One of the things about hunting for bugs is that I get to observe them at their daily lives. And sometimes I catch the most secretive of them in the act. On this particular day I was out with the macro lens, when I spotted a tachnid fly sitting on a Black-Eyed Susan. I maneuvered closer to catch a nice shot of the pollinator, but I realized that something wasn’t right. The fly was too still. And then I noticed why the fly wasn’t moving – it was not feeding, it was being fed on.
The Jagged Ambush Bug (Phymata pennsylvanica) is named in part for it’s outline – like a ghillie suit, the rough outlines of it’s chitinous exoskeleton break up the shape that might give it away. Instead of looking like a bug, it looks more like a dead leaf or petal. Which is what allows it to live up to the second part of it’s name and ambush the unwary who alight on a flower, never seeing the predator lying in wait, usually just below the petals. With it’s strong grasping front legs, shaped more like a mantis’ claspers, it can hold on until it has a chance to pierce the unwary insect’s exoskeleton at a vulnerable joint – here, you can see that it has entered the fly between thorax and abdomen – and begin to feed. Like a kid with a straw in a milkshake.
Photos were all taken with my Canon and macro lens, manual focus freehand, exposure 1/400 sec at f 5.0 and ISO 100.