How to identify ambush bugs

ambush bugs

The ambush bug is found in the Hemiptera order of insects and is one of the most fascinating to observe of all predatory bugs in this order. This amazing creature is well known for its ability to hide itself among a beautiful bunch of flowers, calmly waiting for another insect to appear. Aptly named for its unique talent, the ambush bug will snatch the prey up with its knife like pincers and feast on all but its outer shell.

These small bugs are easily observed during the fall months of the year since they are known to set up their habitat among most fall flowers. The body of the ambush bug is rather odd in shape, with a tiny waist area separating a much larger upper and slightly larger lower body. This tiny insect is around a half inch in length and has a variation of colors on its different body parts. In some species the legs and pincers are bright yellow, as are the outer portions of the wings.

The body of most species is a dark brown with mottled areas of black and an occasional yellow spot. The antennas are long and brownish yellows at the head moving out to a darker brown on the ends. Much like the antenna the eyes are large with a brownish yellow coloration.
Since the ambush bug is such an amazing hunter it is considered to be one of the more beneficial insects since it feeds often on wasp and flies. Even with its interesting coloration, the ambush bug does not just restrict its habitat to yellow flowers.

This creature has a knack for camouflaging its body so that it remains almost completely undetectable on any color of flower. Of course the diet of the ambush bug does not just consist of flies and wasp. This predatory creature is well known for eating butterflies, bees or most other soft-shelled insects that come within its reach. It is interesting to note that the ambush bug does not discriminate in size when choosing its victim since it is common to see this insect feasting on other insects such as the white butterfly which is much larger in size.

Once the ambush bug has trapped its victim with its large blade-like pincers it will immediately inject a poisonous saliva-like substance into the body. This substance will paralyze the victim and cause the breakdown of its internal tissues eventually causing its death. While this breakdown process occurs the ambush bug patiently waits and then stabs the lifeless body with its short beak, sucking out the juices.

One of the best ways to find this tiny creature is to look around the base of flowering plants for the discarded shells of other insects such as butterflies, bees, wasp and flies. When you discover this small predator you also may be fortunate enough to see a crab spider which is often found sharing the ambush bugs habitat. This tiny creature is yellowish white in color and moves sideways among the flower petals.

The ambush bug is found in the Phymatidae family that has close to 200 species living in moderate temperature areas of the United States and Asia. During the mating season the smaller males are commonly seen riding around on the backs of the larger females of their species while the females continue to feed. Amazingly, this behavior is only part of the courting ritual since the ambush bugs mate while side by side.

The female will deposit her eggs among the leaves or on the stems of her flowering habitat. As the colder months move in both the male and female of the species will die leaving the eggs unattended through the winter. The minute nymphs that are about the size of a gnat will emerge during the following spring.

They immediately begin preying on insects that are much larger as their body goes through five different molts. In the late summer, the adults emerge to feed, mate, and produce the next generation.

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