Overview

Brief Summary

Introduction

Reduvius personatus, known as the masked hunter, is one of the more commonly encountered members of the assassin bug family (Reduviidae).Although the adult appears rather plain, the species possesses some remarkable traits.The masked hunter is found across the northern hemisphere, and is generally associated with human habitation - it is synanthropic.The nymph (juvenile) has adaptations that allow it to accumulate a coating of fine debris to disguise itself amongst the dust of the home. It is this habit that gives the species its common and scientific names - personatus meaning 'masked' or 'disguised'.This insect can deliver a painful bite to humans when handled without care, but this causes nothing more than temporary discomfort.The Heteroptera receive little attention from entomologists despite upwards of 500 species being found in Britain alone, yet the group contains many fascinating examples of insect evolution.
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Taxonomy

The adult Reduvius personatus is dark brown to black, with paler bases to the tibia (legs) and antennae. The adult is typically 16–18mm long.This species is the only representative of its genus in the UK, but can be confused with other reduviids elsewhere in its global distribution.Even by insect standards the taxonomic relationships of these bugs are poorly understood. However the traditional and still widely used classification places the assassin bug family (including R. personatus) in the Heteroptera, along with related groups such as the shield bugs.Although Heteropterans may be mistaken for beetles (Coleoptera), they are readily distinguishable by their ‘rostrum’ - a beak-like mouth part that is used for feeding. R. personatus itself has a 3 segmented rostrum.The assassin bugs have a distinctive groove under their body that the rostrum fits into. When a bug rubs the rostrum against the ridges in this groove, it produces sound that is used to intimidate potential predators.Peak assassin bug diversity is centered around the tropics, as with many insect groups. Members of the Triatominae subfamily include vectors of Chagas disease - a parasitic infection that some speculate Charles Darwin may have suffered from.
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Comprehensive Description

Biology

Masked hunters, along with other bugs undergo incomplete metamorphosis. This means they hatch from eggs in a juvenile form known as the nymph.As they grow the nymphs pass through stages of development (called instars), shedding their skin until they reach the fully mature and winged adult form.The nymphs of the masked hunter use special structures on their hind legs called tarsal fans to coat themselves with dust particles. Special hair-like growths called trichomes cover the body and exude a sticky substance that ensures particles adhere to the insect.This provides an effective camouflage in tracking down their prey.They feed on a wide array of household insect pests, such as:
  • bedbugs
  • silverfish
  • booklice
  • flies
They have the potential for use as a biological control agent for such infestations, although the practicality of this is uncertain.
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Ecology

Associations

Animal / predator
adult of Chelifer cancroides is predator of nymph (1st instar) of Reduvius personatus

Animal / predator
nymph of Reduvius personatus is predator of Diptera

Animal / predator
nymph of Reduvius personatus is predator of Liposcelis

Animal / predator
nymph of Reduvius personatus is predator of Opiliones

Animal / predator
nymph of Reduvius personatus is predator of Cimex lectularius

Animal / predator
nymph of Reduvius personatus is predator of Lepisma saccharina

Animal / guest
adult of Reduvius personatus is a guest in house of Homo sapiens
Remarks: season: 5-end 9

Animal / predator
nymph (later instars) of Reduvius personatus is predator of Chelifer cancroides

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General Ecology

Distribution ecology

The masked hunter’s distribution extends throughout the Holarctic region, having been introduced to North America from Europe by man. In the UK most records are from southern and central England.Since the development of human habitation the masked hunter appears to have become a synanthrope. However it is also found free living in drier regions of the United States, and even in hollow trees in the UK.The species is not endangered, but records from the UK have dwindled in recent years. This is perhaps due to increased hygiene levels and a resulting decline in the household pests upon which it feeds.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Reduvius personatus

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 6
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Wikipedia

