Aussie stunned by strange backyard find: 'WTF?'

A Sydneysider's backyard find has spooked the masses with dozens left guessing what on earth it could be.

The confused Aussie shared a photo on Reddit which showed a group of strange insects, but no one could decide if they were a species of ant or spider.

"WTF are these," the Sydney local wrote alongside the "terrifying" photo. They explained in the comments they were clearing some cobwebs in their gardens when they saw the unusual-looking critters. The creature in question appears to have eight legs like a spider with a big yellow bulb on its back. But the poster said they "weren't sure if they have six legs with antennae" or eight legs like a spider. "I haven't encountered these before," they added.

Baby assassin bugs.
A Sydneysider found these critters in their backyard, but no one knew what they were. Source: Reddit

The strange sight gave some people the jitters. "I never needed to sleep again anyways.. this is terrifying." one said. One said to "burn the whole house down" while a third said it "their bite would pack a punch!"

The original poster and a handful of others began speculating, determined to find out what they are. "I found two possibilities: a type of assassin bug or wheel bug," the poster wrote.

Strange critter identified

Yahoo News Australia can confirm the little critters are in fact assassin bugs. Dr Darrell J. Kemp, Associate Professor of Biology at Macquarie University said the image shows "young bugs" that have most likely just been born.

"I’d say first instar (meaning that they have just hatched and in their first stage of development). The brownish structure nearby is the egg batch that their mother laid, and which they hatched out of. They generally hang out together when young but become solitary as they mature," he explained. Assassin bugs get their name because of how they hunt for animal prey – usually moth or butterfly caterpillars.

Assassin Bug Pristhesancus plagipennis.
Assassin bugs get their name because of how they target their prey Source: WA Museum

"They don’t have chewing mouthparts but instead a piercing 'stylet', which is like a sharp-ended straw," he said. "They essentially impale their prey then suck the insides out." They're known to inject a toxic substance into their prey which paralysed it, working to "liquify" their insides making it easier to ingest.

Dr Kemp said when small, like in the image, assassin bugs are thought to mimic ants, and this is by design. "Looking like ants gives them some protection against themselves being eaten," he explained.

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