My Garden’s Assassins (Assassin Bugs: A Beneficial Garden Insect)

Mother nature sends us all kinds of good things to help us with the bad, we just have to know where to look! Everyone knows about lady bugs and how beneficial they are too the garden but there are other little insects that can do a good job too. Take my recent discovery of assassin bugs for example. One day while inspecting my vegetable garden I discovered six insect eggs. Three were on a tomato plant and another three were on a garlic leaf. I was fearful of what they would become and decided that I would allow the eggs to hatch in a jar so that I would find out exactly what kind of insect was setting up a nursery in my garden. I suspected caterpillars but since I have very little knowledge of entomology I wanted to be sure. My hope was that I would be able to identify any future eggs I happened to see. I pulled the sections of leaves where the eggs were and placed them in the jar, then punched a few holes in the top and waited.

A few days later we discovered that these were not harmful garden predators but were really beneficial insect predators called assassin bugs! They are related to squash bugs (both in the order Hemiptera) and look just as creepy but what they do makes them very cool. Assassin bugs seek out and destroy aphids, boll weevils, caterpillar eggs and larvae. Now where were they when the cabbage loopers were attacking? They will also attack other arthropods like those squash bugs and will even attack other beneficial insects like ladybugs. Assassin bugs inject a poison into their prey that is capable of hurting people as well if they happen to get bitten by them. It’s best not to handle them and just to let them do their job in the garden.

I released my six assassin bug nymphs into the garden on the cucumbers plants. My hope is that they will seek out and eliminate any cucumber beetles or other pests they may find. When organic gardening beneficial insects are a neccessity and it’s important to know those friends and allies!

For more complete information on assassin bugs (as well as other true bugs) visit the Univeristy of Kentucky Fact Sheet on assassin bugs.

13 thoughts on “My Garden’s Assassins (Assassin Bugs: A Beneficial Garden Insect)

  1. mrshester

    Aww, I've been killing these little weirdos. And yes, I can attest to their painful attacks. I was "bitten" by a large black one when I was younger and they have almost a needle-like thing they hit you with and it goes deep and it HURTS. My finger became very red where I was hit. So, I will keep my distance from them, lol, but no more violent deaths.

  2. Cherie

    I have never ever seen these in my garden,harrumph. Maybe they could get rid of the gazillion box elder beetles and earwigs on my property.I'll have to go looking for them,very carefully.

  3. Ginger

    Oh my gosh, I just saw one of these for the first time today and shot it with the hose!! Never again! Thanks for the information!

    By the way, I ordered the plant propogation book you recommend tonight.

  4. Skeeter

    Oh my goodness, I have assassin’s in my garden! Thanks for identifying these things as I have been wondering for years! They look like little assassins in the manner in which they arch their backs and look as though they are ready to attack! Wish I had known what they were when I spotted them then I would have plucked the leaf and placed them on the cabbage as something is eating it like crazy….

  5. Lzyjo

    What a great idea! I never occurred to me to let the eggs hatch in a jar! I got lucky one time when the parasitic wasps killed the horn worms on my tomatoes. Disgusting! I'll be looking for some of these assassins! Thanks for the info!

  6. Amanda Elizabeth

    I usually operate on a catch and release bug program in my home but today I found one of these guys on the balcony of my apartment, 3rd floor far far far from any gardening that would benefit from its presence. After tracking down its ID I'm more than nervous about more showing up considering that my dog and cat enjoy the balcony as much as me. I can't anticipate or track everything that my cat decides to hunt. I'm into organic gardening and everything, but after reading about the aggressive nature of this insect and its appearance far from a garden scene (there's no garden even at ground level) is there a spray that they don't like so they'll just avoid the area? Any other advice?

  7. Jerome

    I found your blog by doing research on the assassin bug. I found it and the leaf footed bug look a lot alike. The nymphs do as well. The eggs on the other hand do not. I think that the eggs you had were leaf footed bugs. You may want to google them both. Look at the eggs. Leaf footed bugs are bad for your garden.
    I am not an expert. I just started researching them. I am not afraid to admit I am wrong either but hope for my gardens sake I am not.

  8. Dave

    Jerome,

    You may be right. I based my analysis on the nymph stage which is very similar. I'm definitely not an entomologist and didn't even think about the eggs being used as an identifier. I'll be making some corrections in the days ahead. Thanks for the heads up!

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