The Snack Bar

I work hard to have a pollinator friendly garden and, as a result, have a pretty constant stream of bee visitors. There are many kinds of bees, and I am collecting photos of them as much as possible. I’ll post a bunch of cool bee pictures soon, but this time I wanted to share a cool insect interaction I came across yesterday.

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This is the time of summer when the Russian sage is in full bloom, which attracts tons of honey and bumble bees to it. Like a watering hole in the desert, this creates a nice hunting ground for predators. I had some pictures in a post about spiders (https://wordpress.com/post/getbuggy.wordpress.com/439) showing a spider eating a bee. But spiders are not the only ones after the bees.

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Assassin bugs are also on the prowl. These guys are true bugs, meaning that they are in order Hemiptera and that they feed with their straw like mouth parts.  They are ambush predators, waiting in the shadows of flowers for prey to draw near. Then they grab them with their incredibly strong front legs. And that is just what happened to this honey bee.

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Like all predatory true bugs, assassin bugs stick their straw-like mouth parts into their prey, excrete digestive juices, and slurp on the results. In the picture below you can see the assassin bug’s straw like mouth going into the bee.

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In order to get at all parts of the captured bee, the assassin bug was using its strong arms to move the bee around. Here is a video of that (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MFH7iquIG0M). You can see the assassin bugs mouth probing the bee.

Interestingly, another insect also joined the party. Below you can see the small fly on the dead bee. It could be a phorid fly that is a parasitoid of bees or it could just be looking to steal some of the bees flesh from the assassin bug. I’m not sure. But it is odd.

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So check your garden for assassin bugs if you want to see some cool predation! They are not dangerous to humans in most places, although they do come into houses hunting for food. In fact, I find them inside fairly regularly. I just catch them and put them back out in the garden. However, in Central and South America, there are blood sucking assassin bugs that can transmit Chagas disease. In more northern climates, the only ones around are insect eaters.

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About keviclaire

I recently graduated from the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at UC Berkeley. My research interests are focused on biological control and how to increase it's use in agriculture and home gardens. I am also an avid gardener and insect photographer. I'm using this blog as a place to share those interests!

One response to “The Snack Bar”

  1. Helen says :

    I love how these bloodsucking photos are all so beautifully lit up in soft purple from the Russian Sage – good photography!

    Like

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