The Reduvius personatus species of insect is more commonly known as the “masked hunter”, and like its nickname suggests, this insect can be quite a menace within homes. Encountering this insect species outdoors can also be unpleasant, as the masked hunter possesses a sharp needle-like mouthpart (rostrum) that is perfectly designed for piercing their insect prey. The rostrum also works as a sort of straw that is designed to suck the internal matter out of their prey, but luckily, the masked hunter does not suck blood from humans. That being said, the masked hunter is not shy about using its intimidating rostrum to pierce the skin of humans, which causes extreme pain that has been compared to the pain caused by a snake bite.
In 1899, a USDA entomologist speculated that the bite inflicted by this insect may be fatal to those with “irritable constitutions”, but no human fatalities have ever been documented as occurring in response to this species’ bite. The masked hunter belongs to the assassin bug family, and they are distributed all over the world. In southern US states, the masked hunter maintains an outdoor habitat, but in the north, including Massachusetts, these insects move into homes without hesitation, often leading to infestations, particularly during the colder seasons.
In addition to being extremely painful, masked hunter bites cause swelling that lasts for at least two or three days, but in many cases swelling can last for a few weeks. Once masked hunters enter a home, they quickly establish dominance over all other insect house pests, especially bed bugs, carpet beetles and grubs. Although this species preys upon the most dreaded of house pests, you do not want these insects within your home, as they are relatively aggressive and bites often occur when people put on clothes that contain one or several of the insects. Masked hunters in the northeast spend much of their time within structures where they are often found infesting dry locations such as cupboards, pantries, heat registers, wall voids and attic spaces. These insects can grow to three fourths of an inch in body length and they look similar to boxelder bugs, but masked hunters in Massachusetts are often black or brown-colored.
Do you believe that you have encountered a masked hunter within your home in the past?