These insects trick spiders into thinking they're prey, but these bugs quickly turn the tables.
Assassin bugs both stalk and cunningly deceive spiders, which they then consume.
The bugs trick the spiders by plucking web silk to mimic struggling prey.
Studies on assassin bugs, depending on the species, might improve pest control.
Big spiders may frighten haunted house visitors this week, but spiders themselves would do well to fear assassin bugs.
A new study has just revealed the bugs' devious and deadly tactics. Like nightmarish bass players, assassin bugs pluck spider silk in webs, mimicking the movements of exhausted, stuck prey. When the hungry spider eases in for what it thinks is a sure meal, the assassin bug taps the spider, and then grabs, stabs and eats it.
The hunting technique, described in the latest Proceedings of the Royal Society B, exemplifies what's known as "aggressive mimicry," when a predator advertises its presence, yet uses deception to lure in its prey.
For the study, Anne Wignall, a researcher in the Department of Biological Sciences at Macquarie University, and co-author Phillip Taylor analyzed the assassin bug's hunting method.