Assassin Bug Care
The two spot assassin bug (Platymeris biguttatus) is a ferocious little predator from West and Southwest Africa, prowling the tropical forests and lurking in tree stumps and leaf litter to ambush its prey. They are a true bug, and as such have needle-like mouthparts – the rostrum – that they use to pierce their prey, inject saliva to dissolve the inside of whatever they have caught, and then suck it out as a sort of soup. Different species of assassin bug can be found across Africa and the Americas, with some American species feeding on blood and some South American ones spreading a protozoal disease which can be fatal to humans.
As long as you purchase captive bred specimens, you are quite safe! They do have a painful bite, and should never be handled with bare hands. If they need to be transferred from one habitat to another, they will usually cling to a piece of bark rather than run away which makes the whole operation somewhat easier.
Despite being a forest species, they do not need very high humidity. As they only reach an adult size of 1 to 4cm they can be kept in groups, and will generally not resort to cannibalism if kept well fed; an enclosure of 30x30x30cm will house a group of three or four specimens, although bigger is always better. Use stacked, flat cork bark and twigs to give them multiple hiding and climbing places, and use a fine grained substrate such as coir fibre topped with leaf litter to give them a more natural environment. Lightly spray the enclosure every other day, which will provide more humid areas down on the floor and amongst the leaf litter, and allow a drier and warmer environment higher in the enclosure.
Keep the environment at about 22 to 25ºC, which will be room temperature in most houses but it might well be a good idea to invest in a small heat mat and thermostat for the winter. A small temperature drop at night is always a good idea. Never guess your temperatures, always measure them with a good quality digital thermometer.
Feeding is simple. Assassin bugs didn’t get their name for no reason; they are startlingly efficient hunters who have no problem bringing down prey as large as themselves. Interestingly, you will sometimes see a large meal being shared by several individuals! Prey should be as varied as possible in order to satisfy their nutritional requirements; crickets, locusts, waxworms and waxmoths, mealworms, morios – all will be taken with gusto.
Breeding is not difficult. With a suitable environment and plentiful food, you will soon see baby bugs – known as nymphs – running around with their parents. Eggs are laid in the substrate, and if this is slightly damp they will hatch with no further interference from the keeper. At this point you can either remove them, or leave them to form a colony with the existing adults. Simply add a variety of sizes of prey and let them work it out for themselves.
Fascinating and fierce, they make an interesting and easy to keep pet – just keep your fingers out of the way!