Family: Reduviidae (assassin bugs)
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Rhinocoris sp. (Reduviidae) in fynbos.
An unidentified assassin bug sucking out the contents of a
chrysomelid beetle it caught.
Assassin bugs are so called because they are predators, their prey consisting mainly of
insects and other arthropods. The elongate head and short curved proboscis are good field
characters to distinguish them from other bugs. They pierce their captured prey with the
sharp stylets in their proboscis, inject saliva which paralyses the prey, and then suck up
the body fluids.
In South America there is the subfamily Triatominae whose members are blood feeders and
some of which suck blood from people while they are sleeping. They are vectors of Trypanosoma
cruzi which causes Chagas' disease. In Africa there is another species of Trypanosoma
transmitted by Tsetse flies and which causes sleeping sickness in people and nagana in
cattle. The reduviids in Africa are not blood feeders but they can inflict a painful bite
if handled carelessly.