About Assassin Bugs
With more than 6600 described species Reduviidae (Insecta: Heteroptera), or assassin bugs, are one of the largest and morphologically most diverse groups of Heteroptera or true bugs (Froeschner and Kormilev 1989, Maldonado 1990, Cassis and Gross, 1995). Reduviidae have a worldwide distribution and are most diverse in the tropics of the Old and New Worlds. Assassin bugs show a remarkable morphological diversity: some species are only a few millimeters long, others about three centimeters, and the so-called thread-legged bugs (Emesinae), kissing bugs (Triatominae), and ambush bugs (Phymatinae) are only three of several subfamilies with distinctive appearance in this heterogeneous taxon. Assassin bugs also show an exceptional range of adaptations to their prey organisms. Sticky trap bugs (Harpactorinae), blood-feeding kissing bugs (Triatominae), ant-luring feather-legged bugs (Holoptilinae), spider web-inhabiting thread-legged bugs (Emesinae), and termite-feeding Salyavatinae are five of the groups with apparently specialized feeding habits in this assemblage of more than twenty subfamily-level taxa. The most notorious Reduviidae are found among the kissing bugs or Triatominae, which are not only hematophagous on vertebrates, but also transmit Chagas Disease in humans.