Ambush bugs, a type of assassin bug, are true bugs, in the order Hemiptera. (Although insects are often referred to as “bugs,” technically only insects in this order are classified as bugs by entomologists.) All true bugs have piercing and sucking mouthparts, and wings which are membranous and clear at the tips, but hardened at the base.
Ambush bugs are usually brightly colored (yellow, red or orange) and have thickened front legs which are used to capture prey up to ten times their own size. They live up to their name, patiently lying in wait for unsuspecting prey, often in goldenrod flowers where they are very well camouflaged. An ambush bug, upon sighting an insect, suddenly seizes the prey in its powerful forelegs and quickly dispatches it with a stab from its sharp beak. It then injects digestive enzymes into its prey, after which it drinks the resulting liquid innards.
The robber fly family, Asilidae, is one of the largest families of flies. All robber flies are predaceous and are recognized by their long bodies, forward-facing beaks and a tuft of hairs above the beak. You find them on the ground or on leaf tips and other sunny spots where they survey the area for flying insects. Once a robber fly has spotted a suitably-sized prey, it darts out and impales it with its stout beak. It then inserts its needlelike “tongue” into the prey’s neck, eye or other weak spot, immobilizing the insect and liquefying its innards with an injection of saliva that contains nerve poisons and enzymes that break down proteins. Finally, it drinks its meal. Pictured is a species of robber fly in the genus Diogmites, whose members are known for dangling by a foreleg while dining.
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