Fishing for Termites


Salyavata variegata
Photo: R.A. Mendez

Assassin Bugs (Reduviidae) in the subfamily Salyavatinae are specialized for hunting termites. These assassin bugs collect material from termite mounds and coat the outside of their body to avoid attacks by the soldier termites. The termite mound material also makes the bugs cryptic, hiding them from visual predators. When a hole is formed in a termite mound, workers will gather to repair the hole. The assassin bug will walk to the edge of the hole and reach in to grab a worker. The bug retreats with its prey to digest its meal.

Once the meal is digested, some assassin bugs will use the termite carcass to fish for more prey. Termites will consume the carcass of dead termites or the caste skin of a molted termite as a source of protein. After finishing a meal, assassin bugs (Salyavata variegata) have been observed* to dangle the carcass into the termite nest. Soon a worker termite will grab the carcass and pull. The larger and stronger assassin bug drags the worker from the nest, discards the carcass and grabs its helpless prey.

Termites are abundant in the tropical areas inhabited by this group of assassin bugs. Fishing for termites provides a good livelihood for them.

*E.A. McMahan.  Adventures documenting an assassin bug that “fishes” for termites.  Am. Entomol., 51 (2005), pp. 202–207.

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
This entry was posted in behavior, Biomaterials, by jjneal, Environment. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Fishing for Termites

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