April 20, 2010
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I’ve confessed here on this blog to my blatant disregard of proper nomenclature with respect to my overuse of the term “bug” to describe anything with six (or 8 or many) legs. Just yesterday my wife was once again scolding me about it: “Don’t say ‘bug’ if you mean something else!” Yeesh. I’ve trained her too well.
Today I throw caution to the wind: HEY, DARLING WIFE, LISTEN TO THIS: I found a bug! BUG BUG BUG BUG BUG BUG BUG BUG BUG!!!!!!!! HA!
The only reason I won’t have to sleep on the couch tonight is that this IS a bug…a “true bug” of the order Hemiptera (suborder Heteroptera). It’s a juvenile (nymph)…if you look closely at the region of the thorax you can see the little wing buds that will, after several moults, form the full-length semi-membranous wings typical of this suborder. The needle-like, segmented beak is also visible: this is the “straw” used to slurp up food.
This particular bug belongs to the family Reduviidae, or Assassin Bugs, so named because of their nasty habit of lying quietly in wait then pouncing upon their unsuspecting prey. The subfamily, Harpactorinae, is the largest of the assassins. I believe this to be a nymph of the genus Zelus…possibly Z. luridus, which is the most common species in my area.
The Zelus spp. are a pretty nifty bunch – they possess a unique hunting strategy that their other Reduviid cousins lack: a so-called “sticky trap”. The front tibiae possess unique dermal glands that produce a sticky secretion; this secretion is smeared onto setae (hairs). The long, predatory legs thus become even more efficient at snaring prey. Only more mature nymphs have the ability to produce the secretion; newly hatched nymphs cleverly collect the sticky coating from their own egg and use it in a similar manner until they’re able to make their own sticky trap.
(Still love me, DW?) 😛
Heteropteran systematics lab at UCR