03 Apr

The Night Stalker

AssassinBug

flickr image by Bob Peterson

When you think of animals that suck blood, the image of a vampire bat might come to your mind. In a sadistic twist of irony, the vampire bat itself is targeted by another blood sucker. The assassin bug is equipped with large sensory antennae. In some species these can be the length as their entire body. They are drawn to a sleeping victim and stab them with their needle-like mouth. If you are wondering why the vampire bat would asleep through suck a traumatic process, the answer is the assassin bug injects an anesthetic. This eliminates any discomfort for the vampire bat. The injection also acts as an anticoagulant and keeps the life blood flowing.

A Specialized Species
Before you feel sorry for the vampire bat, you might want to be concerned with your own welfare. With over 7,000 different types of assassin bugs, there are bound to be specialized hunters. There are some types of assassin bugs that would love to cuddle up next to you in bed.

  • The Kissing Bug. If you have ever woken up with a swollen lip, you might have been kissed by a bug while you slept. The kissing bug is a type of assassin bug found throughout America. They can bite any part of your body, but they prefer your lips because they are nice and soft, which is all the better to stab and suck your blood. Losing a little bit of your blood might not be a concern, yet the kissing bug can leave you a nasty surprise. In Central and South America, kissing bugs are vectors for Chagas disease.
  • The Killer of Bees. Not all assassin bugs are a threat to you. The bee killer bug loves bees. It climbs up and waits on the petals of a flower. They will even coat their bodies with sticky plant resin so they can blend in with the flower. It is waiting for the perfect ambush. When a bee lands on the flower to pollinate, the bee killer strikes. It punctures the soft exoskeleton of the bees and injects paralyzing venom. Within seconds, the bee in immobilized. The venom also contains digestive enzymes which turns the insides of the bee into an insect Slurpee. The bee killer then uses its needle sharp mouth to suck out the liquid lunch.
  • A Tantalizing Offer. If you hate spiders, you are going to love the thread-legged bug. This assassin bug gets its name from its long spindly legs. First, the thread-legged bug finds an unlucky spider. Then it begins to flick a strand of webbing. The spider assumes the movement means there is a trapped insect ready to become lunch; unfortunately the spider is the one that will be eaten. When the spider moves down the web to investigate, the thread-legged bug attacks. The hapless spider is speared and eaten.

Next time you think of a creature that sucks blood, the assassin bug might be one of the organisms on your mental list.

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