Assassin Bug (Zelus luridus)

As I was looking up into the trees yesterday, I saw this little guy staring back at me. It is an Assassin Bug- specifically Zelus luridus. According to, it is the most common green Assassin Bug in the Eastern United States.

But why the scientific name of Zelus? Also according to, Zelus was the son of Pallas and Styx. Zelus and siblings Nike (victory), Cratos (strength) and Bia (violence) were winged enforcers who stood in attendance at the throne of Zeus.

Cool! A "Winged Enforcer"! Perfect.

In the photo it looks as if the bug is about to jump. And it was. After I snapped a photo or two, it jumped down and flew to my arm. I couldn't get a photo of it then because I was using a telephoto lens. It walked around my arm for about 5 seconds and then flew away to another less supervised tree.

And yes, these bugs bite. Notice the sharp little beak that this one has. It works great for piercing skin. :) Fortunately, as I didn't try to catch it or bother it, it didn't bite me.

Since initially posting this article, Gail of passed on her experience with these bugs, writing: "And they do spear hands that get in the way. Feels like to the bone." When I hear the words "bite" and "to the bone"- that tells me that I definitely don't want to be bit by one of these insects!

A Texas A&M website indicates this about an Assassin Bug bite: Although most assassin bugs are slow-moving and non-aggressive, they will use their rostrum in self-defense if handled carelessly. Such bites may be rather painful to humans because the bugs inject the same salivary secretion used to dissolve the tissues of their prey. This results in the death of a small area of cells at the site of the bite. The symptoms are an intense burning sensation, often followed by a small, itchy lump that may persist for several days. However, no true toxin is involved so it is rare for the reaction to last long or to extend beyond the site of the bite.


The Giraffe Head Tree said...

Coolness! What is the favorite food of these assassin bugs, Daniel? Any creatures great and small? If they like aphids I've got just the spot for 'em! Fun post!

Gail said...

And they do spear hands that get in their way. Feels like to the bone.

Eve said...

I had one of these sitting right on my door trim this morning Daniel! I knew it had to be an's head looks so much like the nymph. I will have to give Morgan a warning on this know how she loves the bugs!!

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Kim said...

I read your info on the Assassin Bug. My husband was bit by one last night. would it affect dogs? My dogs have been itching but have been treated for fleas and do not have any. Both my husband and his father have been bitten by this bug in a certain area of the yard so now im thinking that this is the cause of their scratching...

Thanks Kim

Anonymous said...

I had never noticed them around my house until this year when I was harpooned on my hand. Since then I have seen several in my house. Is it likely that they have found a way into my house? It was more painful than a wasp sting. How do I ensure that they haven't established a home in my house? Will they all die off this winter if they had?

Amber said...

Thanks for the blog! I enjoyed reading about the assassin bug, because I was just bit by one in my own home! I looked down and thought it was a green spider, but I looked closer and found it had 6 legs, and so I had to look it up. Yes, I have a nice little bump on my leg thanks to this bug, but if it's like a bee sting, it should go away in a few days. I hope! Thanks again for your information!

Anonymous said...

I was walking through the woods to get to the dock where I start and finish my one mile swim. Every season there are more and more trees that have fallen from winter storms, plus, the area I walk through is about 40 degrees, so it's difficult.

I was stepping over a large fallen tree trunk, when I felt something bite me. Then, all of a sudden my bare legs were being attacked! I looked down and saw a bug hanging on my leg by it's head. I have good vision, but need reading glasses for up close. The bugs appeared to be about three-quarters on an inch long, and about one-eigth of an inch wide. That bite or sting hurt. And many were attacking me. (I've been swimming there for over fifteen years and never had any problem with any bugs.) They seemed to be surrounding me and attacking my bare skin. I slapped a couple off and ran! I ran less than forty yards and only one followed me. I have never seen a gug like that before and didn't know what type it was.

I was stung in five places on my legs and one on the lower back.

This was my first swim of the year and I was looking forward to it.

I rate the pain level at about half of a bee sting. I cancelled my swim. I got the idea of traveling to the local hospital and sitting in my car in the parking lot in the event I had a reaction to the bites/stings. I didn't do that and went home. It's two-and-a-half hours after the incident and the stings still hurt. It feels like I am being pricked with a needle.

I don't know for certain that it was assasin bugs, but it appears to be. The picture of the bug on the leaf is the same type of tree where this happened.

Bewteen all the trees I have to climb over and the slipperiness of the dried leaves on a steep slope, and the insect stings, I'll have to forget about this swim hole.

This happened at Saxonville Beach in Framingham, MA.

Anonymous said...

Your information was very useful. Apparently there was one on my kitchen floor and I stepped on it. It stung a lot worse than any bee sting. It still burns an hour after and a small area around the bite is hard and a little swollen. They don't like being stepped on. Obviously my stepping on it killed it instantly allowing me to examine it closely. I live in Ontario, Canada and I have never seen this insect before and why is it in my house. After reading your information about the Zelus, I was relieved to find out that there are no long term side affects. Thank you for helpful information.
Kim B