me!

    Of course, it is now, under my couch, cause when I freaked out, I sent my blanket flying off the couch, which is where it was. I moved away and saw it crawling under my couch.

    I'm now afraid to sleep. >.>

  5. Thanks for this post, my husband was just bit by one of these after sharing his chair with our dog who we had taken for a walk earlier in the day. Our assassin bug was very small but still caused quite a bit of pain. We had no idea what it was. We live in Canton, Ohio. Thanks to you, we now know!