ASSASSIN BUGS: Reduviidae
ADULT: Medium to large insects (1/2 to 1 in long) with somewhat elongate, drab to brightly colored bodies. Their heads are narrow and elongate with a neck-like constriction behind the compound eyes. The mouthparts are produced into a 3-segmented beak that curves to fit into a grove on the underside of the thorax. Abdomen often widened to expose the top surface beyond the wing margins. Front legs often somewhat enlarged to aid in prey capture. Wings have two large cells in distal part of wing.
EGG: Masses of eggs are deposited on leaves and stems in groups of 30 or more. Eggs are often capped with an ornate flange or series of hairs. The mass is glued together by a substance that also provides some protection when hardened. Nymphs emerge from the brown to coppery colored eggs in 5 to 9 d.
NYMPH: Nymphs emerge from eggs and begin to look for prey. They look very similar to adults and begin to develop wing buds as they grow. Relative to their body size, their legs are quite long and thin. There is no pupal stage in Reduviidae. Nymphs complete development in 30 to 50 d.
HABITS: These predacious bugs suck body fluids from prey, such as small to medium sized armyworms, earworms, rootworm and cucumber beetle adults and other soft bodied insects. They are often observed feeding on prey in corn whorls or on leaves just outside whorls. Assassin bugs will live to reproduce in fields with low or selective insecticide inputs. Zelus longipes is a common assassin bug found throughout Florida in corn. Its color ranges darker and lighter than the specimen pictured here.