Common Assassin Bug - Pristhesancus plagipennis

Family Reduviidae

This page contains pictures and information about Common Assassin Bugs that we found in the Brisbane area, Queensland, Australia.
Body length 25mm
This assassin bug is large in size. They are common in Brisbane bushes. We often find them hunting on plants when we looking for other insects. We found them in our backyard a few times. They are known as Bee-Killers because they favorite on hunting honey bees. They attack any soft body insects include caterpillars
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As all other assassin bugs, Common Assassin Bugs have the long head with powerful proboscis. They use the powerful proboscis to puncture their prey. Their legs are long so that they have long attack distance. Adult bugs are brown in colour with transparent wings. Nymphs are dark brown to black with brightly orange abdomens. 
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Females lay clusters of long red eggs. Nymphs pass through five growth stages to become an adult bugs. They are develop in incomplete metamorphosis. The nymphs look similar to the  adult excepts smaller and wingless. Last instars have wing buds but still cannot fly. 
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As most Assassin Bugs, it is bright orange in colour with black legs and long antenna. Notice its strong and long mouth part, also know as Rostrum, is used for punch into their prey's body and suck their juice. They will give a very painful bite, so don't touch them.
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This adult Common Assassin Bug found on a oak tree in Wishart in mid-winter. They have their distinct neck between thorax and head. They are predators of other small insects and spiders. We see quite a number of them in winter but rarely see them in summer. We do not think they are active only in winter. The reason could be because there are plenty of food in summer. They can find prey easily and spend most of the time for hiding. In winter they have to wander around and look for prey.
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The picture show the close-up of the head of the Assassin Bug. Their piercing-sucking mouthparts, or Rostrum, can easily be seen which curve back towards body when not in use. They are used for punch into their prey's body and suck their juice. A bite from them can be very painful. 
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In early summer, we saw this  Bee-killer hiding on a grass behind a bundle of flowers, which was visiting by many honey-bees.
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Above picture shows the Assassin Bug feeding on a caterpillar. 
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The body colours of this assassin bug are variable between individuals. They get darker with age.  

Assassin Bug Eggs

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Eggs, each size 1mm X 3mm                                                                     
In late summer 2004, we found a Common Assassin Bug and hoped that it was a female. We kept it in a large jar and fed it with caterpillars. About a week later, the Assassin Bug laid a batch of eggs under the cover which we used to enclosed the jar. The bug soon dead after laying those eggs. 

1st Instars

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Common Assassin Bug 1st instars, body length 5mm 
About two weeks, many small bugs came out from those eggs. The small bugs looked like black ants with orange abdomen. It would be hard to feed those small bugs. We put them on the plants in our backyards.

2nd Instars

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Common Assassin Bug 2nd instars, body length 10mm  
Few weeks later in the early winter, we found this 2nd instars in the bush. We can see its strong mouth-parts well ready for hunting.

3rd Instars

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This nymph was found on gum tree trunk. 

4th Instars

Body length 15mm
We found this Common Assassin Bug nymph when it was chasing a small Flower Spider on the Hibiscus plants. There was in our backyard in a mid autumn night. Its wings are not yet developed.  

5th Instars

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This is the fifth instars Common Assassin Bug we found in later winter. Notice its developing wing buds. The abdomen can be much larger if they are fully feed. 
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Later in the coming years, we sometimes found this bug in our backyard. This bug might already established in our backyard.
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1. Insects of Australia, CSIRO, Division of Entomology, Melbourne University Press, 2nd Edition 1991, pp 496.
2. Insects of Australia and New Zealand - R. J. Tillyard, Angus & Robertson, Ltd, Sydney, 1926, p150. 
3. Wildlife of Tropical North Queensland - Queensland Museum Publications 2000, p91.
4. The generic classification of the Australian Harpactorinae (Hemiptera: Reduviidae) - Malipatil, M.B. 1991. Invertebrate Taxonomy 4: 935-971.
5. Revision of Australian Pristhesancus Amyot and Serville (Heteroptera, Reduviidae) - Malipatil, M.B. 1986, Australian Journal of Zoology 34(4) 601 - 610. 

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Last updated: August 17, 2010.