Assassin bugs are a large group of true bugs that belong to the Reduviidae family. The family contains around 300 documented species, several of which dwell in Massachusetts. Assassin bugs are often cited as beneficial insects for gardeners due to the bug’s habit of feeding on insect pests that damage plants. Assassin bugs also prey upon several insect pest species that can become a nuisance within households. Although most assassin bugs do not typically infest houses, they are commonly found within yards, and most species possess a needle like mouthpart that delivers incredibly painful bites to humans. Common assassin bug species in Massachusetts include the Pselliopus ssp., the S. carinata, the Z. luridus and most notably, the A. cristatus, or the wheel bug, as it is more commonly known.
The Pselliopus ssp. and the S. carinata are both commonly found in Massachusetts lawns and gardens, and both are capable of delivering a very painful venomous bite to humans. The Z. luridus species is also commonly found in residential areas of Massachusetts. These three species dwell on garden plants where they ambush their insect prey. These species are generally aggressive and they have been known to bite gardners, but these insects are only interested in securing food in the form of other insects. Of the 150 or so assassin bug species that inhabit the US, the wheel bug may be the most significant pest to humans. This is due to the wheel bug’s growing presence in yards in Massachusetts and other mid-atlantic states. The wheel bug inflicts one of the most painful bites known to humankind. One expert compared the pain of their bite to a gunshot wound. Wheel bugs are generally understood to be shy of humans and are rarely spotted outdoors due to their cryptic nature, but researchers are now rethinking this bug’s status as a pest after an influx of wheel bug sightings were reported in Massachusetts and other northeastern states.
One resident recalls seeing one wheel bug on her porch in Massachusetts before finding three additional wheel bugs a few days later, one of which was found on her living room floor and the others in her doorway. One professor in the region says that he and his students now regularly encounter wheel bugs outdoors despite never seeing them in the past. According to professor Michael J. Raup, wheel bugs are probably becoming more common around northeastern households due to the abundance of stink bugs that have recently appeared in the region. The brown marmorated stink bug is a non-native insect that has only recently become a nuisance pest within Massachusetts homes. Apparently, wheel bugs are moving into or near homes in the state in an effort to capture and consume stink bugs. The wheel bug is the largest assassin bug species in the US and if their silver-coated bodies are recognized in a house, then keeping your distance is highly recommended.
Do you think that you have spotted a wheel bug near your home?