Although these chunky little predators are less than ½ inch long, they are a deadly threat to bees, flies and other insects that visit flowers to collect nectar or pollen. Ambush bugs hide in flower blooms, where they sit and wait for their prey. When a bee or fly comes too close, they grab it with those strong, raptorial forelegs, much like a praying mantis. Usually they choose prey that is smaller than they are, but I have seen ambush bugs capture honey bees that were considerably larger than themselves. Praying mantids use chewing mouthparts to devour their prey, but ambush bugs have piercing-sucking mouthparts and suck fluids from their victims after injecting them with a venomous saliva that paralyzes the prey and predigests and liquefies it’s inner body parts.
Ambush bugs are quite common, but they usually go unnoticed because they are so well-camouflaged when hiding among flower blooms. They are especially common in golden rod blooms in the fall, and if you want to see one, this is a good place to look. It may take a while to find the first one, but once you do, and learn what to look for, you may be surprised to learn how many ambush bugs are out there. This can be a fun little competition to have with children on a fall afternoon. Just find a field full of golden rod blooms or other wild flowers and challenge the kids to see who can find the most ambush bugs in fifteen minutes. Be sure to warn them that ambush bugs can give a painful little bite if mishandled.
Blake Layton, Extension Entomology Specialist, Mississippi State University Extension Service.
The information given here is for educational purposes only. Always read and follow current label directions. Specific commercial products are mentioned as examples only and reference to specific products or trade names is made with the understanding that no discrimination is intended to other products that may also be suitable and appropriately labeled.
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