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Masked hunters

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Quick facts about masked hunters

  • The masked hunter (Reduvius personatus) is a type of assassin bug.
  • It is originally from Europe and accidentally hitchhiked into the United States.
  • It is now common in the east and central United States, including Minnesota.
  • Masked hunters do NOT attack people and are more of a nuisance when found in homes.
  • If you get an accidental bite, it generally does not require medical attention.
A black insect with a flattened, oval body, six spider-like legs and two antennae

How to identify masked hunters

Adults are more noticeable because immature masked hunters are covered in dust.

Adult masked hunter

  • Has a small head, with moderate length antennae and a short, stout beak.
  • Dark brown to black and elongate oval in shape.
  • When full grown, it is about 3/4 inch long with fully developed wings that cover its body.

Immature masked hunter

Masked hunters are given this name because the immature masked hunter carries dust on its body to camouflage itself.

  • They may appear as walking piles of dust and fluff.
  • It is similar to the adult, but is smaller and lacks fully developed wings.
  • Covered with dust, lint and other debris, giving them a grayish or whitish appearance.
  • Under the dust, they are dark-colored like the adults.
Small insect with six legs and two antennae covered in dust

Behavior and habits

Masked hunters can be found in and around buildings.

  • They typically live outdoors, especially in wooded areas.
  • They feed on a variety of small insects and other arthropods and may venture indoors in search of food. 
  • Some food sources for masked hunters include lacewings, sowbugs, earwigs and bed bugs.

Masked hunter bite

Masked hunters do NOT actively seek to bite people.

  • They may cause a painful bite if they are disturbed or someone tries to pick them up.
  • They do not feed on human blood.
  • The bite feels like a bee sting followed by numbness and swelling.

Masked hunters do NOT transmit any disease.

How to protect your home from masked hunters

Small number of masked hunters

In most cases, only a few masked hunters are seen in a home.

You can easily control these bugs by:

  • Physically removing them, (e.g. capturing it with tissue paper or trapping it in a jar and releasing it outdoors).
  • Removing them with a vacuum cleaner.

Be careful when handling masked hunters to avoid accidental bites.

If a masked hunter lands on a person, gently brush it away.

Large number of masked hunters

If large numbers of masked hunters are present, it could be because there are many other insects found in the home.

To control masked hunters:

  • Vacuuming or careful use of pesticides may temporarily control these bugs.
  • Find and eliminate the food source (other insects).

CAUTION: Mention of a pesticide or use of a pesticide label is for educational purposes only. Always follow the pesticide label directions attached to the pesticide container you are using. Remember, the label is the law.

Jeffrey Hahn, Extension entomologist and Stephen Kells, Extension entomologist

Reviewed in 2018

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