Assassin bugs are among nature’s most ingenious killers, although are harmless to man but do have excruciatingly painful bites. There are many species of assassin bug, they often specialise in a certain kind of prey; for example, some of them feed only on spiders, others prefer ants, etc. They kill their prey by shooting their needle-like mouth parts into the body of their prey and inject in their lethal saliva, which liquefies the victim’s innards. They are pretty formidable in their attack; however, most assassin bugs are not fast runners or flyers so they have come up ingenious ways of trickery in their hunting tactics. Some cover them cover their bodies in bark, dust or even dead insects to disguise their appearance and scent, and sneak up on unsuspecting prey. Spider-hunting assassin bugs mimic vibrations produced by insects tapped in their web, fooling the spider into thinking they have caught an insect, to only be killed and eaten themselves. Possibly the most remarkable assassin bug is the species which feeds on ants. It secretes a sugary substance through its abdomen, which acts as bait for the ants, but it is loaded with a powerful tranquilizer. Within seconds after ingestion, the ant collapses, paralyzed, and the assassin bug can suck its innards without any resistance.
Japanese Hornets, known as ‘Tiger Hornets’ in some parts of Asia, are large wasps and relentless hunters that kill any insects they can capture. In their armoury, they have an incredibly potent venom and have the ability to inject great amounts of it and repeatedly inject this venom. Their venom is so potent it will cause serious illness to humans and can even cause death, they are classed as the most dangerous animal in Japan – killing around 40 people per year (more than bears and snakes combined). The Japanese Hornet uses its sting only as a defence mechanism; to kill prey, it uses its sharp jaws to decapitate the victim, and cut its body in small pieces. It then carries the carcass back to the nest to feed to the larvae. Follow the feeding, the larvae produce a sweet sugary liquid which is the adult hornet’s primary food source. Japanese Hornets, in groups up to 10, have been known to completely devastate a honey bee colony in a couple of hours, decapitating every single bee in the nest (up to 30,000) one by one. Once the bees have all been killed, the hornets feed on the honey and carry the bee’s larvae back to their own nest to heed the larvae. The Japanese Hornet, a truly formidable predator.
The Dragonfly is the ultimate aerial killer of the insect world; its design is so perfect, that it has remained almost unchanged for the last 300 million years. It is one of the fastest flying insects to have ever graced the skies and can reach speeds up to 56 mph which, if you consider the size and fragility of a dragonfly, it is rather astonishing. It can dive-bomb, hover like a helicopter, and even fly backwards, and its enormous eyes, which cover almost all of its head, give it near-360-degree vision, so that no insect escapes its attention. Dragonflies will feed on any insects they can catch, also spiders which they capture straight from their webs. Although they usually hunt and devour prey at high speed in the air, they can also snatch spiders and insects from exposed surfaces. Not only are the Dragonflies formidable predators, their larvae are also daunting predators; they use their protractile, sharp mouth parts to stab other small animals to death, including small fish, frogs and other dragonfly larvae.
By Lee Silson