A photo of an assassin bug on a flower, waiting for a bee to land.

Rhynocoris, an assassin with a multitool

The story of a bug with a versatile venom.


Picture yourself walking in the grass, in the fresh air of the late Spring.

[European spring soundscape fade in]

As the sun is shining on your rutilant body, you make your way through this herbaceous jungle. You are a red assassin bug, Rhynocoris iracundus, and you are looking for a prey. As a proper assassin, you pack a sophisticated weapon, to attack your preys and defend against your predators: your venom / a potent venom.

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While you are able to fly quite well to move fast, hunting is a task done on legs rather than wings. You are parsing through the grassland, searching for a prey to stalk. You are not a specialist, really, anything you can get your legs on, you will try to stab with your proboscis, the tubular mouthparts you use as both a stinger and a straw. And you are more than ready for an insect smoothy.

It might be surprising for an outsider to see an ambush predator styling your flashy colors. This red and black mix is clearly not for camouflage. Maybe that is why one of your favourite preys are bees, who are not too worried about bright colors, rather the opposite. You might just appear to them as one more flashy spot on a flower. Your red stripes come in really handy when it comes to warning your predators about one thing: you are ready to fight back.

It is called aposematism, the practice to be very obvious, so that potential predators easily learn not to choose you as a prey. Or else, they will have to deal with the painful venom you inject with your bite. When the colors aren’t sufficient, and you are faced with a foe, you even raise your frontlegs and expose your proboscis, with a droplet of poison dripping from it. This is the final, dramatic, warning.

Many would be the ones to envy the versatility of your venom. For preys, it brings a quick paralysis, ensuring that you are safe around them while you wait for their inside to be processed into a liquid meal. For predators, it is extremely painful, and the paralysis can even kill some of them by shutting down their body. Clearly, you make a worthy opponent even for animals much bigger than you.

But it’s not only the bigger threats that you need to be worried about. Diseases could also harm you. Once again, your incredible venom protects you: when you slurp up insect juice, the antimicrobial properties of your deadly weapon keep you healthy, in case you ended up preying on a sick insect.

It is a powerful multitool you carry, and maybe your secret to be such an assassin.


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Ullah, M. I.; Altaf, N.; Afzal, M.; Arshad, M.; Mehmood, N.; Riaz, M.; Majeed, S.; Ali, S.; Abdullah, A. Effects of Entomopathogenic Fungi on the Biology of Spodoptera Litura (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) and Its Reduviid Predator, Rhynocoris Marginatus (Heteroptera: Reduviidae). Int J�Insect�Sci 2019, 11, 1179543319867116. https://doi.org/10.1177/1179543319867116.