A little while back, I made an entry about teasels, and included some comments about insect use of their phytotelmata, or water pools that form in the bases of the cuplike leaves. Scott Namestnik sends along the above photo, of a Tabanus horsefly drinking from the cup of a Cut-leaved Teasel, Dipsacus laciniatus. Some of Scott's work can be FOUND HERE. Very cool photo; thanks for sharing it, Scott!
On a recent foray, a sharp-eyed associate spotted this utterly bizarre critter. It is a Mantid Fly, Climaciella brunnea, one of the major oddities of the insect world.
Mantid Flies resemble a mixture of a wasp, praying mantis, and fly all rolled into one. This species is fairly large - perhaps an inch long, and is armed with a formidable pair of forelegs. And it's those legs that give these insects their common name. Thick and powerful, they are heavily armed with stiff spines, and the fly uses them to seize victims.
Photo by Patrick Coin, via BugGuide.net.
Another fascinating apect of this particular Mantid Fly is that it clearly seems to mimic paper wasps in the genus Polistes, especially the above species, the Common Paper Wasp, Polistes exclamans. Scroll up and compare the previous photo and see what you think.
So it is a double whammy. Our fearsome fly is a formidable killing machine. Yet, it looks like another unrelated nasty stinger; a wasp that nearly everyone, man or beast, knows to leave alone. Not a bad deal for the Mantid Fly.