What is an Assassin Bug? (How to Identify & Get rid of Assassin Bugs)

Assassin bugs bite and their bites can be fatal to other insects. This, of course, is how they got their name. But can they actually harm humans?

In this article, we’ll answer all your questions related to assassin bugs. We’ll tell you how to get rid of them for your safety and teach you how to deal with their nasty bites.

What is an Assassin Bug?

This Pest Strategies guide will cover the following:

  • What is an assassin bug?
  • What do assassin bugs look like?
  • Are assassin bugs dangerous?
  • And tips for getting rid of assassin bugs!
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What is an Assassin Bug?

An assassin bug is a predatory insect that feeds on other bugs. It also feeds on reptiles, birds, and other animals, including mammals like humans. There are currently 7000 species across the globe, with 50 of them native to California.

Most gardeners think that the assassin bug is quite beneficial because it feeds on several insects like flies, ladybugs, bees, caterpillars, and other annoying creatures that might eat your plants. Nevertheless, assassin bugs are quite dangerous to deal with so you should understand how to act in case you see one.

This bug grabs its prey and stabs it to immobilize it. Toxins are released into the body of the victim and the prey can’t move. After that, the assassin bug will start sucking on the body fluids of the victim bug until it’s dead. The assassin bug has strong, straw-like mouthparts that can easily penetrate through the body of a bigger animal.

Generally speaking, this bug will measure about an inch or an inch and a half. It’s usually black or brownish. It might have an oval or slightly elongated body. It has antennas that divide into 4 segments and a three-piece segmented tubular mouthpart or proboscis that folds in a space behind the bug’s throat.

The bug can sting when it comes in contact with another animal or retract its body like a spring to attack another animal that might be even a foot away. It releases venom into the eyes and nose of the prey to cause strong irritation. When it attacks humans, this venom can cause temporary blindness.

Check out the video below for more information on the infamous assassin bug:

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What Other Names Are Assassin Bugs Referred To As?

In several parts of the world, the assassin bug is called the kissing bug. This is because it usually tends to bite humans and other animals near their mouths.

Not all assassin bugs are kissing bugs, as the term actually refers to the whole family. Some people also call them vampire bugs because their main food source is the blood and other body fluids of other creatures, including bigger animals.

Assassin Bugs Known As Kissing Bugs

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Are Assassin Bugs Poisonous or Dangerous?

Assassin bugs are widely populous in the Southwest of the United States and across Latin America. To humans, assassin bugs can dangerous, and in rare instances, fatal. They release irritating venom and their feces can contain parasites that can cause serious infections to humans.

Most of the time these bugs don’t attack humans unless they’re heavily provoked. Some humans also handle the assassin bug carelessly because they don’t understand the damage it can inflict.

Most people can get bitten by kissing bugs or assassin bugs if they’re working in the garden. In some rare cases, the kissing bug might get into your home and bite you accidentally.


Though Assassin Bug bites or Kissing Bugs' Bites are rare, if you are bitten by either and you experience swelling around the eye, you should be seen by your doctor. Assassin bugs can carry diseases that are very serious such as Chagas disease.

Kissing bugs’ bites are different as they’re more dangerous. They don’t hurt as much at the beginning so you might not even notice that the bug has actually bitten you. Nevertheless, the kissing bugs’ bites are actually more dangerous to humans. Here are some of their symptoms.

  • The saliva of the kissing bug makes the place numb, allowing the bug to feed on the body fluids of the victim.
  • Most of the bugs like to bite their victims at night. This is why most people might easily confuse the bite of a kissing bug with the bite of a bedbug.
  • Kissing bugs usually bite their victims on their faces, most commonly near the mouth. In some cases, the bug might bite you near your eyes. Most of the time, the bites will form a cluster around your mouth which feels uncomfortable and doesn’t look attractive.

Kissing bugs exclusively can put you in a risk for the Chagas disease. This is a life-threatening disease caused by the protozoan parasite known as Trypanosoma cruzi. Chagas disease is also widely known as American Trypanosomiasis.

The protozoan is only found in the feces of the bug. When the bug bites you it will leave some of its feces on top of your skin. When you scratch your skin because the bite feels itchy, the parasites will have a chance to get into your bloodstream.

This disease can be treated and isn’t fatal until you’ve ignored it long enough. Only 60% of the kissing bugs carry these dangerous parasites so you might not get sick even if you got bitten by one.

