One day I noticed an insect in the bathroom, it looked like a cockroach with a pattern on it. Had I not come across this postI would have whacked it with a broom. This blog post helped me in identifying the bug as an assassin bug, belonging to the family of reduviids.
“This is a very diverse group of which there are around 6000 known species. All assassin bugs, as one would expect, are predators. They are characterised by the presence of a very prominent ‘beak’. The beak is used to pierce the prey and inject saliva thereby paralysing them. The saliva helps in digesting the contents of the prey. Subsequently, the assassin bug sucks the contents leaving behind an empty shell! This behaviour is what gives them their name.”- Karthikeyan Srinivasan.
During Kannan’s NTP he came across another species of the same family. This assassin bug was found feasting on termites. On a closer look at the picture one can see that a termite is biting the assassin bug.
Venom from reduviids has been a great source of novel peptides with a notable potential for agricultural and medicinal use. The toxic saliva of predatory assassin bugs contains a complex mixture of small and large peptides for diverse uses such as immobilizing and defending against competitors and predators. The presence of these antimicrobial peptides in venom has been suggested to be a defense mechanism against infections that may arise with the ingestion of prey. The salivary venom of reduviids consists of digestive enzymes, which immobilize the prey and help in its external digestion. The peptides insert into the inner membrane and break its permeability barrier, which results in cell death. The identified peptides have been used as drugs.
Below is an interesting link on how an assassin bug was reported to have used a dead termite as a bait to lure another termite. http://www.nytimes.com/1982/10/05/science/the-assassin-bug-finally-reveals-its-fatal-charm.html
Reduviids have been recognized as important natural enemies against several field crop pests.
Spider-hunting assassin bugs often mimic the vibrations produced by insects entangled in a spider web; the spider attacks, thinking that it has caught a tasty meal, only to be killed and devoured itself. Perhaps the most amazing assassin bug is a certain species that feeds on ants. It produces a sugary substance through its abdomen, which serves as bait for the sweet-loving ants. But the sugary substance is also loaded with a powerful tranquilizer; soon, the ant collapses, paralyzed, and the assassin bug can suck its without any resistance.
Click on the link below to see how assassin bugs hunt for their prey
It is important that we try to understand and appreciate these little insects around us which have a great potential for agricultural and medicinal uses.