Originally native to Europe and Africa, masked hunters were eventually introduced to North America where they are now widespread. These pests are classified as true bugs, a group of insects with sucking mouthparts.
Appearance / Identification
The nymphs of masked hunters are covered with a sticky substance that collects dust and debris which masks them and makes them difficult to spot, hence the name masked hunter. They have short beaks, protruding heads, and leathery wings. Typically, adult masked hunters are dark brown or black in colour and range from 17 to 22 mm in length.
These pests are outdoor insects, prefer dry locations, and are usually spotted in barns and sheds. If they make their way into homes, masked hunters frequent attics and crawlspaces where they can easily camouflage themselves and hunt for food.
Bed bugs and carpet beetles are masked hunters’ primary food sources, though they will also feed on other insects and mites. Their masking abilities allow them to ambush their prey, using their unique mouthparts to suck out their victims’ body fluids.
Life Cycle / Reproduction
Masked hunters generally produce one generation per year, depositing eggs individually or in a cluster. Nymphs resemble adults as they are also covered in microscopic hair, though they lack wings.
Problems Caused by Masked Hunters
Because masked hunters feed on other insects, their presence can indicate a larger infestation. Additionally, masked hunters bite when they feel threatened. They have a tendency to bite people around their mouths, which can be extremely painful and cause localized swelling.
Detection / Signs of Infestation
Their ability to camouflage makes these creatures difficult to spot. The best places to check for masked hunters are in crawlspaces, under heat registers, in cabinets, and other places where there might be large numbers of insects.
Installing screens on doors and windows limits masked hunters’ access to buildings. Effectively controlling bed bug and carpet beetle infestations eliminates the pest’s food supply. Additionally, vacuuming regularly, keeping tight lids on trash bins, and cleaning up spills helps keep populations at bay.
Control / Removal
The most effective way of dealing with unwanted masked hunters in homes is to call a pest control agency or pest prevention specialist.