December 1, 2011
Orang assassin bug (Pselliopus barberi)
Photo by Jessica Walliser
I’ve never seen this kind of assassin bug before, and was surprised to find it in my living room.

My son and I found the strangest insect in our house the other day. It was climbing on the woodwork around the front door. Since working on my most recent book, I have come to greatly appreciate bugs and pay careful attention to the ones I find in my garden. This one, though, had me intrigued.

I had never seen one like it before in person but remembered seeing it on BugGuide, one of my favorite websites. I got online and discovered it’s an orange assassin bug Pselliopus barberi. I knew it was some kind of assassin bug by the long sword-like mouthpart tucked under it’s body and it’s stilt-like legs, but I wasn’t sure what kind. Sometimes it’s hard to believe there’s any bug in Pennsylvania that I haven’t seen after gardening here for 25 years. There are just so many out there—it’s nice to know I can still look forward to discovering more!

Assassin bugs, as a whole, are considered beneficial insects because they prey on many common pests. However, they will snag a bumblebee as quickly as a potato beetle. It made me wonder how this one got into my house—it was an accident I’m sure.

Of course, I ran to get my camera and put the extension tube on the lens so I could snap some pictures. While I was away, I asked my son to keep his eyes on the bug to be sure it didn’t fly away. “But don’t touch it,” I told him, “because if you handle assassin bugs that big mouth ‘spike’ can pierce your skin and leave a nasty welt.”

I managed to snap some pictures, but this guy really didn’t like having the camera so close and actually flew at the camera a few times and landed on my shirt. Ugh! Again, I appreciate insects, but don’t necessarily want this particular one on me. I got it to crawl off my shirt and onto a piece of paper and then put it back down for some more pictures.

I think the little guy was relieved when I finally put him back outside. My son, of course, ran for the bedroom when the bug flew up onto me. And he wouldn’t come out until he heard me open the front door and say goodbye.

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