Nature can be vicious, and I mean really vicious. However, that is the cycle of life in the world of forests and oceans. You know it happens, and accept it. You understand every living organism has to eat for its own survival. However, when you actually see this in the wild- you only can hope that image erases quickly from your memory.
I am fortunate enough at my part-time job, where I can take a walk and be surrounded by nature. When I decided to take a short trail walk my little nature trek was not what I was expecting. I came across an orange-colored moth with bluish eyes. I was able to take a couple of photos from a distance, but of course, I wanted to get just a tad closer. By stepping closer, I startled it. I watched it fly off and begin to circle back behind me and hoped it would land near me, but it took a shortcut and landed on a log. Unfortunately, an Eastern Fence lizard was on the same log, and sad to say that was the last photograph taken of that moth-ever. (I was devastated.)
While I continued my walk, I noticed a healthy stand of Sandhill milkweed dipping over the trail from the edge. Its flowers illustrated the best part of that plant. Those amazing shades of pink and of course, its distinctive green leathery type leaves with pink veins is a sure sign of what milkweed species this is. But upon closer observation, I saw legs, and what was attached to those legs was an Assassin Bug – Apiomerus floridensis, which was feeding off a Margined Leatherwing Beetle- Soldier beetle.
Although Florida Bee Assassin is its common name, it is a generalist feeder-meaning they will take prey when prey is available, especially if most of their hunting time is waiting. There are over 6500 species of assassin bugs in the world and in Florida, there is one popular one, the Milkweed Assassin Bug-Zelus longipes Linnaeus.
Having those large eyes may give this assassin better sight leverage from other insects and its red coloration and pattern is a major warning sign for other insects. However, that’s not the main hoopla of this true bug, it is its rostrum- also known as a beak.
- A research study conducted in California’s Anza Borrego Desert State Park noted a Bee Assassin Bug female would derive resins from a desert perennial shrub, brittlebush, and apply that resin to her eggs as a protective coating. – Choe, D.-H & Rust, M.K.. (2007). Behaviour: Use of plant resin by a bee assassin bug, Apiomerus flaviventris (Hemiptera: Reduviidae). Annals of the Entomological Society of America. 100. 320-326.
- The beak of an assassin’s bug act as a syringe and siphon. Syringe to inject its deadly mixture of toxins and a siphon to suck up all the liquified fluids from its prey.
- A neat little adaptation of the assassin bug. Since the beak is pretty long, there is a special groove between its front legs specially design for storing its beak.
- Yes, I read that these bugs do bite and it is very painful. I don’t think I want to find out especially after reading what it does. – Have you watched any Sci-Fi movies?
Even though these are vicious predators in the insect world, they are also very beneficial to the ecosystems. A bonus for gardeners- they are excellent plant guards.
Be safe in your travels!
I searched for a long time to find more information about the Apiomerus floridensis to compare content, but I couldn’t find any. If you do have more information about this Assassin Bug please feel free to send me a link.