Corpse Camouflage and Termite fishing: Murderer bugs (half 2)

Proper, properly I hope you all loved the earlier put up concerning the formidable Murderer Bugs of the Hemipteran household, Reduviidae, as a result of I’m again with extra. In case you possibly can’t inform, I really like these bugs they usually’re not usually talked about within the mainstream media, so these posts intention to get the phrase out about these unimaginable predators. Following on from the earlier put up, this one will cowl two extra behaviors displayed by these Assassins.

*Apologies for the large hole between posts, I used to be ending the 4th 12 months of my diploma. Now that is all finished and I’ve had my outcomes I am planning on publishing posts rather more incessantly and persistently all through the summer time.

Corpse Camouflage

We’ll kick issues off with a conduct that has each defensive and predatory makes use of, which I first realized about by studying a paper with the sensible identify “Bugs with a Backpack” (Brandt and Mahsberg, 2002). It has been noticed that the nymphs of the West African Murderer bugs from the Genera Paredoclas and Acanthaspis cowl themselves with, what is named, a “mud coat” composed of mud (surprisingly), sand and soil particles (Brandt and Mahsberg, 2002). Moreover, they pile up bigger objects, equivalent to empty prey circumstances, leaves and different foliage to kind a backpack of particles (Weirauch, 2006). These particles and particles items are secured by secretions produced by specialised setae on their abdomens (Brandt and Mahsberg, 2002). This “backpack” seems to be primarily helpful in defensive conditions, notably once they’re confronted by predators that depend on eyesight. It’s thought that the backpack acts as a disguise, making the bug look, properly, much less bug-like and subsequently much less more likely to be investigated by a predator. Moreover, the backpack could be shed (not not like a lizard’s tail) ought to a predator seize onto it, enabling the bugs to flee. The fascinating examine by Brandt and Mahsberg (2002) did certainly present that these with a backpack had a better survival when put in proximity to varied predators (lizards, centipedes and spiders), than these with simply the mud coat or nothing in any respect (see desk 1.0). Spiders aren’t visually dependable predators and they didn’t hesitate to assault the backpack wielding bugs, nonetheless, after biting right into a pile of ants and detritus they tended to let go. And in the event that they did not, then the backpack was ripped from the bug, giving it an opportunity to flee. The examine examined quite a lot of hypotheses however I’m liable to regurgitating the entire paper, so I am going to preserve this brief and depart a reference to the paper on the finish.

assassin bug table

Another attention-grabbing level that I’ll point out, is that it is also thought of doable that these bugs use the backpack to extend their searching success. Acanthaspis concinnula lives in shut proximity to the nests of the fireplace ant species Solenopsis geminate and is a identified predator of those ants. The backpacks of A. concinnula are sometimes composed of earlier meals of S. geminata. These fireplace ants are identified to examine their killed brethren and subsequently will method the murderer bugs with the corpses of their fellow ants on their backs. This might act as a form of bait for the murderer bug, leading to much less want for them to enter deep into the ant’s nest, however as an alternative watch for the ants to return to them. This predatory use of the conduct is more likely to be widespread all through the genera Acanthaspis as they’re all identified ant predators.

Acanthaspis petax nymph lined in ant carcasses while munching on one other ant. Picture credit score: Orionmystery (

Moreover, it’s hypothesized that the useless ants might masks the scent of murderer bugs, enabling them to wander into the nest and across the undetected ants, once more making predation simpler. These predatory points of this conduct haven’t been correctly studied or conclusively decided, nonetheless it’s a fascinating risk. And brings me properly onto the subsequent, and eventually, the murderer bug conduct that I wish to speak about.

