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E. crux is easily recognizable due to its large size (adults measure up to 22 mm in length), stout form, and coloration – shiny black, with a distinctive black cross incised on its dull yellow thorax and with yellow abdominal margins (Picker et al. 2002). The nymphs as well are distinctive – bright red with black wing pads. Clearly, these insects are advertising something
They are ambush predators that slowly approach their prey before quickly grabbing the millipede and piercing the body with their proboscis, or “beak.” Saliva containing paralytic toxins and cytolytic enzymes is injected into the body of the millipede to subdue the prey and initiate digestion of the body contents, which are then imbibed by the gregariously feeding assassin bugs. Millipedes employ powerful chemical defenses – primarily benzoquinones and sometimes hydrogen cyanide gas as well, which are discharged from specialized glands along the millipede’s body – to protect themselves from predation. Thus, specialized predation of millipedes is a niche that has been exploited by relatively few predators, and little is known about the mechanisms used for circumventing these defenses.
It has been raining a lot here this week and as a result there are a lot of millipedes milling around. Today I found this bug trying to move this dead millipede. Lunch anyone?