My Dirt is your Disguise – Insects by Julie Craves
Okay, so domestic chores are not one of my strong points. Yet it was alarming to see a dirty bit of crud in the foyer begin to move under its own power across the entryway. Had I neglected housecleaning for so long that dust bunnies were becoming living organisms, like some Far Side cartoon?
A closer look revealed the animated detritus was an immature Masked Hunter (Reduvius personatus), a true bug inadvertently introduced from Europe sometime before 1900. They are now found over much of the U.S., most frequently being found in the central and northeastern states. They prefer dry conditions, so they are often found indoors. We have found them near doorways and on the front porch, where they hang out to feed on the insects attracted to the lights.
As do other members of the genus, the immature stages of the Masked Hunter look like smaller versions of the adults, except they are covered with fine hair-like structures which collect dust, dirt, and lint (adults are sleek and black). This camouflage perhaps helps the youngsters sneak up on their prey.
Like other assassin bugs, Masked Hunters stab their insect prey with beak-like mouth parts, then inject chemicals that both subdue the victim and liquefy their innards for easy slurping. While small – under an inch – Masked Hunters can nonetheless inflict a painful poke to humans if they are mishandled. They’re benign, though, and don’t transmit any diseases. In fact, they are often considered pretty good housemates. Masked Hunters are mainly nocturnal, and bed bugs are a favorite food, accounting for their alternative name “masked bed bug hunter.”
I’m happy to report we don’t have bed bugs, and I’m okay with allowing these little predators to keep the foyer and porch free of other insect invaders. Since covering themselves with debris only improves their hunting prowess, I’ve decided to put off the dusting for just a little while longer…