Ambush Bug - Buggy Joe


Sometimes, the common names of insects clearly describe what the insects do for a living. Insects that belong to the Hemipteran family Reduviidae are collectively calledassassin bugs; they hunt down and kill other insects. They use their stiletto-like piercing-sucking mouthparts called a "proboscis" (= beak) to stab their victims and inject immobilizing paralytic chemicals along with digestive enzymes. The enzymes dissolve their victim's innards so the bugs can extract the essence of insect.

Wheel Bug

I posted a BYGL Alert in June titled "Good "Bugs" that focused on wheel bugs (Arilus cristatus). You can read the full Alert by clicking on this hotlink:

https://bygl.osu.edu/node/1626

Wheel bugs and many other assassin bugs are active hunters. They continuously move about pursuing their prey which commonly includes caterpillars and sawfly larvae.

Look closely at flowers to observe another type of assassin bug that practices an entirely different type of predatory behavior.  As their common name indicates,ambush bugs(subfamily Phymatinae) remain motionless, sometimes for hours, lying in wait for their victims. They increase their chances of success by relying on the nectar and pollen of flowers to draw in their prey. Of course, this means they commonly dine on pollinators.

Ambush Bug

Ambush bugs seldom measure more than 1/2" in length. Their small size coupled with mottled coloration and irregular shape provides perfect camouflage as they lurk beneath or within flowers. These rapacious predators are equipped with dramatically enlarged front legs designed to grab and hold their prey.

Ambush Bug

Ambush Bug

Jagged ambush bugs (Phymataspp.) are common in Ohio. The "jagged" part of their common name comes from the jagged edges to their bodies.

Common table fare of these voracious ambush predators may include bees, wasps, flies, and other flying insects intent on grabbing a nectar snack. Victims may include insects that are much larger than the ambush bug; few escape the embrace of the bug's raptorial front legs. 

Ambush Bug

You may find ambush bugs taking advantage of a wide range of flowers to attract an insect meal. Currently, I'm most commonly finding them on teasels (Dipsacusspp., family Caprifoliaceae) and Queen Anne's lace (Daucus carota, family Apiaceae (formerly Umbelliferae)). The bugs love to conceal themselves just beneath the umbellifer flowers so they can pop-up and grab an unsuspecting victim.

Ambush Bug

Ambush Bug

Later this season, you focus your attention on goldenrod (Solidagospp.) flowers. However, look closely! I'm always amazed at how well the ambush bugs blend with the composite flowers.

Ambush Bug

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