Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Assassin bug on eryngo

with 11 comments

Click for greater clarity.

Here’s an assassin bug, Apiomerus spissipes, on a flowering eryngo, Eryngium leavenworthii. Do you see the appendage that’s folded back under the insect’s head? When the assassin bug attacks its prey, it unfolds that appendage and uses it to pierce the victim’s body and suck out what’s inside. Say gruesome and you won’t be wrong.

If you can take your eyes off this fierce and colorful predator, especially if the previous two sentences make you all the more eager to change the subject, you may want to look at the lower left corner of the photograph for a good view of the eryngo’s stamens and their bluish-purple anthers.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 27, 2012 at 6:11 AM

11 Responses

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  1. Was ist das für ein wundersames und schönes Tier?


    August 27, 2012 at 7:43 AM

  2. I think the Apiomerus spissipes was a character in “Starship Troopers”. I guess we can be thankful that they’re as small as they are. Great shot.


    August 27, 2012 at 7:47 AM

    • I didn’t see that movie, but I have seen this species in action: it was six years ago and the prey was a beetle. You wouldn’t have wanted to be the size of that beetle.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 27, 2012 at 10:34 AM

  3. I’m not so keen on the bug, but the detail of the eryngo is marvellous! Nature’s beauty amazes me again and again, and your photos do as well!


    August 27, 2012 at 5:34 PM

    • You’re probably not alone among readers in having the bug bug you, but I’m glad to hear that the eryngo’s details are a good compensation for it. Thanks for the vote of confidence.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 27, 2012 at 5:54 PM

  4. Spectacular photos, and the Eryngium leavenworthii, as you say, is full of surprises. Always wonderful to come over here and catch up with your photos.

    Susan Scheid

    August 27, 2012 at 8:00 PM

  5. I’ll bet he has to be careful not to hurt his feet as he makes his way through that prickly plant. Do you remember Annie Dillard’s story of the giant water bug and the frog? Same dynamic – and it was the bug doing the damage.


    August 29, 2012 at 11:01 PM

    • I’ve often noticed that small animals don’t seem to have the same trouble with sharp objects that we do. I imagine a bug is so small and lightweight that the spines of a plant like eryngo don’t hurt it. In any case, the bug shown here is in a relatively soft place on the plant, one free of spines. I’ve seen a bug of this species with its prey on the underside of a Texas thistle, where there are spines.

      I’m afraid I don’t remember the Annie Dillard story about the giant water bug and the frog. If I had a digital copy of the book I’d do a quick search. But wait (as they say in all those television commercials): I just did a Google search and found a site that quoted the passage in question. Yes, it is a similarly gruesome modus operandi, perhaps more widespread than we realize.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 30, 2012 at 4:57 AM

  6. […] You may remember, perhaps with revulsion, the way I described this kind of insect in a post showing an assassin bug on eryngo: when one of these bugs attacks its prey, it brings out an appendage that it normally keeps folded […]

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