Assassin bugs are large-sized flying insects in the Reduviidae family, and more than 7,000 species have been documented all over the world. The United States is home to 159 assassin bug species, including several species that are commonly referred to as “kissing bugs”. Assassin bugs have been a topic of discussion in the US lately due to an outbreak of chagas disease in several southern US states. Chagas disease is spread by the above-named “kissing bugs” of the Triatoma subfamily of assassin bugs. While sucking human blood, kissing bugs often defecate onto their host. Many kissing bugs carry a parasite that can be found within their feces. This parasite can easily be transported to mucous membranes in the mouth, eyes and nose, causing illness.

Generally, kissing bugs can only be found in southern states from California to the Carolinas, but experts are rethinking their distribution after a Delaware girl fell ill from chagas in response to a bite. While kissing bugs may not exist in the northeast states, several assassin bug species can be found in the region, and most of these species can inflict a very painful bite to human skin. The spined assassin bug is one of these species, and while its habitat has traditionally been limited to the southeastern US, numerous sightings have occured in the northeast for years.

The spined assassin bug is most often encountered in residential yards and meadows. This species is particularly abundant within flower beds where they hide behind plants before ambushing their prey. Once an insect-prey is captured, the spined assassin bug proceeds to use its sharp needle-like mouthparts as a stabbing weapon. The spined assassin bug species is also known for inflicting very painful bites that draw human blood. Human bite cases involving spined assassin bugs do not occur often, but if a specimen is mishandled, it will not hesitate to use its stabbing mouthparts on our delicate human skin.

Have you ever encountered an assassin bug on your property?