Reduvius personatus

Reduvius personatus or the masked hunter is an insect, belonging to the assassin bug (Reduviidae) family. The name refers to the fact that its nymph camouflages itself with dust. The masked hunter is a predator of small arthropods, including woodlice, lacewings, earwigs, and bed bugs.[1] Although they do not feed on human blood, masked hunters can bite humans in self-defence when mishandled. The bite can be very painful, but masked hunters do not transmit any diseases and medical attention is rarely needed.[2]

Identification[edit]

Adult masked hunters (Reduvius personatus) are uniformly dark brown to black in colour and vary in length from 17–22 mm.[3] They have an elongated head that includes a short, three-segmented beak as well as long slender antennae.[4] Their abdomen is wide, extending in the middle beyond the wings to reveal the lateral margins of their abdominal segments.[5] Nymphs of this species resemble the adult form and are naturally dark-coloured, but often appear grey or light-coloured due to a camouflage layer of debris covering them.[6] Nymphs exude a sticky substance that covers their entire body, including the antennae and all six legs, which causes dust, lint, and other small particles to adhere to the surface of their body.[7]

Natural history[edit]

Distribution[edit]

The Masked Hunter has a Holarctic distribution.[8] They are native to Europe but were accidentally transported to North America and are now common in the Central and Eastern United States. It can be also found in South Africa.[9]

Life cycle[edit]

Masked Hunters, like other Hemiptera, undergo incomplete metamorphosis. Early stages of the life cycle look like small adults and are called nymphs. There is normally one generation of masked hunter bugs per year. Adults are common during mid-summer, but can also be found in the winter months.[10]

Behaviour[edit]

Nymph covered with sand

Nymphs of R. personatus use their hind legs and a 'tarsal fan' to construct a camouflaging layer of substrate on their bodies.[11] Two layers are formed, an inner layer of fine particles and an outer layer of more coarse particles. It is hypothesized that the formation of these two layers may be the reason for the presence of long and short trichomes on the nymphs. Nymphs may use the serrated setae present on their abdomens to assist in loosening substrate for use in camouflage. The camouflage may assist the nymph in avoiding detection by both predators and prey. They hunt bed bugs at night, as well as other prey.

Both the nymphs and adults are predatory, feeding on various arthropods by piercing their bodies with sucking mouthparts.[12]

Masked Hunters prefer dry habitats and are usually only found in small numbers when they infest houses.

Human Impact[edit]

Masked Hunters will deliver a bite comparable to a bee's sting when handled or trapped. The bite can cause swelling that lasts for about a week.[13] Because Masked Hunters feed on a wide variety of arthropods they will sometimes be found in homes with bed bug infestations. They can generally be controlled by dealing with the bed bug infestation.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Iowa State University BugGuide". Retrieved 2009-02-22. 
  2. ^ "University of Minnesota Yard and Garden Briefs". Retrieved 2009-02-22. 
  3. ^ "Pest Diagnostic Clinic, Factsheet on Assassin Bugs". Retrieved 2009-01-30. 
  4. ^ "Assassin Bugs, HYG-2082-98". Retrieved 2009-08-02. 
  5. ^ "A Literature-based Key to REDUVIIDAE (Heteroptera) of Florida". Retrieved 2009-08-02. 
  6. ^ "Masked Hunters". Retrieved 2009-08-02. 
  7. ^ "Assassin Bugs, HYG-2082-98". Retrieved 2009-08-02. 
  8. ^ "Iowa State University BugGuide". Retrieved 2009-02-22. 
  9. ^ "University of Minnesota Yard and Garden Briefs". Retrieved 2009-02-22. 
  10. ^ "Wisconsin Horticulture". UW Extension Cooperative Extension. Retrieved 2012-12-26. 
  11. ^ Wierauch C. 2006. Anatomy of Disguise: Camouflaging Structures in Nymphs of Some Reduviidae (Heteroptera). Am. Mus. Novit. 3542: 1-18
  12. ^ "Michigan State University Diagnostic Services". Retrieved 2009-02-22. 
  13. ^ "Masked Hunters". Retrieved 2009-02-22. 
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