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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]


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]


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]


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.


  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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