Tuesday, August 30, 2016
While a flower-filled field may look peaceful, in reality scores of wee killers lurk among the blooms. A flower can be a very dangerous place for a nectar-seeking pollinating insect. I did a pretty intensive field trip through several southeastern Ohio counties last weekend, and managed to find a number of specimens of one of my favorite killers in the flowers, the Jagged Ambush Bugs in the genus Phymata.
The genus Phymata is not especially large in North America north of Mexico - 20 species or so - and diversity thins out even more east of the Mississippi. Apparently nearly all of the ones in Ohio and vicinity fall into three species: Phymata americana, P. fasciata, and P. pennsylvanica. Separating these species can be quite difficult, especially from photos, so I'm just leaving it at that.
The kill shown here is a great irony; karmic payback? Tachinid flies are parasitoids, laying eggs on hosts such as caterpillars and katydids. The fly egg hatches a tiny grub which quickly bores into the host and commences eating it alive. The fly maggot feeds and grows within its victim, ultimately killing it. This tachinid has met its match in this ferocious little ambush bug.
Keep an eye on the flowers this fall, and I'll guarantee you'll spot a Jagged Ambush Bug sooner or later.