Masked hunters (Reduvius personatus) currently have a Holarctic distribution, but are native to the Palearctic region. They are widely distributed throughout Europe, with the exception of the northernmost countries (i.e. Sweden, Norway, etc.). Masked hunters are occasionally reported in eastern Australia. Masked hunters were introduced to North America unintentionally by humans. Since their introduction, masked hunters have spread across the majority of the United States and the Southern Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec. (Javahery, 2021; "Reduvius personatus (Linnaeus, 1758) MASKED HUNTER", 2021)
Masked hunters are terrestrial and prefer to live in dry areas where there are places to hide or camouflage. Such areas include houses, wood piles, and other man-made structures. Nymphs are fond of wooden crevices or other hiding spots so that they can avoid detection by predators and prey. Masked hunters are often associated with flocks of cliff swallows in prairies, deserts, and forest clearings. Unfortunately, little else has been reported of their habitats, especially outside of urban and suburban settings. (Eaton, 2003; Kaufman, 2021; Villalobos, et al., 2013)
Masked hunters are black with sparse hairs along their bodies. They are an average of 19.5 mm in length as adults. Masked hunters are capable of flight, with wings that are leathery in appearance. They have eyes that are fairly far apart. Their thoraces have two notable protuberances and become thinnest at the anterior end, resulting in an area just behind their heads that resembles a neck. Masked hunters differ from other bugs in the family Reduviidae, as they do not have any sort of projection on the anterior portion of their heads. Otherwise, masked hunters are similar in body plan to other closely-related species. These insects go through incomplete metamorphosis, so nymphs are physically similar to the adults. (Jacobs, 2015; Pliesch, 2019)
Masked hunter nymphs are black or brown, with flattened bodies that are covered in small, sticky hairs called trichomes, which assist them in camouflaging with their environment. There are two layers involved in their camouflage, the first being termed a "dust coat." Masked hunter nymphs kick up dust and debris with small structures on their back legs called tarsal fans. The dust that masked hunters kick up then sticks to their trichomes. With this layer, they appear grey or brown, which helps them blend in with nearby substrates. The second, coarser layer of camouflage is called a "backpack" and is typically made up of fragments of moss and dead insect carcasses from previous meals. This layer helps masked hunters blend in with their prey as well as their environment. (Eaton, 2003; Glime, 2017)
Masked hunters undergo incomplete metamorphosis. This means that nymphs resemble adults, but grow larger with each molt, or instar, and develop wings after reaching adulthood. Late instar nymphs develop wing pads, but these are not functional. Masked hunters use diapause during cold periods such as fall and winter, which delays normal rates of development. (Amentsoc, 2021; Scudder, 1992)
There is little information on the mating systems of masked hunters. For species in the family Reduviidae, there is evidence that males actively guard females after copulation. In doing so, defensive males prevent other males from mating with the same female and ensure that any offspring were fertilized using their sperm. It is possible that masked hunters exhibit the same behavior. Any other species-specific mating behaviors are poorly documented. (Hand, 2013)
There is little information regarding reproductive behavior of masked hunters. Given that masked hunters have a lifespan of about two years, they likely reach sexual maturity in the spring of their second year. If this is the case, their breeding season likely occurs in the beginning of summer. The duration of their breeding season and the duration of egg gestation are unknown. (CSU, 2021)
There is limited information regarding parental investment in masked hunters. It is possible that males display mate-guarding behaviors, in which they guard females from competitors after reproduction. This is common for species in the family Reduviidae, so it may apply to masked hunters, although it has not been directly reported. (Hand, 2013)
Masked hunters live for around two years. They go through their first three instars in the first warm season, after which they enter diapause. During the next warm season, masked hunters develop through their third, fourth, and fifth instars and overwinter again. In their third warm season, they reach adulthood and mate. (CSU, 2021)
Masked hunters are motile, solitary bugs that mainly hunt at night. Since they are nocturnal, they stay hidden during the day time in warm, dry, protected areas such as attics, heat registers, dry wood, or sand. Masked hunter nymphs cannot fly, and thus move along the ground to find food. Adults are able to fly and hunt both on the ground or on wing. Masked hunters cover themselves with dust, debris, and previous prey items as a means of camouflage. They undergo diapause in winter, during which time their metabolisms slow down and their development is delayed. They come out of diapause in spring or summer, when temperatures increase. Masked hunters are not well studied, so it is difficult to say if they exhibit any other distinctive or notable behaviors. (CSU, 2021; Jacobs, 2015)
There is no specified home range reported for masked hunters. They are not known to defend a specific territory.
