This beautiful orange creature is an assassin bug in the family Reduviidae. Pselliopsus barberi is one of over 100 species of assassin bugs in North America, and if there were a ninja of the insect world, this dude would be it.
The aptly named assassin bug is sneaky, swift, vicious, and deadly. It uses a sharp, curved mouthpart (called a rostrum) to pierce insect prey and inject it with a lethal toxin before slurping up its innards. It might sound gross until you consider who this insect is having for lunch. Common prey include garden pests like hornworms, Mexican bean beetles, Colorado potato beetles, leafhoppers, aphids, caterpillars of all sorts, cucumber beetles, and many others. Adult assassin bugs can measure from 0.5–1.0 in. (13–25 mm) in length, depending on the species. Some species, like this one, are brightly colored, but most assassin bugs are brown, green, or black. They have broad bodies, elongated heads, and long, spindly legs. Females lay eggs on plants and the resulting nymphs (with their distinctive sway-backs) pass through several stages before fully maturing.
Both adults and nymphs are covert little buggers and aren’t usually encountered by gardeners on a regular basis. At best, I come across one or two each season.