Ambush!

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Flowers are much more than a pretty sight. Did you know that they can be a death trap?

We have here a Jagged Ambush Bug (Phymata sp.) on the flowers of a Wedgeleaf Button Snakeroot (Eryngium cuneifolium). Ambush bugs are usually hard to find because their jagged bodies help them camouflage on flowers, but this one doesn’t seem to realize what color he is. Nevertheless, he is waiting motionless, hoping a juicy insect will visit his flower. As soon as that insect lands, the ambush bug will snach its head with those crab-like claws and stab it with his sharp, tube-shaped mouth. He will then drag the surprised insect to the flower stalk and sit there happily sucking the prey’s insides like a giant bug smoothie. Ambush bugs are able to catch insects several times larger than themselves. Those bees and butterflies have a much scarier job that you might’ve thought!

Another ambush bug eating a fly.
Another ambush bug eating a fly.

As if that weren’t cool enough, this ambush bug happens to be hunting on an extremely rare plant, Wedgeleaf Button Snakeroot (Eryngium cuneifolium). It is an endangered species only grows in dry and open sandy habitat in Highlands County, Florida. This tough plant can survive fire, drought, and herbicides made by rosemary plants, but not the wave of development that has swept Florida. It probably isn’t too happy about the ambush bug terrorizing its would-be pollinators.

Reference:

US Fish and Wildlife Service Plant Profile

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