There is limited information regarding communication and perception methods specific to masked hunters. However, they likely communicate using similar methods as other insects in the family Reduviidae. Such communication methods include tactile, chemical, and visual perception. Their antennae are able to pick up chemical cues, such as pheromones from mates and prey. They also detect mates, prey, and predators visually. However, their visual systems are likely limited, given that masked hunters are nocturnal, and their compound eyes are not highly developed. Masked hunters have small, hair-like protrusions of their exoskeletons called "setae" that are able to pick up on vibrations from sound and movement. The setae of masked hunters may help them locate prey and sense nearby predators. Also, since masked hunters are nocturnal, they likely receive visual cues from changes in UV light and temperature to maintain a circadian rhythm. (Jacobs, 2015; NC State, 2015)
Masked hunters are insectivorous predators. They are known hunters of house pests like bed bugs (family Cimicidae), and carpet beetles (family Dermestidae), but are also known to prey on lacewings (order Neuroptera), earwigs (order Dermaptera) and even isopods like sowbugs (suborder Oniscidea). Notably, they will eat other kissing bugs, specifically triatomines (subfamily Triatominae). Masked hunters also commonly eat swallow bugs (Oeciacus vicarius), which leads to a close association between masked hunters and cliff swallows (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota), on which swallow bugs feed. (Coin, et al., 2015; Eaton, 2003; Hahn and Kells, 2020; Villalobos, et al., 2013)
Masked hunter nymphs are excellent at camouflage as their flattened bodies are covered in small, sticky hairs called trichomes. They build two layers of camouflage, with the first layer aptly named a "dust coat". Masked hunters kick up dust and debris using small structures on their back legs known as tarsal fans. Dust then settles on hair-like structures called trichomes on their body, giving them a grey or brown appearance which helps them blend in with nearby substrates. The second, coarser layer of camouflage is called a "backpack" and is typically made up of moss fragments and dead insect carcasses from previous meals. This layer helps masked hunters go undetected by predators and prey. However, as adults, masked hunters are black in color and more conspicuous. However, their dark coloration likely helps them remain undetected at night, or in dark areas. Additionally, adult masked hunters have wings that assist in capturing prey and escaping predators. (CSU, 2021; Eaton, 2003; Glime, 2017)
There are animals that prey on masked hunters despite their camouflage. Predators include birds (class Aves), rodents (order Rodentia), spiders (order Araneae), mantises (order Mantodea). Other assassin bugs (family Reduviidae) also eat masked hunters, though they eat mostly nymphs. Cliff swallows (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) commonly prey on masked hunters, likely because masked hunters commonly prey on swallow bugs (Oeciacus vicarius), which use cliff swallows as one of their hosts. (Eaton, 2003; Hand, 2013; Kaufman, 2021)
Masked hunters serve important ecosystem roles as insect predators and as prey for a number of arthropods and vertebrates. They are effective hunters that eat many kinds of insects throughout their lifetimes and contribute to the population control of pest species, such as bed bugs. Also, they are a food source for insectivorous species, including some birds (class Aves), rodents (order Rodentia), spiders (order Araneae), and other predatory insect species.
There are no known positive economic impacts of masked hunters on humans. They are typically seen as harmless, or otherwise a mild nuisance or biting pest. They eat bedbugs and other household pests, but not to an extent that is significantly impactful. Their presence may also be an early indicator of pest problems. (CSU, 2021)
Though masked hunters do not spread any diseases, their bites can be painful. Their rostra (stabbing mouthparts) can pierce human skin and cause swelling and irritation that lasts for up to a week. They most often bite humans when handled or otherwise threatened. They are often considered household pests, since they are attracted to houses where they can prey on other pest species. (Jacobs, 2015)
Masked hunters are common throughout their geographic distribution. They have no special status on the IUCN Red List, CITES appendices, U.S. Federal List, or State of Michigan List.
Amy Bagby (author), Colorado State University, Amy Bagby (editor), Colorado State University.
Living in Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, New Guinea and associated islands.
living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.
living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.
having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.
an animal that mainly eats meat
uses smells or other chemicals to communicate
having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.
in deserts low (less than 30 cm per year) and unpredictable rainfall results in landscapes dominated by plants and animals adapted to aridity. Vegetation is typically sparse, though spectacular blooms may occur following rain. Deserts can be cold or warm and daily temperates typically fluctuate. In dune areas vegetation is also sparse and conditions are dry. This is because sand does not hold water well so little is available to plants. In dunes near seas and oceans this is compounded by the influence of salt in the air and soil. Salt limits the ability of plants to take up water through their roots.
a period of time when growth or development is suspended in insects and other invertebrates, it can usually only be ended the appropriate environmental stimulus.
animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature
union of egg and spermatozoan
forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.
the state that some animals enter during winter in which normal physiological processes are significantly reduced, thus lowering the animal's energy requirements. The act or condition of passing winter in a torpid or resting state, typically involving the abandonment of homoiothermy in mammals.
a distribution that more or less circles the Arctic, so occurring in both the Nearctic and Palearctic biogeographic regions.
Found in northern North America and northern Europe or Asia.
An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.
fertilization takes place within the female's body
referring to animal species that have been transported to and established populations in regions outside of their natural range, usually through human action.
A large change in the shape or structure of an animal that happens as the animal grows. In insects, "incomplete metamorphosis" is when young animals are similar to adults and change gradually into the adult form, and "complete metamorphosis" is when there is a profound change between larval and adult forms. Butterflies have complete metamorphosis, grasshoppers have incomplete metamorphosis.
having the capacity to move from one place to another.
the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
active during the night
reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.
chemicals released into air or water that are detected by and responded to by other animals of the same species
breeding is confined to a particular season
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
living in residential areas on the outskirts of large cities or towns.
uses touch to communicate
that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).
Living on the ground.
A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.
A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.
A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.
living in cities and large towns, landscapes dominated by human structures and activity.
an animal which has an organ capable of injecting a poisonous substance into a wound (for example, scorpions, jellyfish, and rattlesnakes).
movements of a hard surface that are produced by animals as signals to others
uses sight to communicate
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