The Bug Geek

Insects. Doing Science. Other awesome, geeky stuff.


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

18 responses to “BUG!

  1. Ted C. MacRae April 20, 2010 at 4:26 PM

    I’m still not used to allowing myself to refer to hoppers, cicadas, aphids, et al. as “bugs”.

  2. MObugs41 April 20, 2010 at 4:50 PM

    I’m afraid I have the same tendency towards calling all six legged creatures “bugs” even when trying to teach children the “proper terminology”. All I can say is habits gained in childhood are often very hard to shake….lol
    I love your assassin bug nymphs photos, lovely specimen.

    • TGIQ April 20, 2010 at 5:58 PM

      Yeah, I have to catch myself when talking to kids too…no sense in passing on naughty behaviours, right? 🙂 And thanks for the comments on the pictures…it was pretty shady, and I rely on natural light (no flash) so I wasn’t sure that they’d turn out. I think they’re ok though, and it’s such a pretty little thing!

  3. Katie April 20, 2010 at 5:37 PM

    I’ll admit that I subscribe to outdated insect taxonomy; so, did y’all get rid of the order Homoptera?

    • TGIQ April 20, 2010 at 5:48 PM

      OMG, so they TOTALLY DID. This was a shocker to me this year…I was totally out of the loop for the past five years. It’s now a Suborder, along with the Heteroptera, of the Hemiptera.

      I also found out (from teaching this year) that the bony fishes are not Osthyichthyes anymore..they’re “Actinopterigyi”…(spelling is off there I think). —ETA: Oh, I was close: ActinopterYgIi.

      How times change!

      • Ted C. MacRae April 20, 2010 at 6:01 PM

        Two suborders, actually – the Auchenorrhyncha (hoppers and cicadas) and the Sternorrhyncha (aphids, scales, whiteflies, etc.). The Auchenorrhyncha and Heteroptera are more closely related to each other than the former is to the Sternorrhyncha – thus the collapse of the Homoptera!

        Change is good!

        • TGIQ April 20, 2010 at 6:03 PM

          Oh crap…see, Ted, THIS is why I need guys like you around…to keep this naive and wayward student on the straight and narrow path (and to stop me from spreading LIES on the interwebz!)

          (Thanks for the clarification!)

  4. Katie April 20, 2010 at 6:11 PM

    Wow! This news blows my mind, kinda like hearing the world is flat after all… or something.

    Thanks, btw, for the oil beetle ID (if you didn’t catch it through blog comments).

    • TGIQ April 20, 2010 at 6:14 PM

      I did, actually….and you’re welcome 🙂

      Oh, if you want some neat info on that beetle, click on MObugs’s link up there…she`s got the whole scoop on that critter on her blog!

  5. Alex April 20, 2010 at 9:23 PM

    Bug bug bug bug bug bug bug bug bug.


    Yeah, that fun!

  6. dragonflywoman April 20, 2010 at 9:28 PM

    Ha ha! I call everything bugs too, but that’s because I work on giant water bugs and properly use the word bug 100 times day – it just comes spilling out. On the plus side, I find people think you’re less snooty about your superior entomological prowess if you let them use bug instead of correcting them (those that don’t self-correct once they know I’m an entomologist, that is!).

    On a somewhat unrelated note, I also call my dog by his nickname (Bug) more often than I use his real name (Monkey). He is probably a very taxonomically confused canine…

    • TGIQ April 21, 2010 at 5:53 AM

      Sounds to me like you’ve got the perfect excuse to say “bug” all the time if you ask me.
      As for the pooch, well, I call one of mine “Bunny” often, and another “Poopy”, sooooo…..

  7. jason April 21, 2010 at 12:31 PM

    LMAO! I’m so anal about using ‘bug’ only when it applies, but I never catch it when someone else applies it universally. I’m sure that’s some form of cognitive dissonance. Or insanity, which is far more likely.

    This is a cute little critter, C. Great shots, too! Did you pick it up and manhandle it? Ted can tell you that assassin bugs are completely harmless when handled. 😉

    • TGIQ April 21, 2010 at 12:48 PM

      That’s a dirty lie, and you know it. Boo. 😛

      But no, I left it alone…it actually fell off (or deliberately dropped from) the tree without any interference from me.

  8. peteryeeles April 22, 2010 at 9:34 AM

    I have to admit… I am a little bit of a stickler for the correct use of “bug”. I didn’t used to be, in fact my wife feels that old age (hardly!) is seeing me get crankier! Still, we had a family discussion a few weeks back, coupled with some illustrations of the essential bug/beetle diagnostic features and I reckon I’m getting somewhere with my two year old…


    • TGIQ May 3, 2010 at 2:38 PM

      You, cranky? Nawwwww. (Although it sounds like you and MY wife would get along well :-P) Nice to hear you’re teaching the younger generation about ID at an early age; it’ll make ento classes at uni a no-brainer 🙂 I actually had a similar conversation with my 3-year old nephew the other day. He was looking at some of my framed insects as he ate his dinner and started talking about the “big flies” (actually scarabs with spread wings)…we went over the 2 vs 4 wing bit as a starting point. “Bee-too”, he later said, authoritatively. Yup, bee-too. Apparently that’s the universal kidspeak for the Coleopterans.

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