Fishing for Termites

Salyavata variegata, a neotropical murderer bug discovered from Mexico to the southern area of the Amazon shows an attention-grabbing case of software use to amass its termite prey. However first, some background on the conduct of its prey which allows them to be exploited in such a method. Nasutitermes corniger construct ‘carton nests’ out of secretions produced by themselves and are sometimes conical in form and connected to tree trunks. The nests serve to maintain out predators, stop the termites from drying out and dying from desiccation, in addition to to stop flooding (McMahan, 1982). Subsequently, it’s essential that the phrases keep its integrity and to this finish, as quickly a breach is found within the construction, staff instantly set to work fixing it. Nonetheless, this predictable conduct leaves them open to predation from the ever-ingenious murderer bugs. It was noticed by McMahan (1982) who, while learning the termites needed to open a small gap of their nest. As soon as the opening had been created, McMahan seen one thing that resembled a bit of nest materials transferring in the direction of the doorway. Nonetheless, that piece of nesting materials turned out to be a properly camouflaged Salyavata variegata murderer bugs. Like these already talked about, S. variegata had lined itself in mud and crumbled nest items, making itself extremely properly hidden. When the employee termites began to seem to repair the opening, the murderer bug reached over and snatched one up, to then shortly retreat and eat its catch. However the deviousness does not cease there. Termites are additionally identified to gather their fallen comrades and take them into the nest, usually in order that they will recycle the vitamins from the physique. However once more, this leaves them open to murderer bug trickery.

the S. variegata bugs had been noticed taking the empty shell of their earlier termite meal and dangling it within the entrance of the opening, while sustaining a grip on it with their forelimbs. This attracted different staff who would seize onto the opposite finish, solely to seek out themselves being pulled out via the opening. As quickly because the second employee’s head was seen, the murderer bug would grip onto it and inject its lethal, poisonous cocktail of digestive fluids and retreat with its new meal. This conduct was seen repeatedly, even by a single particular person. And as soon as the opening had been closed up by the termites, the murderer bug did not cease. However as an alternative would take the corpse of its most up-to-date meal and push it into the nonetheless solidifying, delicate, lately patched gap, successfully reopening it and engaging one other employee out. Over a interval of three hours, McMahan noticed a single S. variegata nymph bait and feed on 31 successive termite staff, displaying the voracious urge for food of those bugs. Not solely does the murderer bug dangle the useless termite, however it jiggles it round in a baiting-like method, which when tried by the researcher, solely alarmed the termites, subsequently, indicating that the bug has perfected the method. Moreover, by camouflaging itself in items from the nest, it doubtlessly masks its scent, making the termites unable to detect it and additional making certain its searching success. A really ingenious and lethal method displayed by these grasp assassins and a gorgeous instance of software use.


Massive charismatic predators usually get all the eye, however after so many documentaries that includes them, I feel it is time the ingenious, extremely profitable, predatory invertebrates deserve some consideration. Beginning with the lethal bugs of the Reduviidae household that has actually earned the title of Murderer. The behaviors offered in these two posts are just some of the tips that murderer bugs have of their repertoire and we nonetheless have a lot to find out about them.

I hope you will have loved studying about these unimaginable bugs, I’ve actually loved writing about them. I extremely advocate studying the papers referenced beneath as they’re sensible research and go into these behaviors in much more depth than I can in round 1000 phrases. The intention of those posts was to disclose the awesomeness of those bugs to extra individuals and hopefully encourage extra studying and examine of them. When you have loved this put up, be happy to go away a like, it’s all the time vastly appreciated. And remember to seek out me on twitter: Matthew Woodard @ZoologyNotes.

Thanks for studying, till subsequent time.


Enormous because of Orionmystery’s wildlife pictures for giving me permission to make use of the superior image of the Acanthaspis petax nymph utilizing the corpse camouflage. For extra unimaginable wildlife pictures take a look at their ‘Up shut with Nature weblog’


Brandt, M. and Mahsberg, D. (2002). Bugs with a backpack: the operate of nymphal camouflage within the West African murderer bugs Paredoclas and Acanthaspis spp. animal Conduct, 63(2), 277-84.

McMahan, EA (1982). Bait-and-capture technique of a termite-eating murderer bug. Insectes Sociaux, 29(2), 346-51.

Weirauch, C. (2006). Anatomy of disguise: Camouflaging buildings in nymphs of some Reduviidae (Heteroptera). American Museum Novites, 35421-18.

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