One of our showiest prairie plants is the Purple Coneflower, Echinacea purpurea. They aren't particularly common here in Ohio, at least in a wild state, and finding their rosy-purple blooms in prairie remnants is always a treat.
For years I've noticed that something attacks coneflowers in a most interesting way, and it wasn't until a recent field trip that I learned who the culprit was. We had seen some coneflower damage in a neat little patch of prairie in Clark County, and naturalist extraordinaire Jim Davidson knew, in a general way, who the attacker was.
Perhaps you've seen this sort of thing. It's as if a mad gardener with nicely sharpened clippers has come along and clipped the flower, leaving it to dangle. The cuts are perfectly straight and quite well done.
Well, it turns out the mad clipping is the work of a tiny weevil. These small beetles apparently saw through the coneflower stem, and lay their eggs in the gooey sap which forms at the wound. Once they mature, the blackish, long-beaked adults clamber down to the dangling flower and commence feeding.
But it obviously does the flower in. Maybe that creates the perfect conditions for other predators to invade the dying flower, such as aphids or other wee creatures, and the adult weevils feed on those. Or perhaps it causes the developing seeds to atrophy and become easier to eat, better meals.
Whatever the case, the complexity of the insect world never ceases to amaze me.