Did you know that a certain assassin bug feeds only on millipedes? - Namibia Safari and Lodges - Gondwana Collection

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Did you know that a certain assassin bug feeds only on millipedes?

Avatar of inke inke - 19. February 2018 - Environment

On the right a bright red nymph of a Millipede Assassin Bug and on the left a young Millipede Assassin Bug showing some yellow of an adult. On both the short black wing pads can be seen.

Dirk Heinrich

After good rains a huge number of insects and other animals appear. Moths, butterflies, beetle and, well known to Namibians, millipedes are suddenly all over. Some millipedes are up to 20 cm long and more. Hundreds are killed on our roads when they try to cross. Their hard bodies seem to be a very good protection and as defence they can even secrete liquids and gases which deter most enemies. 

But there is one predator who has specialised in millipedes and he appears after the rains too: the millipede assassin (Ectrichodia crux). During the day this insect rests under stones or among debris. They emerge at night to feed on an exclusive diet of millipedes. Bright red nymphs and black-yellow adults frequently feed gregariously on a single large millipede. It is not yet known how the assassin bug manages to avoid the millipedes defence system.

Millipede assassin bugs are ambush predators, which stalk their prey and pierce the body with their proboscis, or “beak.”  Saliva containing paralytic toxins and cytolytic enzymes is injected into the body of the millipede to subdue the prey and initiate digestion of the body contents, which is sucked up.

The millipede assassin bugs are found all over southern Africa and can reach 22 mm in length. In Windhoek they are found in gardens where millipedes are common. As they grow they have to moult, leaving behind their whole skin. They are part of a family of about 7000 species. In the southern African region about 500 are known. Most of them live off other insects.

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