Red-shouldered bugs and a fresh assassin

red shouldered bugs

I knew they weren’t box-elder bugs, but what? Hundreds and hundreds were mating and scurrying about on a (stupid) bush honeysuckle covered with (stupid) English ivy. So I type “red shoulder bug,” into BugGuide and guess what they are?
“Red-shouldered Bugs.”

Jadera haematoloma. (Haematoloma means blood-fringed in Greek!)

Another common name is Goldenrain tree bug, and sure enough, there was a mature Goldenrain tree a few feet away.
Any plant in the soapberry family is fair game, as well as fruit trees. BugGuide tells me red-shouldered bugs are native, they eat seeds and fruit but also suck sap, and are known to gather on houses in search of hibernation hideaways.

red shouldered bugs group

red shouldered bugs stumpAll of which means I will live and let live with these creatures. They pose no threat to me or my yard. I say this because when some people see bugs in great quantities, the instinct is to kill them all.

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And for Yard Bug #2 today:

Our front-yard volunteer red-cedar always has something exciting: cedar apples, owl pellets, a robin’s nest, lacewing eggs, and now this: a fresh assassin bug.


I saw it at the end of a molt, as it emerged from its old skin. The former outift is the bit that looks like a beige spider grasping the cedar. The antennae, delicately striped, are still unfolding: I see two creases each.

Assassin bugs eat other bugs and are “beneficial” insects. You want lots of these in a garden. They eat prey (including red-shouldered bugs) via a piercing tube. I know first-hand—literally—that the tube can pierce human flesh. There was a tiny one in the car last summer, which I tried to move outside with my finger, but it either misunderstood my intention or thought I was a really, really big grub because it poked me and I felt the jab and then could not get the thing off my finger. Our meeting did not end well for the assassin bug.


This one is in the Zelus genus, I assume. It may well turn a different color once the molt is finished—I didn’t hang around to see—so I can’t ID.

I just realized that the genus Zelus must be named for Zelos of Greek mythology. He is the personification of “rivalry, emulation, jealousy, envy and zeal.” It’s where the English word zeal comes from. Zelos guarded Zeus on the throne, and, like the bugs, he had wings.

If you see an assassin bug, they see you, too. They will follow your hand or body with their head, and move away. You can play this game until the patience of one you gives out. It is a bit uncanny to be watched so closely by a tiny bug. Especially when you know that if you were smaller, it would poke a hole in you, dissolve your innards and suck you dry through its straw.

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LINKS: to explore insect and spider IDs.

Info page about Red-shouldered bugs.

My Zelos quote comes from

One thought on “Red-shouldered bugs and a fresh assassin

  1. Photos extremely wonderful! Never seen one of them. Up here, too? Spring slowly emerges here, more with flowers than the “bugs” so far. Awaiting!

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