If you think that you have been bitten by a kissing bug, you should wash the infected it area, disinfect it and avoid scratching it. In the beginning, the symptoms of Chagas disease can be easily confused with several medical problems because the symptoms are rather common.

Infected people are likely to suffer from nausea, loss of appetite, general fatigue, headache, fever, and severe swelling in the site of the bite. However, one of the most unique symptoms is that patients will usually have severe swelling around the eye. If this happens then you probably suffer from Chagas disease.

When not treated, the parasites can cause permanent damage to the liver, heart, and spleen. Luckily, there is a medication that can help you avoid all these annoying side effects but it should be administered as soon as you get bitten.

How to Identify Symptoms of an Assassin Bug’s Bite:

  • People with sensitive skin like babies and older people are likely to show more severe symptoms.
  • The bite is usually swollen and itchy, causing extreme discomfort and some pain.
  • The assassin bug is likely to attack you and bite if it feels threatened. This is why most of the people have their bites on their hands and arms. You might also have bite marks on your feet if you’re walking barefoot where the bug is hiding.
  • People can immediately identify that they have been bitten by an assassin bug because the pain is usually quite intense. It is much worse than getting stung by a wasp or a bee.
  • Depending on the severity of the bite, you might have a red swollen dot on top of your skin or you’ll have an itchy swollen lesion that feels painful to touch.
  • Assassin bug bites can easily become infected as the bugs themselves carry harmful bacteria in their mouths. Once these bacteria get in touch with your skin or get introduced into the bloodstream they’re likely to cause serious irritation.

Danger to Other Bugs &  Living Creatures

Most gardeners should be happy to find an assassin bug in their garden because this bug does a great job of keeping other pests at bay. Most gardening enthusiasts and farmers spend a lot of time and use chemicals trying to protect their plants from being eaten by greedy creatures like aphids, caterpillars, and squash bugs.

The assassin bug will gladly feed on these insects which are the natural enemies of your plants. 

However, these bugs don’t discriminate so they might feed on innocent bugs that you need in your garden like bees and ladybugs. Ladybugs feed on other insects like aphids, and bees are essential for transferring pollen grain.

Gardener's Note: Assassin Bugs

If you're a gardener or a farmer, you may be pleased to find an assassin bug among your plants, as they are helpful at keeping other pests at bay.

However, these bugs don’t discriminate so they might feed on innocent bugs that you need in your garden like bees and ladybugs. Ladybugs feed on other insects like aphids, and bees are essential for transferring pollen grain.

Assassin bugs that like to feed on other bugs, butterflies, and birds are easily found in the bushes and on the trees. Other bugs prefer to feed on smaller animals like rabbits and mice so they will hide in burrows and even birds’ nests. It’s also common to see an assassin bug in your bedroom.

The female assassin bug lays its eggs in the fall and they hatch in the spring. After a short time, the younger bug turns into an adult that is ready to ambush its prey. An adult bug will either ambush the unsuspecting prey or stalk it until it’s close by and quickly stab it with it the protruding mouthpart.

Poisonous venom is transferred into the body of the victim which quickly paralyzes it by affecting its nervous system. The muscles of the victim bug change into a liquid and it can’t move or run away. After that, the assassin bug uses its beak-like structure to suck the fluids out of the body of the other bug. The assassin bug can overcome a prey multiple times the size of its body.

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What Do Assassin Bugs Look Like & How Do I Identify Assassin Bugs?

Assassin bugs are quite easy to identify because they have rather small heads compared to their oval elongated bodies. They can be green, brown or even black to blend well with the environment. In most cases, the bug will just hide under a leaf or a flower waiting for an innocent bug to come close.

Ambush bugs are closely related to assassin bugs, but they’re usually brighter in color. They might be red, yellow, orange or green to attract the attention of other insects that might think that they’re part of a flower. Ambush bugs usually have thickened front legs to catch the prey.

Identifying Assassin Bugs

The species that attack vertebrae can be easily identified due to their distinctive mouthparts. They can feed on wild animals like rats or pets. If you’re not careful they might also be interested in feasting on human blood.

What Are Assassin Bugs Commonly Mistaken For?

Identifying the assassin bug means that you can easily take the right action if you ever encounter one. Nevertheless, some people can mistake assassin bugs with other insects.

Assassin Bug Vs. the Western Conifer Seed bug

The western conifer seed bug is easily confused with the assassin bug and the kissing bug. It feeds on conifers and is native to the western United States. Recently, more people have been seeing this bug in the eastern United States, different parts of Latin America, and several European countries.

