Can you identify this beautiful little insect?

Asked August 31, 2015, 8:08 PM EDT

I found what I think to be a mantis in my garden today. Could you please help me identify it?

Larimer County Colorado insects ambush bugs

1 Response

The insects in your photos are called ambush bugs. They belong to the genus Phymata in the subfamily Phymatinae, family Reduviidae (=assassin bugs) in the Order Hemiptera. Unfortunately, I cannot tell what species they are from just the photos. Ambush bugs typically are found resting on flowers, where their mottled coloration often helps to camouflage them. They are predators and will attempt to capture any insects that come to the flower, even those that are often much larger than themselves. How do they do this? Their front legs are very muscular and modified for grasping (raptorial), much like a praying mantis. They have short-beak-like sucking mouthparts that they stab into the prey item, injecting a very toxic saliva that quickly subdues the prey. They then suck fluids and digested tissues out of the prey insect. These relatively small ambush bugs can capture and kill bumblebees and butterflies which are many times larger than they are without much difficulty. The bite of this bug is extremely painful, but not toxic to humans who might carelessly handle one. If you search the internet for "ambush bug insect", you will find more information and photos of these insects. Be sure to add "insect" to your search line, because if you just search for "ambush bug", you may be directed to a character from the comic books with that name. Apparently comic book characters get more hits than the real insects.