Well, a Jagged Ambush Bug anyway lol. Don’t worry though. These are beneficial bugs and are lying in wait for prey much smaller than you!
Jagged Ambush Bugs (taxonomic genus Phymata) are part of the Assassin Bug family (Reduviidae). They get the “ambush” part of their name because they typically hide on plants and then quickly spring out (ambush) and grab their unsuspecting prey. Their raptorial fore legs (aka front legs that look like mantis arms or sharp grabby arms) are perfect for this type of behavior. You probably already guessed the second part, but the “jagged” part of their name comes from how rough and craggy their backs look. The jagged appearance also complements their camouflaging coloration, making them difficult to distinguish when hiding in their preferred plants.
I’ve been finding these cute little guys hiding in almost all my flowering plants (although if I were a bug, I probably wouldn’t see them until too late!). Chances are if you’re located in North America, you probably have some hiding in your flowers as well :) So far I’ve found them on my Black-eyed Susans, Shasta Daisies, Oregano flowers, and Parsley flowers, but they hide on a wide variety of plants. They are pretty small (no more than about 12mm), and usually well hidden, so you have to look closely. There are about 21 different species found in North America - all of which I think are pretty adorable.
Despite being excellent predators, Ambush Bugs, like other Assassin Bugs, don’t actually have mandibles (aka teeth) to chew their prey with. Instead, they have beak like mouthparts that they use like a sharp straw. When they catch a prey organism, they give it a good jab and then suck out the juices… While it sounds kinda gross, if you don’t have teeth you gotta find some way to eat!
What to read more about Ambush bugs? Check out these resources:
There are also some really excellent photos of Ambush Bugs here:
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