Jagged Ambush Bug

There are about 17 species of ambush bugs in North America north of Mexico. Ambush bugs are true bugs and are classified in the Phymatinae subgroup of the Assasin Bug Family (Reduviidae). I believe this ambush bug is a Phymata species. However, since assassin bugs are difficult to distinguish and I am definitely not an entomologist, Phymata sp is the only scientific name I care to venture.

In North America jagged ambush bugs are found throughout the United States and Southern Canada. They can be seen on flowers in gardens and meadows where they sit camouflaged while waiting in ambush for prey.

Jagged ambush bugs are usually yellow to greenish in coloration with dark brown markings. Their antennae are slightly clubbed and fold back onto the prothorax. The strong forelegs are adapted for grabbing and holding prey while injecting immobilizing saliva that also liquifies the body contents. The flaring sides of the abdomen extend beyond the closed forewings. Jagged spines at the rear side corners of the prothorax give jagged ambush bug its common name.

Black oval eggs coated with adhesive secretions are laid on plant material where they overwinter. In the early summer the nymphs emerge through an uncoated cap at the tips of the eggs and go through five molts before becoming adults.

Flies, bees, butterflies, day-flying moths, other true bugs and other insects are jagged ambush bugs’ prey. Generally ambush bugs are considered beneficial because they kill so many harmful insects. However, beekeepers often consider them pests because they destroy large numbers of bees.

This jagged ambush bug was photographed on a purple prairie clover (Dalea purpurea) plant growing along our driveway near Lookout CA (Modoc County).

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