Masked Hunter Adult

2014 May 24

While we found this bug on the wall on July 4, 2013 at the same time as we were using the porch light to draw moths, I’m not entirely sure that it was drawn by the light itself. It may have been drawn by the availability of prey.

It’s an adult Masked Hunter, Reduvius personatus[1], one of the better-known of the predatory “assassin bugs”.

I’ve had pictures of these three times before, once as an adult way back in 2007, and twice more as young nymphs, masking themselves with dust.

The abdomen of the adults is deeply dished, with the wings nestling down in the middle. This appears to be a hold-over of their childhood days, when that dished abdomen was filled with dust and debris to disguise it as a dust bunny.

While these can live in the house (and are a cosmopolitan species that lives where humans do), the local outside environment seems congenial to them. We find them outdoors as well as indoors, and they seem to be happy in our unheated garage. While these can bite humans, they haven’t bitten me or anyone I know. While they have a reputation for eating other small insects in the house, like bedbugs and carpet beetle larvae, this factsheet from the Penn State Extension Service says that they aren’t particularly effective at actually controlling populations of these other insects, and so aren’t actually desirable in the house. The factsheet also says that the bites, when they occur, are very painful, so if you find one don’t catch it in a way that it will have a chance to bite.

One way to catch creatures that might bite, is to get a smallish jar and a playing card big enough to cover its mouth. Just slap down the jar over the thing you want to catch, then slide the card underneath, and take it away.

[1] Although, I just read on Eric Eaton’s blog about the very similar Black Corsair, which is a different species of assassin bug. The Black Corsair is a bit smaller than the Masked Hunter, is also jet-black in the northern part of its range, and only the males have functional wings. I don’t think that my specimen here is a male Black Corsair, though, because it is quite large, its wings look smaller relative to its body, its front legs are more slender, and there is no trace of any red on its abdomen. Plus we have found the very distinctive Masked Hunter nymphs around our house on several occasions. Just keep in mind that I could easily be mistaken.

3 Responses
  1. May 24, 2014

    Being a sometime student of signal detection, I wonder what sensors the bug uses to find its prey and what their range is. Light would be interesting as the bug would have learned that prey are drawn to light, so noms are at the light. If it was sound, then it would be homing in on wing vibrations which then leads me to wonder if earlier light bulbs, which I believe sometimes made buzzing noises as the filament vibrated, provided interference that drowned out the sound of the fluttering wings.

  2. Carole permalink
    May 24, 2014

    Haven’t seen these in north Florida, interesting.

  3. Paula G Whyte permalink
    August 20, 2017

    We have them now in South-Eastern Ontario and let me tell you, they are aggressive and they DO come indoors, we have found five this year, and they bite. I just got bitten today after I walked outside to water a planter. I was barefoot as this is quite a common thing to do where I’m from and won’t be anymore. This is an invasive species here and I stepped near this damned insect in broad daylight, in the bright sunshine before I saw it. It immediately went after my foot and bit me on the side of the foot, driving its proboscis into my foot. The pain was excruciating.
    The only way I can describe it was as though someone was driving a drill bit into the side of the foot while at the same time holding a lit cigarette against the skin and refusing to let go! I screamed and threw the watering can and grabbed my foot and the Masked Hunter at the same time and managed to dislodge it. I don’t know where the blankety-blank fell but I stumbled into the house crying for help. I was rooting through drawers for anything to help with the pain, a crushed aspirin, any cream I could rub on….I finally settled on Orajel and baby bum cream while my husband was coming back from the drugstore with Benadryl After Bite. The bite site swelled up and the swelling spread a bit and my foot throbbed with some pain shooting up my leg for a while. Now it has settled to a throb with the pain just stabbing intermittently.
    Please be careful with these insects. They are not likely to make people sick but they damned well will bite at the slightest provocation and it really, really hurts. Be careful.
    From first-hand experience.
    Thanks, Paula McIntyre-Whyte
    Arnprior, ON, Canda

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