Zelus longipes

Long-legged Assassin Bug

Zelus longipes, Long-legged Assassin Bug, Belize photo


Family: Reduviidae

Subfamily: Harpactorinae

Tribe: Harpactorini

Length: 16.0 - 18.5 mm; males tend to be smaller than females


The Long-legged Assassin is found from California to the Carolinas, and south to central Argentina. It is also found in the Caribbean.

The humeral angles ("shoulders") are rounded and lack spines.

Active in the daytime, Z. longipes feeds on a variety of insects including flies, leafhoppers, and planthoppers.  They seem to have no problem preying on chemically armed species, including stink bugs and solider beetles.  They don't hesitate to feed on paper wasps, which may be larger than they are. 

The common name Milkweed Assassin is sometimes used because of the superficial resemblance to the Large Milkweed Bug, Oncopeltus fasciatus. But since this assasin bug has no particular relationship with milkweeds, the translation of the specific epithet seems best: Long-legged Assassin.

Zelus nymphs have "resin" on their front legs that is used in capturing prey. At first they get this sticky substance from their mothers, but later they produce their own via specialized glands. Adults, too, use the sticky substances to increase the likelihood of successfully grabbing prey.

Longlegged Assassin Bug, Zelus longipes, Belize image

Photo location: Crooked Tree preserve, Belize (top two photos); Long Bay, Jamaica (lower photo).

Determined by Dr. Dimitri Forero, Pontificia Universidad Javeriana.


American Insects site