Caturday bugs me

By Phil Plait | September 3, 2011 7:00 am

So my photographer brother-in-law Chris was showing me some pictures he took recently, and when this one came up I have to admit I actually recoiled a bit:

Yowza. Scary looking little bugger, ain’t it? Actually, there are two of these insects in the picture, though at first it’s hard to tell. I think Chris may have interrupted them in the process of making more little critters.

Anyway, Chris and I had no clue what they were, so I sent a note to my pal Bug Girl, who knew right away what he had found: an Ambush bug. Judging from other pictures, she got it in one. They’re very formidable looking, and actually rather lovely with their color contrasting those of the Russian sage on which they’re perched.

If you agree, and like insects in general, then check out Bug Girl’s blog. There’re enough creepy crawlies there to last you through the whole weekend.

Related posts:

Llama ahora
Happy Halloween! [WARNING: do NOT click that if spiders freak you out. I’m serious.]
Dramatic Caturday

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Caturday, Pretty pictures

Comments (19)

  1. Yikes! What adorable…interesting…freaky bugs! Their coloring reminds me of potato bugs (I’m sure they have another name) we used to find in our pool when I was a child, but the potato bugs were huge and scared me to death. Sorry, not a bug fan. But this is a great shot.

  2. rob

    From the look of it I would hazard a guess that the insect in question is molting rather than mating. This is the activity of shedding the old exoskeleton and then hanging out while the new one hardens. I am not an expert but the coloring of the lower insect leads me to believe this to be true.

  3. RCSI

    I find these critters actually kind of cute and adorable.

  4. Chris

    I come looking for astronomy and I see two bugs having sex!

  5. jearley

    Jerusalem Cricket? A fairly good size predator insect.

  6. Sebastian

    A closeup might make a decent substitute for CGI in some sci-fi movies where you just need a few shots of the aliens. Budget-friendly too.

  7. DaveN

    What an awesome shot!! This looks to be typical “mate guarding” that in this species apparently occurs more commonly post-mating than pre-mating. Basically he’s making sure no other males come along and put his “investment” at risk ;-)… For those with access to it there is a paper on this behavior in Ambush Bugs that can be found here: Dodson, Gary, and Larry Marshall. 1984. Mating Patterns in an Ambush Bug Phymata fasciata (Phymatidae). American Midland Naturalist, Vol. 112, No. 1 (Jul., 1984), pp. 50-57
    Stable URL:

  8. Annalee

    hey, they’re actually kind of cute.

    (also, a thousand thank-yous for the spider warning. Even illustrations of spiders can wreck my sleep for several days. Thank you for being sensitive to your arachnophobic readers).

  9. I love these guys. They make me think of miniature insect dinosaurs. They’re so tiny, and so deadly! Here’s one I caught hiding inside the petals of a rose!

  10. Bill the Splut

    Ambush Bug is my favorite Keith Giffen DC character!
    Oh, wait, that looks nothing like him.

  11. Hmmmm…IS that TWO of them? Or is it one ambush bug, molting? The culors on the bottom one look so dull and drab. I remember once finding a ghostly praying mantis, and then discovering it was just a left-behind molted carapace.

  12. Hmmmm…IS that TWO of them? Or is it one ambush bug, molting? The colors on the bottom one look so dull and drab. I remember once finding a ghostly praying mantis, and then discovering it was just a left-behind molted carapace.

  13. DaveN

    @Harold, yes, I noticed the milky appearance of the bottom one, and I too thought of a possible post-molt individual. But the bottom one looks more substantial than I would expect for that scenario, at least that’s my sense. It is a possibility, but the amplexing top one and the fact that this is a documented behavior (see paper cited above) led me to believe it was a case of mate guarding instead. YMMV!

  14. Chris

    Is it just me or is that bug grinning to the camera. “Yeah I’m getting some.”

  15. I found a scary situation in the flowers myself.

    Spider warning for Annalee.

  16. Larry M

    I am fascinated by ambush bugs. I take a lot of bug pictures and go around looking for ambush bugs to photograph. Here’s a shot of a pair on a dinner date.

    She’s sucking a common (or clouded) sulfur butterfly’s juices from its body. He’s not eating here. Oh, and that’s 1920 by 1920 pixels so if your browser sizes pictures to the window, make it go to full resolution.

  17. Carey

    Funny, my first instinct on seeing this picture was that I had stumbled into r/trees.

  18. Acronym Jim

    Those are insects? Oddly, all I see is an image of Elvis.


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