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TRUE BUGS (THOSE IN THE ORDER HEMIPTERA) ARE different than beetles and other insects in a few ways. They have long piercing and sucking mouthparts as well as wings that are transparent at the tips and hardened at the base. Within the true bugs, however, there is tremendous variation in form and function. Some of the stranger-looking Hemiptera are assassin bugs — predatory insects that have raptorial front legs (like a praying mantis) and use their long beaks to inject prey with paralyzing poison. Assassin bugs tend to be long and slender with lengthy legs and antennae. They can be found hunting on all parts of plants, though some species tend toward flowers. Most are earth-toned: brown, grey, black or some combination thereof. Their long front legs have sticky hairs that help hold prey while they insert their sharp beaks and inject a paralyzing toxin that also liquefies the entrails of their captured food. Aptly named assassin bugs are very effective predators and can kill animals twice their size. Ambush bugs are a subgroup of assassin bugs with a few distinct characteristics. Imagine a short, stout assassin bug — like a champion weightlifter — and you’re in the ballpark. Besides having more compact bodies, their raptorial front legs are also enormously thickened, adding to their menacing appearance. Ambush bugs tend to be brighter colored and

2 0 | W I L DF LOW E R

Profile for Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Wildflower Magazine 2019 | Volume 36, No. 1  

Flower-dwelling predators, love letters to native plants, how to bring nature play home, discovering a rare morning-glory, remembering an in...

Wildflower Magazine 2019 | Volume 36, No. 1  

Flower-dwelling predators, love letters to native plants, how to bring nature play home, discovering a rare morning-glory, remembering an in...

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