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Masked hunter

Quick facts

  • The masked hunter (Reduvius personatus) is a type of assassin bug.
  • Originally from Europe, it is now common in the eastern United States, including Minnesota.
  • Masked hunters are just a nuisance indoors.
  • If handled carelessly, they can bite people.
  • 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

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 and debris 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.
  • Without the dust and lint, they are light brown in color.
Small insect with six legs and two antennae covered in dust
Immature masked hunter covered in debris
Immature masked hunter that has been cleaned of dust and debris that it usually carries to mask itself.
Immature masked hunter without debris

Biology

Masked hunters can be found in and around buildings.

  • They live outdoors, especially in wooded areas.
  • They feed on a variety of small insects and other arthropods, such as lacewings, sowbugs and earwigs.
  • Both the adults and nymphs are attracted to lights and can inadvertently enter homes and other buildings.
  • Masked hunters are typically found indoors during summer.

Importance

Masked hunters are a nuisance when found indoors.

  • They do not reproduce inside buildings.
  • They do no eat stored product food or destroy fabrics.

Masked hunters can cause a painful bite.

  • If they are disturbed or picked up, they will bite to protect themselves.
  • The bite feels like a bee sting followed by numbness and swelling.
  • Fortunately, they are not aggressive towards people and they do not feed on human blood.

Although they are related to kissing bugs, which transmit Chagas disease, masked hunters do NOT transmit any disease.

How to protect your home from masked hunters

In almost all cases, only one or a few masked hunters are seen in a home.

You can easily control these bugs by:

  • Physically removing them (capture them or trap in a jar and release them outdoors).
  • Removing them with a vacuum cleaner.

Be careful when handling masked hunters to avoid bites. If a masked hunter lands on you, gently brush it away.

Insecticides should not be necessary to control masked hunters.

Authors: Jeffrey Hahn and Stephen Kells, Extension entomologists

Reviewed in 2020

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