By Carl White, Master Gardener
Learning to recognize the insects of the garden is so helpful in order that we don’t destroy the beneficial predators which aid us. Now who, among us, would love to see this monster on our flowers? But actually, they do us no harm if left alone and effectively help us. This effective predator hunter uses the large rostrom, snout, to puncture and secrete tissue dissolving saliva in its prey, thusly killing in this manner. Too numerous to picture here, browse this insect on your computer to see the brown, black, grey and bright colors in which it comes.
These are the predatory monsters of the insect world, often wearing the exoskeletons of their victims on their backs as a disguise. Not only an effective killing machine on insects, they can inflict a bite on humans and carry the Chagas parasite that can cause disease and death. If mishandled, or caught up in your clothing, you will likely be bitten as they will use the rostrom to bite and inject you with their saliva.
Also known as Kissing bug, or Vampire bug, the Assassin bug is common in Texas. Although beneficial, they should be respected and not handled. Gardeners often plant milkweed plants for attracting butterflies. The Milkweed Assassin Bug, Zelus longipes, is bright red and black.
This insect is slow-moving and non-aggressive. When found in the garden, avoid contact and they will continue to aid the gardener in control of harmful insects. The beneficial qualities of assassin bugs greatly outweigh the negative outcome, and as we learn their habits we avoid contact and enjoy their desirable qualities.
Join us in the Master Gardener program, visit the Texas AgriLife Extension service: in Odessa, 498-4071 or Midland at 686-4700.