For the longest time I have been unable to identify this tiny insect, thinking it was among the family of stick insects or some such nonsense. However, upon further research, I have finally Identified it. Found on my wood pile, Zelus luridus is the nymph stage of the Assassin Bug.


Egg mass (reference 3)

As outlined in reference (1), the Assassin bug lays its eggs on the bottoms of leaves associated with deciduous trees and shrubs. The eggs are what is most commonly found. They are composed of a red or brown-ish sticky mass containing up to four dozen eggs which are round and flattened on the top. Eggs are laid from late June through August.


First instar Zelus luridus (reference 1)

The first instar larva, upon hatching, clusters around the eggs mass and feed collectively, using the sticky red secretion of the mother as a trap for its first prey, until larger amounts can be produced on its own by a gland starting in the second instar, which is found on the forelegs legs, (reference 2). Later instars cover their forelegs with the sticky substance and use them to grasp their prey.


Zelus luridus on my book.


Late instar Zelus luridus (reference 1)

The larvae undergo five nymphal stages during their incomplete metamorphosis, which means they are visibly very similar to the adults, simply lacking the developed wings and body girth. Though appearing cute and harmless, they live up to their names as assassins in many ways, including the extremely painful bite which can be felt “to the bone” as put by various other bloggers and luckless collectors who have happened to get their hands too close to this little bugger’s sharp mouthparts.

As the mouth parts must be used for some good, prey includes small aphids, flies, wasps or sawflies, depending on the size of the the larva, and the prey. Larger species may even go for caterpillars. The larvae overwinter among leaf litter o other protected sites (such as my wood pile…not really that good of an idea though). By late spring, they have finished their growth cycles, and the adults begin emerging.


Zelus luridus adult (reference 4)

Adults are on average 16 mm long, elongated, often yellow-greenish to reddish and brown to resemble leaf litter. A thin head is subject to a piercing beak, which injects a destructive substance into the prey in order to liquify the insides. They often wait on leaves in ambush of their prey, but they may actively hunt. Zelus luridus is mainly confined to the Eastern United states, though reports can also be found as far as Colorado. There is one generation per year.


(1)Zelus luridus – A Common Assassin Bug


(2)Zelus luridus – Wikipedia

(3)BugGuide – Assassin Bug

(4)Reduviidae (Heteroptera: Cimicomorpha) – Pictures

Assassin Bug (Zelus luridus)

8 thoughts on “Assassin Bug (Zelus luridus)

  1. Excellent read, I just passed this onto a colleague who was doing a little research on that. And he actually bought me lunch because I found it for him smile So let me rephrase that.

  2. datch says:

    We have them all over the place here too- apparently they sting or bite- I have a huge welt from where it got me.

  3. Aron says:

    I like the way you think

  4. Mark says:

    Does the bit need to be treated?

    • Not at all. I have also been bitten, and I agree it hurts a surprising amount! However, humans are many many times bigger than their normal prey, so we’re almost always fine. There are other assassin bugs out there, that are much larger and do carry human diseases. Avoid those ones (I’m looking at you, bug that carries Chagas disease!).

      • Jenny Davis says:

        So this little green guy does NOT carry any human diseases? My 17 month old was bit this morning, poor guy!

  5. Noreen Fioco says:

    I live in Ontario New York and yesterday I was bitten by one of these little suckers and it hurts really bad it’s worse than a bee sting. And I never even heard of these things before. And so glad that I found out what it was by looking on here. And it’s name is true you did try to assassinate me. Wasn’t sure if it was poisonous or not

  6. Noreen Fioco says:

    And I have his remains in an envelope I would put a picture on here but I’m not sure I can

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