The western conifer seed bug is a phytophagous insect that feeds on the juices of plants. However, it’s been reported that it can bite humans occasionally when it feels attacked. It’s considered an annoying pest because it feeds on and destroys conifers.

Assassin bugs have slender bodies and their mouthparts are more prominent. They have a beak-like structure to suck on the juices of plants or body fluids of other bugs and animals. 

Assassin Bug Vs. Wheel Bug

Wheel bugs actually belong to the big family of assassin bugs. They’re quite big reaching 1.25 inches tall and are usually found in North America. Wheel bugs don’t attack pets or humans but they’re usually more interested in bigger insects and caterpillars.

These bugs get their name from a crescent-like shape that protrudes from the thorax or the middle section of the body. This is the most distinctive feature that will set them apart from other assassin bugs, including kissing bugs.

Assassin Bug Vs. Leaf-Footed Bug

The wings of the leaf-footed bug will help you identify it because they basically look like leaves.  These bugs have segmented antennas that are also divided into 4 pieces just like the assassin bugs. However, the assassin bugs have a shorter and curvier beak that curls to the inside.

Leaf-footed bugs have rather flat feet so they’re quite different from assassin bugs and kissing bugs. The mid-section of the leaf-footed bugs is usually bulkier. In some cases, the leaf-footed bugs have thicker antennas that you can easily identify without getting into direct contact with the bug.

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What Do Assassin Bugs Eat?

Assassin bugs are predators. This is usually good news for you because they feed on other annoying bugs and creatures that usually eat your plants. They usually feed on caterpillars, aphids, leafhoppers, and other small to medium-sized bugs.

These bugs don’t bite and chew their food. Instead, they inject the bug with venom that dissolves the muscles so the assassin bug can easily suck on the juices found in the body. After that, the assassin bug will leave the body of the victim bug after it has sucked it dry.

For this reason, it’s quite common to see an assassin bug feeding on another bug that is significantly larger than itself. Assassin bugs will also eat beneficial bugs like ladybugs and lacewings. They might also be interested in eating bees and larvae of butterflies.

How to Handle Your Assassin Bugs Problem?

Assassin bugs and specifically kissing bugs can be found in 28 states towards the Midwest and south of the United States. These bugs were once found further south but climate change has pushed them to stick to these areas.

Assassin bugs and kissing bugs will usually hide in burrows, nests, and other hidden areas in your garden. Kissing bugs will get attracted to the bright lights and colors from your house so they’re likely to get inside to search for food.

These bugs love to hide in cool dark places so they find shelter between mattresses where they can get confused with bed bugs, so having mattress and pillowcase encasements isn't a terrible idea.

The best way to handle your assassin bugs problem is to prevent them from entering your house. Here are a few things to do if you’re dealing with a serious infestation.

  • Seal all the cracks, crevices, and openings that might be inviting for bugs. Keep windows, especially the ones close to trees closed at night to keep the bugs away.
  • If there are leaves that hang close to your windows, get rid of them.
  • Make sure that all windows and doors are perfectly sealed. There should be no space between them and adjacent walls or floors.
  • Use screens on windows and doors if you like to keep them open. Mesh allows for light and air to pass through but will keep the bugs away.
  • Burn any nests of rodents because some parasitic assassin bugs live there to feed on their blood.
  • Some sprays that work to fight off bed bugs can also be used to get rid of assassin bugs.

How to Get Rid of Assassin Bugs

Assassin bugs are strong and will remain active even in cold weather. This is why getting rid of them might not be the easiest task. Once assassin bugs have found a way to get into your house, they’re likely to live there for a long time.

These bugs tend to live in groups and will remain hiding during the daytime. However, they get quite active at night and will be attracted to the lights. Luckily, there are some remedies that will help you get rid of assassin bugs in your house.

Treating the infestation of assassin bugs starts by controlling the population outside the house. This will prevent the bug from reproducing and infesting your house later on.

Bifen LP Granules are widely used because they keep your lawn pest-free for up to 3 months. At the same time, this insecticide is safe against other non-target animals like pets and birds.

The good thing about these wide-spectrum granules is that they can target several annoying pests including beetles thus keeping your plants healthy. You can apply them using a hand spreader or a push spreader. A hand spreader works when you’re trying to fight assassin bugs in a precise area like a flowerbed or around trees. If you wish to cover a big lawn then a broadcaster will work better.

Dealing with insecticides can be a tricky job, especially if you have allergies or other health issues. Hiring a professional exterminator service is a practical solution because you can rest assured that your infestation is being dealt with.

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