Most recently reviewed by: Janet Hurley (2018)
Common Name(s): Assassin Bug
Common species in cotton include the leafhopper assassin bug, Zelus renardii (Kolenati), and the spined assassin bug, Sinea diadema (Fabricius). In both species, the head supports a strong beak. The leafhopper assassin bug is about 1/2 inch long and red, brown to yellowish-green. The front legs have no spines and are covered with a sticky substance with which they catch their prey. The spined assassin bug is similar in size but is dark brown to dull red-brown, not bicolored. The front legs are slightly swollen and covered with spines. The abdominal margins are expanded and flat with a pale spot on the rear margin of each segment.
Origin and Distribution
This species is native to North America. Solidago missouriensis can be found in many types of habitat. It is common on the Great Plains. It grows preferably in dry, open habitat and can occur at high elevations. It colonizes disturbed soils. During the Dust Bowl-era drought, when many of the native grasses and plants died, the goldenrod flourished in the dry, cleared soil. As the drought ended and the grasses returned, the goldenrod became less common, disappearing in many areas. It grows in soils turned over by burrowing animals and on roadsides and mining sites.
Assassin bug females deposit masses of brown, cylindrical eggs periodically. Immature nymphs resemble adults but are wingless and develop through five molts (instars) into adults in about two months. Nymphs of the spined-shouldered assassin bug are distinctly swaybacked.
In cotton fields, assassin bugs prey on a broad range of prey including fleahoppers, lygus bugs, aphids, caterpillar eggs and larvae and boll weevils. They will also eat other predaceous insects such as lady beetles and big-eyed bugs.