Living in the past VI

jagged ambush bug Phymata on aster blossom
Back in 2011, I’d planted a whole bunch of wildflower seeds and, very typically I was to find out, almost none of them sprouted. At all. The only one that I could dependably say did was some form of aster, but it fulfilled its purpose in that it attracted a certain number of pollinators, and with them, a certain number of pollinator-predators. This is one of them, a jagged ambush bug (genus Phymata.) I couldn’t get any closer to the species than that back then, though now I suspect it might be one of the Phymata americana species, and if you go to that link, you’ll find the manners of differentiating them, which will require me to learn a bunch of new arthropod anatomical terms and then see if I captured any of them in the images. Maybe later.

The image is faintly soft, because it’s highly magnified, and judging from the timeframe, this was done with the newly-obtained macro bellows – I was figuring out what worked best, and settled on other options. Still, it’s enough to see the intricate detail of the species, which is about the size of a blowfly, or a little smaller than a honeybee. I could get away with this from a ‘field’ image (unrestrained and as-found) because ambush bugs sit very still to not attract attention. Most arthropod subjects would be diddybopping around and making it nigh impossible to use something as specific and hard-to-focus as a bellows arrangement, so this was a good test. Ya gotta love that space samurai armor…

Take a close look at the eyes, though. Ambush bugs have compound eyes like most insects, with the false pupil aspect, but their eye anatomy produces a strange bullseye pattern from the false pupils. This kind of thing makes me aware again that biologists have dissected these eyes, somehow – I’m trying to imagine how you do this and what you use, given that the bits are nearly microscopic. But it’s safe to say that I have enough frustrations and won’t be attempting this anytime soon myself.