In Summer, look into the disk of most flowers growing on my property and you’ll find one of these little jagged, stoic-faced bugs. They like to perch on my Cone Flowers, Raspberry Blooms, Black-eyed Susans, and Dill blooms; wherever pollen collectors are likely to land. They sit motionless waiting to grab prey with their raptorial forelegs. They then jab their proboscis into the soft parts of their prey to inject a paralyzing and digestive saliva. Then then use their dual purpose hollow mouth part to suck the nourishing juices out. Ambush bugs don’t discriminate on size and will attempt prey many times larger than themselves.
Camera: Olympus OM-D E-M5 II
Lens: Olympus M.Zuiko 60mm f2.8 Macro
Extension Tubes: no
Image Stack: 50 images
Shutter Speed: 1/25th sec
Light Source: Ambient overcast
Stabilization: bean bag
Subject Size: 1 cm
Species: Jagged Ambush Bug (Phymata americana)
Location: Fort Collins, Colorado
It’s difficult to discern what’s going on in the photo above, but by human standards it would be considered perverse and macabre. It appears that a female Ambush Bug has skewered a Honey Bee with her piercing mouth part after it landed on a Raspberry blossom for a take of pollen, while she’s being mated with by two males. Apparently all that copulating worked up an appetite that not even heated romance could abate.
You’ll notice that her needle mouth is jabbed squarely into the Bee’s thorax, and the male Ambush Bug farthest forward has his fore-limbs hooked into the Bee’s abdomen. I discovered this murder scene while picking breakfast in my Raspberry hedge, and noticed a Bee that hadn’t moved for a few seconds. Ambush Bugs are generally welcome predators in my garden because, while they take the occasional bee, they also prey on caterpillars and aphids.
Ambush Bugs belong to a family fittingly called Assassin Bugs. They’re in the Order Hemiptera, the same group to which Stink Bugs belong. “Bug” is an often misused term applied to all insects and arthropos, but in fact “Bug” is the technical term for insects from the order Hemiptera. I actually remember all this from Entomology class in college…finally, those 4 years of hard work have been justified by this blog.