I had a great day last Sunday down in Shawnee State Forest, birding with Carl and Karen Winstead. We found many species of birds, with good looks at choice feathered bits such as Cerulean, Kentucky, and Worm-eating warblers. Lots of plants, butterflies, dragonflies and other elements of natural history, too.
After the Winsteads and I parted ways in late afternoon, I took the long way out of the forest, stopping to shoot some interesting subjects, mostly plants and insects. And is often the case when loitering around insect-rich plant life, I was witness to a kill by a spectacular flower-stalking insect that hunts other insects.
I spent a fair bit of time observing some especially large New Jersey Tea colonies, attempting to photograph visiting pollinators. Many Summer Azures were regular visitors to the flowers.
It turns out that this species of robberfly is Asilus sericeus (thanks to Benjamin Coulter for the ID), and it is well known for attacking butterflies. One source states that it is not particularly common, and my experiences would bear that out. I tend to notice such things as large spectacular robberflies, and don't recall seeing Asilus sericeus before. As robberflies go, it is quite handsome with its rich golden tones.
Once again, the reality of flowers as potential death traps is reinforced. Robberflies and myriad other predators often lurk near flowers that support heavy pollinating insect activity, and routinely make a meal of the flower visitors. Brutal as this may be, it's all part of the circle of life.