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Aphid predator (Hemiptera : Reduviidae)

Empicoris vagabundus

Common thread-legged assassin bug

On this page: Identification & Distribution  Biology & Ecology 

Identification & Distribution

Empicoris bugs are called 'thread legged' bugs on account of their long thin legs. The best distinguishing character of the genus is the curved rostrum (see pictures below). The front legs are raptorial for catching prey. Empicoris vagabundus has pale sides of the connexivum which distinguishes it from the, more common, Empicoris culiciformis and the, less common, Empicoris baerensprungi. The species is relatively large compared to other members of the genus at a length of 6-7 mm.

Empicoris vagabundus is found on various deciduous and coniferous tree species, especially on dead leaves of those trees. It can also be found on lichens and webs of spiders, and of psocids, where it hunts and eats small Diptera and Homoptera including aphids. It is distributed throughout Europe.

 

Biology & Ecology

We have only found the common thread-legged assassin bug at Bedgebury Pinetum in Kent on a Montezuma pine tree.

There was a large number of potential prey species but prominent among these were large numbers of Monterey pine needle aphid (Essigella californica ) (see picture below) and active grey pine needle aphids (Eulachnus rileyi ).

It seems very likely that Empicoris was feeding on one or both of those aphid species.

It has been recorded as feeding on the aphid Tetraneura ulmifoliae and the psocid Liposcelis (Encyclopedia of Life ).

Acknowledgements

We especially thank the UK Forestry Commission Bedgebury Pinetum  for their kind assistance, and permission to sample.

For identifying the reduviid bugs we have used Southwood & Leston (1959)  and British Bugs  to aid in identification and for the key characteristics.

For aphids we have made provisional identifications from high resolution photos of living specimens, along with host plant identity. In the great majority of cases, identifications have been confirmed by microscopic examination of preserved specimens. We have used the keys and species accounts of Blackman & Eastop (1994)  and Blackman & Eastop (2006)  supplemented with Blackman (1974) , Stroyan (1977) , Stroyan (1984) , Blackman & Eastop (1984) , Heie (1980-1995) , Dixon & Thieme (2007)  and Blackman (2010) . We fully acknowledge these authors as the source for the (summarized) taxonomic information we have presented. Any errors in identification or information are ours alone, and we would be very grateful for any corrections. For assistance on the terms used for aphid morphology we suggest the figure  provided by Blackman & Eastop (2006).

Useful weblinks 

References