Above: The leaf-footed bug uses its unique hind legs as weapons. UF/IFAS photo by Christine Miller.
A cat’s claws, a rhino’s horn, a snake’s fangs—many animals use weapons that are part of their body to catch food, defend themselves or compete with others. Bugs are also armed with weapons. Just watch these leaf-footed bugs wrestle to defend their territory or for a chance to mate!
Beneficial insects also have bug weapons they use to capture prey, eat what they caught, or reproduce. When these bugs are used in biological control, these weapons play an important part in controlling pests.
Many beneficial bugs use their bug weapons to eat their prey. Green lacewing larvae use sickle-shaped mouthparts to grab and munch their food. Other beneficial bugs, such as bigeyed bugs and minute pirate bugs, use piercing-sucking mouthparts to suck fluids out of their prey. The wheel bug uses its proboscis to paralyze its prey by injecting a toxic saliva into insects it can catch before eating them.
Other beneficial bugs may have special abilities that make them perfect for catching pests. For instance, the jumping spider uses its super jumping ability and keen eyesight to pounce on its victims.
Some bug weapons are a part of a bug’s life cycle. For example, parasitoid wasps use an organ called an ovipositor to lay their eggs on or inside of another organism. These eggs hatch and live off their host before becoming adults.
For more information on our bug weapons research, visit Dr. Christine Miller’s faculty page.