Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Creature 161: Reduvius personatus

The masked hunter.

Today's creature, Reduvius personatus, is an assasin bug which are one of my favorite families.  They are called assassin bugs because of their cool tricks for hunting and killing their prey. A lot of all the assassin bugs in my blog should be included under the Hemiptera label.

Reduvius personatus are commonly known as bed bug assassins, masked bed bug hunters or masked hunters, which is a really cool sounding name. And they earned it.

Masked hunters hunt small arthropods, mostly insects. They are quite versatile in their prey selection and in the environments in which they hunt. This is because of their cool camouflage.  Many insects and spiders camouflage well in a particular environment or on a particular plant because they have evolved to blend in with those particular surroundings. This strategy works for specialist predators,  but if you want to hunt a variety of prey like the masked hunter does you need something more generic. Juvenile masked hunters excrete a glue like substance, much like Acanthapsis petax. This causes the dirt and dust from the surrounding environment to stick to them, forming a 'mask' and camouflaging them in whatever environment they are in.

The association with bed bugs in some of their common names is no coincidence. They are often seen in urban environments hunting bed bugs and while they are not bed bug hunting specialists they are very good at it. Masked hunters will bite humans if they are handles. Their bite is painful but harmless.

Masked hunters have a Holarctic distribution but their presence in North America is a result of a human introduction.

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hemiptera
Family: Reduviidae
Genus: Reduvius
Species: Reduvius personatus

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