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

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

Proper, nicely I hope you all loved the earlier publish concerning the formidable Murderer Bugs of the Hemipteran household, Reduviidae, as a result of I’m again with extra. In case you’ll be able to’t inform, I like these bugs and so they’re not usually talked about in mainstream media, so these posts intention to get the phrase out about these unbelievable predators. Following on from the earlier publish, 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 it’s all achieved and I’ve had my outcomes I am planning on publishing posts rather more often and constantly 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 title “Bugs with a Backpack” (Brandt and Mahsberg, 2002). It has been noticed that the nymphs of the West African Murderer bugs from the Genera Paredocla and Acanthaspis cowl themselves with, what is called, a “mud coat” composed of mud (surprisingly), sand and soil particles (Brandt and Mahsberg, 2002). Moreover, they pile up bigger objects, resembling empty prey instances, leaves and different foliage to type 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, significantly after they’re confronted by predators that depend on eyesight. It’s thought that the backpack acts a disguise, making the bug look, nicely, much less bug-like and subsequently much less more likely to be investigated by a predator. Moreover, the backpack may be shed (not not like a lizard’s tail) ought to a predator seize onto it, enabling the bug 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 tables 1.0). Spiders usually are not visually reliant predators and they didn’t hesitate to assault the backpack wielding bugs, nevertheless, 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 threat of regurgitating the entire paper, so I will preserve this brief and go away a reference to the paper on the finish.

assassin bug table

Yet one more 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 looking success. Acanthaspis concinnula lives in shut proximity to nests of the fireplace ant species Solenopsis geminata and is a recognized predator of those ants. The backpacks of A. concinnula are sometimes composed of earlier meals of S. geminata. These fireplace ants are recognized to examine their killed brethren and subsequently will method the murderer bugs with the corpses of their fellow ants on their again. This might act as a type 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 come back to them. This predatory use of the conduct is more likely to be widespread all through the genera Acanthaspis as they’re all recognized ant predators.

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

Moreover, it’s hypothesised that the lifeless ants may masks the scent of murderer bugs, enabling them to wander into the nest and across the ants undetected, once more making predation simpler. These predatory points of this conduct haven’t been correctly studied or conclusively decided, nevertheless it’s a fascinating chance. And brings me properly onto the subsequent, and ultimate, 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 instrument 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 manner. Nasutitermes corniger construct ‘carton nests’ out of secretions produced by themselves and are sometimes conical in form and hooked up to tree trunks. The nests serve to maintain out predators, forestall the termites from drying out and dying from desiccation, in addition to to stop flooding (McMahan, 1982). Due to this fact, it’s essential that the termites preserve its integrity and to this finish, as quickly a breach is found within the construction, staff instantly set to work fixing it. Nonetheless, this predicable conduct leaves them open to predation from the ever-ingenious murderer bugs. It was noticed by McMahan (1982) who, while finding out the termites needed to open a small gap of their nest. As soon as the outlet had been created, McMahan observed one thing that resembled a chunk of nest materials transfer in direction of the doorway. Nonetheless, that piece of nesting materials turned out to be a nicely camouflaged Salyavata variegata murderer bugs. Like these already talked about, S. variegata had coated itself in mud and crumbled nest items, making itself extremely nicely hidden. When the employee termites began to look to repair the outlet, the murderer bug reached over and snatched one up, to then rapidly retreat and eat its catch. However the deviousness would not cease there. Termites are additionally recognized 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 outlet, while sustaining a grip on it with their forelimbs. This attracted one other employee who would seize onto the opposite finish, solely to search out itself being pulled out by way of the outlet. 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 outlet 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, tender, not too long ago 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 lifeless termite, nevertheless 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 approach. Moreover, by camouflaging itself in items from the nest, it probably masks its scent, making the termites unable to detect it and additional making certain its looking success. A really ingenious and lethal approach displayed by these grasp assassins and a stupendous instance of instrument use.


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

I hope you have got loved studying about these unbelievable 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 folks and hopefully encourage extra studying and examine on them. You probably have loved this publish, be happy to depart a like, it’s at all times vastly appreciated. And do not forget to search out me on twitter: Matthew Woodard @ZoologyNotes.

Thanks for studying, till subsequent time.


Enormous because of Orionmystery’s wildlife images for giving me permission to make use of the superior image of the Acanthaspis petax nymph utilizing the corpse camouflage. For extra unbelievable wildlife images try their ‘Up shut with Nature weblog’


Brandt, M. and Mahsberg, D. (2002). Bugs with a backpack: the perform of nymphal camouflage within the West African murderer bugs Paredocla and Acanthaspis spp. Animal Habits, 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 constructions in nymphs of some Reduviidae (Heteroptera). American Museum Novites, 35421-18.