Bugs up Close and Why We Are Glad They're Small
The Praying Mantis
The Praying Mantis
The name praying mantis was given to these insects because they have very long front legs that they are able to hold in a position that reminds people of praying, although they do "prey" upon some things, just not people. They mostly eat insects and other very small animals, and they are often welcome by farmers and gardeners because they eat insects that can damage crops. Some of the things they catch are grasshoppers, crickets, spiders, lizards, frogs and some very small birds.
A praying mantis is very well camouflaged (it can adapt a color and blend in with plants) and has a strange-looking triangular head atop a very long neck, as you can see in the photograph above. And, that triangular head can turn a full 180 degrees, an entire half circle. They are able to hold onto their prey because their front legs have rows of sharp spines. They usually like to begin their meal by eating the head first, and that's nothing you probably want to witness regardless of how much you might hate the bugs and animals they eat.
There are actually two different types of cicada - referred to as the "dog-day" and the "periodical" cicada. The dog-day cicadas are very dark with greenish markings and they spend up to seven years underground before they emerge in July and August.
On the other hand, the periodical cicada emerges in May and early June, after spending up to about 17 years underground, so you might say they are one of the elders of the insect world. They are dark with red eyes.
New generations of cicada emerge annually because new groups of young (nymphs) are born every year to females who lay up to 600 eggs at a time in the tiny branches of shrubs and trees. Upon hatching, the nymphs immediately begin burrowing their way underground so that they can attach to roots, where they will remain for the rest of their underground lives sucking tree sap.
The cicada emerges from underground at sunset at the end of the dormant period and is guided only by instinct as it climbs the trunk of a nearby tree where it sheds its skin allowing the adult cicada to begin its relatively short lifespan of about five weeks.
A cicada will only pierce or suck on you if it thinks you are a tree. But, don't worry because they don't have jaws that are built to tear or chew flesh, or stingers, so you simply need to pluck it off of you and continue with whatever you were doing.
The Periodical Cicada
An Annoying Sound
Above ground, male cicadas fill the air with shrill, buzzing sounds that are considered pretty annoying, the result of small drum-like plates on the abdomen quickly vibrating. The male cicada creates the vibrating sound and uses it to attract female cicadas for mating. All cicadas die in about five weeks after they emerge from under the ground.
A Robber Fly
The Robber Fly
You might want to avoid this one. They don't really go looking for human prey, but if they are mishandled, they could inflict a painful bite. Not only is he ugly, but he is also called an assassin fly and comes by his name honestly. They are powerfully built, bristly flies with a short, stout proboscis (elongated sucking mouthpart) enclosing the sharp, sucking hypopharynx (functions as the tongue) and they are opportunistic predators.
The adult flies attack other flies, as well as wasps, bees, dragonflies, grasshoppers and some spiders. These flies are particularly abundant in arid and sunny habitats and will seize their prey in flight, injecting them with saliva containing a nervous-tissue-damaging neurotoxin and proteolytic (digestive) enzymes. This injection, inflicted by the hypotharynx, quickly immobilizes the prey and allows the fly to digest the bodily contents, essentially turning the prey into a liquid meal.
Robber Flies Also Eat Beneficial Bugs
There is a downside to the appetite of the robber fly. They also tend to dine on those insects that gardeners consider to be beneficial, like beetles.
Hickory Horned Devil Caterpillar
The Hickory Horned Devil Caterpillar
For this ugly little devil, I am going to refer you to an article that I wrote on him. You can access it here.
The Green Bottle Fly: Shoo Fly, Don't Bother Me!
Green Bottle Fly: Ectoparasite
A green bottle fly is considered an ectoparasite (they live on the outside of the host - either on the skin or the outgrowths of the skin). When this fly lands on a solid food it will throw up enzymes that will begin to break down and dissolve that material.
The Jagged Ambush Bug
Ambush Bugs Are Very Patient
You wouldn't exactly consider ambush bugs to be stalkers, as they don't go looking for their prey - they simply wait (usually on flowers), completely motionless until something gets within striking distance and seize it in powerful raptor-like forelegs (they are thick and shaped like those of a praying mantis, perfect for grabbing and holding prey). The victim is then stabbed by an extremely sharp, blade-like beak and injected with poison, and at that point, it is good night to the poor, unsuspecting victim - usually a fly, caterpillar, beetle, wasp, bee or one of many other flying insects, some of which are larger than the ambush bug itself.
The poison not only paralyzes the prey, it also liquefies the body's contents, and turns it into a liquid that can then be slurped up by the jagged ambush bug.
One article I read about the jagged ambush bug referred to it as "an armored shell of terror," which I thought was very appropriate.
Depending upon your gardening needs, this bug may or may not be beneficial, as it eats thrips, flies, moths and butterflies. In regard to humans, they are simply regarded as pests which could inflict a slightly painful bite because they contain venom, but they are not dangerous.
What's a Bajeezer, Anyway?
At the end of this article are three amazing videos showing extreme close-up photography of scary-looking bugs, some of which were only recently discovered. You will find it worth your time to check them out. Some of them will scare the bajeezers out of you!
An Immature Leaf Hopper
Leafhoppers are capable of causing extensive damage to the plants on which they feed. They deposit a toxic saliva secretion in the leaves and stems, causing white or yellow bumps to appear. The term used when leaves turn yellow or brown from leafhopper damage, causing stunted growth or death of the plant, is "hopperburn". Some of them can carry or spread plant diseases, causing devastation to some plant species and agricultural crops.
Leafhoppers can bite humans, but they are not harmful.
A Crab Spider
Crab Spiders Don't Spin a Web
Unlike most spiders, crab spiders don't spin a web for catching prey, but instead they use camouflage. Some of them resemble bird droppings, while others look like fruits, leaves, grass, or flowers, allowing them to prey upon its favorite food - honeybees, butterflies and flies.
The spider attacks when prey approaches, administering a poisonous bite. Their venom is potent enough to render large insects immobile, but not medically threatening to humans.
Note: The crab spider is so named because of its ability to walk sideways and backwards, just like a crab.
Rabid Wolf Spider
If You Still Want to See More Macros of Bugs, Try These Sites
- Macro Photography In Action: 50 Stunning Photographs
In these fascinating examples of macro photography, insects become menacing monsters and snowflakes can be viewed in all their natural beauty!
- Macro Photographs Composed of Nearly Ten Thousand Images
This is an amazing site that shows some photos displayed at the the Oxford Museum of Natural History and how they got such incredible detail.
- 25 Insanely Detailed Macro Images Of Insects
This site has some remarkable images of bugs up close and personal, all taken by expert photographers who know their way around a macro lense.
© 2017 Mike and Dorothy McKenney