Please...can anyone identify these insects?

During Labor Day weekend, a group of strange bright red ant-looking insects were found at night on my sister’s front door in Houston, Texas.

They were grouped around what looked like a neat row of egg capsules. They were very small, maybe a quarter of an inch long. They were motionless. However, they later formed into a circle, with one insect shut out by itself several inches below them, as if it were an outcast. Weird.

They were not there the next morning, but the “egg capsules” were.


(If the above photo is too large, I apologize. This is the first time I’ve tried to link to a photo.)

Any entomologists out there? Are they a kind of ant? Are they as harmless as they seemed? I need some reassurance of their harmlessness, as my sisters and I wouldn’t let my brother in law kill them.

Them’s assassin bug nymphs.

Don’t worry too much about them but don’t pick them up either. They can deliver quite a bite using their mouth if they are disturbed. It feels a bit like a wasp sting. They are quite safe if you let them crawl over your hand but if you grab one or accidentally squash it they will bite. Thankfully they aren’t very poisonous and do no real harm beyond some localised pain. (Caveat: Usual warning about possible allergic reactions to venom apply.)

These little critters are quite useful since they prey on other insects, particularly slow-moving things like aphids. They won’t live in the house. You did the right thing by not killing them.