It’s a trap!

Yesterday, I was poking around a small bush of white flowers looking for insects to photograph. I noticed this butterfly hanging from the bottom of a flower, rather than sitting on top:

What are you doing under there?

I panned around to underneath the flower and found out why:

Unlucky butterfly.

The butterfly had been snared by an ambush bug (Phymatinae), which is a subgroup of assassin bugs (Reduviidae). I think the above animal is a nymph belonging to the genus Phymata. These bugs hang out underneath flower petals until unweary pollinators visit. They then lunge out and snare their prey with their enlarged raptorial appendages, piercing the exoskeleton with a syringe like rostrum.

Here is an adult of the same, or a similar, species. About one of every three flowers in this bush had an ambush bug laying in wait below.

Phymata sp

'Come a bit closer my pretties.'

If any insect-gurus can identify this exact species, it would be much appreciated.

15 Responses to “It’s a trap!”

  1. 1 myrmecos July 22, 2010 at 7:45 pm

    Ha! That last shot is really something- reminds me of a cat.

  2. 2 devin mccourty July 22, 2010 at 9:28 pm

    Are you much of a lepidopterist – Butterfly enthusiast? Is so what’s your favorite Butterfly

    • 3 Mike Bok July 23, 2010 at 2:30 am

      Unfortunately, not really. I’m a Stomatopodist, if anything. Lepidoptera is a cool group though. Very interesting visual ecology work being done on them…

  3. 4 Mike Lisieski July 23, 2010 at 12:02 am

    What great shots!

    I was worried that I wouldn’t have anything to procrastinate with at the lab tomorrow, but now I have some papers on Reduviidae biology.

  4. 5 DNLee July 30, 2010 at 10:18 am

    Great photo catch!
    and the flower – Daisy Flea Bane I am sure.

  5. 6 Joy K. August 6, 2010 at 10:01 pm

    That bug is AMAZING!!! Where was the picture taken? I’m desperately hoping these are found in Texas. Love the third picture: it’s got armor and camouflage and even some fashion sense!

  6. 8 joan knapp August 12, 2010 at 9:15 pm

    This is a great bug. I’m going to be on the lookout for it too… Thanks for introducing me to it.

  7. 9 ElytraGJ September 21, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    this bug (3rd photo) rather reminds of some sort of a dinosaur ! 🙂

    nice pics, Mike

    I’m glad I found your blog too – adding it to my Blogroll now

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I have moved.
Arthropoda can now be found here.

Michael Bok is a graduate student studying the visual system of mantis shrimp.

Flickr Photos

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