Monday, July 23, 2007

Weird looking bug with paddle like front legs and Egyptian headdress

When I was photographing some Dahlias I came across this tiny bug, about 1/4" long with green paddle front legs. I haven't a clue as to what it is. It didn't seem too perturbed by the closeness of the camera lens and moved only slightly when I got too close or moved some petals to expose it more fully.

It has an almost Egytian looking headdress and delta wings which are kinda neat but I wonder what those front legs were meant for? I don't think it is used for locomotion in water.

Update: Thanks to Annie in Austin the bug has a name - Ambush Bug, Family Phymatidae from the "What's That Bug" website. The Ambush bug is halfway down the web page.

Here's a quote from the website " The lethargic behavior you describe is the key to the hunting strategy of the Ambush Bug, Family Phymatidae. These bugs usually wait on flowers for much larger insects to arrive and then pounce with those raptorial front legs. A tiny Ambush Bug is capable of subdueing a much larger bee. Their protective coloration will camoflauge them very well on such plants as goldenrod."

Futher, " You have an Ambush Bug, Family Phymatidae. These are True Bugs and closely related to Assasin Bugs, hence the similarity in appearance. According to Borror and Delong: "The Phymatids are small stout-bodied bugs with raptorial front legs. ... Most of the Ambush Bugs are about 1/2 inch in length or less, yet they are able to capture insects as large as fair-sized bumble bees. they lie in wait for their prey on flowers, particularly goldenrod, where they are excellently concealed by their greenish yellow color. They feed principally on relatively large bees, wasps, and flies." They do have venom, hence the pain in your bite. As you know, their bite is painful, but not dangerous. I believe your species is Phymata erosa."

And here's a site that shows an amazing photo of the Ambush bug capturing a much, much larger wasp.

And another site showing it capturing and devouring a butterfly, again many times its size.

The bug seemed to be so slow moving, small and innocuous, I'm surprised at how ferocious it is! I'll have to be more careful having been stung by the yellow jacket already this summer. I don't want to experience the venomous bite of the Ambush bug too.

Here's a closer look.


Blogger Locust-Eater said...

Never seen one just like that, but looks like it might live a Mantis-like lifestyle: see those sickle shaped forlegs? The paddles are probably to look like stamens in a flower, and the transparent wings help it blend in until it's prey is too close.

Just a Guess...

8:13 PM  
Blogger Ki said...

Hi locust-eater,
You may be right. The bug was very small, only about 1/4" from nose to wing bottom so it would have to go after very small insects if it is a predator. The truncated carapace is quite interesting. It doesn't really protect the wings but seems to be quite elaborate. Used to fend off larger insects or birds?

4:30 AM  
Blogger Annie in Austin said...

Ki, I've been here to look at this insect 3 times, hoping someone would come up with the answer. Then even though the dust balls roll like tumbleweeds, I ignored the vacuum cleaner and tried to find it.

I had a hunch and looked under true bugs at What's That Bug. Some members of the group called Ambush Bugs in the Family Phymatidae have this type of foreleg and 'headdress'. Not a definitive homerun, but it might be in the ballpark.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

12:44 PM  
Blogger Ki said...

Gee Annie, I better not post anymore unknown bug pics or the dust bunnies will take over your home...what's a bit of dust to an true inquiring mind eh?

You seem to find all the neat websites. What's That Bug is a fascinating site. I looked at the Ambush bug (halfway down the page) and I'm almost certain it's the same bug I photographed. You are an unbelievable researcher. Thanks for the ID.

6:26 PM  
Blogger Annie in Austin said...

Ki, I'm so nearsighted that I can hardly get good looks at bugs in my garden - it's more fun to look at your photos because I can see the insect!
[and I'm glad you think this is right.]


7:45 PM  
Blogger lisa said...

Wow, that's really a cool bug! I like that "What's That Bug?" site...they have helped me ID lots of insects.

10:18 AM  
Blogger Ki said...

I don't know the exact species of Ambush bug it is but it seems to match the others in the online photos. I'll gladly post pictures of interesting bugs for you to look at and ID Annie. Trouble with insects is that most are quick moving and camera shy unless they are dead so I've posted only a few so far.

Hi Lisa,
I agree, the Ambush bug is quite something. The What's That Bug" site is really cool. Now that Annie clued me onto the site I'll have to spend some time looking at all the entries.

6:18 PM  
Blogger kate said...

Those forelegs are quite something. I am amazed at how clear a picture you can take when the bug is so small.

I will have to check out the "what's that bug" site. Thanks Annie for finding it!

10:21 PM  
Blogger Ki said...

Hi Kate, I'm using a Raynox 6x macro add on lens to the camera. The depth of field is not very good with the lens so even a small change in distance from the lens will either put certain parts of the bug in focus or out of focus. You can see in the first photo that the front legs are in focus but the rest of the body is blurred. In the second photo the head is in focus but the other parts are blurred. Just a very small change in distance can make a huge difference.

Actually, now that I remember taking the photos, I just used the macro function of the camera and not the add on lens. I was having trouble getting into the the flower because the petals were in the way and the add on lens would have been too bulky to use in that situation. The camera I have focuses as closely as 1 cm which is about 3/8" for us non-metric types.

5:03 AM  

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