This weeks species is Reduvius personatus, Britain’s largest species of Assassin Bug (family Reduviidae). This impressive bug can grow up to about 2cm in length, and is found mostly near human habitation. It is nicknamed the Masked Hunter as the nymphs of this species secrete a sticky substance, which causes dust and debris to stick to their body and act as a camouflage when hunting. Both the nymphs and adults are predatory, and feed on a wide range of invertebrates, including Earwigs, Flies and Silverfish.
Reduvius personatus, like all true bugs (Hemiptera) feeds by essentially stabbing its prey, and then sucking it up. Being such a large and powerful bug, the beak of Reduvius personatus is strong enough to pierce human skin, and so deliver a painful bite. Fortunately it doesn’t bite unless picked up and handled roughly, so it’s usually entomologists that get bitten, and they don’t seem to mind too much!
My only encounter with the species was at my garden moth trap in July 2016, when one adult was attracted to the light (they’re fully winged, so fly well). Unfortunately, I don’t have any tips on how to find the species, other than to spend time at or near houses and get very lucky! I didn’t pick it up, however I did manage to get some nice photos:
You can see the lower part of the beak in the top photo, folded round underneath the body. This is held out in front of the insect when attacking prey. I’ve always thought that its dark colour and thick, sculptured-looking wings make this look like one of the most sinister British insects!
Reduvius personatus is almost certainly under recorded, but seems to be quite widespread in southern England and Wales. Here’s a link to its distribution map:
Hope you’ve enjoyed the blog. I’d love to know if anyone else has found Reduvius before, and how. Please leave a comment if you have!