“What a tender, young creature! What a nice, plump mouthful – she will be better to eat than the old woman. I must act craftily, so as to catch both.”
– The Wolf, Little Red Riding Hood (Brothers Grimm)
I would like to point out that once you start photographing the world, you begin to see some utterly bizarre things. Over many months now, I’ve been collecting snapshots of the odd, the freaky and the macabre, initially because I was astounded by the sights, but then, later, because I wholeheartedly wanted to force my ghastly experiences upon fine folks like you. Hmmm. What does that say about me???
With that said, I’m adding Morbid Mondays to this blog. Get excited, people. Hey, Monday in and of itself is pretty morbid, correct? No big deal adding a little more to the pile, right??? It’s like painting blue on black.
So…let us now begin with our FIRST tale of terror…BWAHAHAHhahahahaha! (That’s an evil laugh. You’re welcome.)
Several weeks ago we were doing some maintenance on our bee hive. A few days before that, we had left some scraped comb on the ledge outside of the hive. When we were finished with our hive work, I noticed something strange crawling on the discarded comb. J. lifted it up so that I could photograph it. To my shock and awe, I captured this. Just study it, piece by piece, and take it ALL in…
If you said that this appears to be a couple of ant skeletons, perhaps a tiny black hive beetle in the center, random loose aphid skins, some wax, various unidentifiable fibers and bits of leaves and detritus, all held together by interwoven legs and antennae…you nailed it. As J. tilted the menagerie where I could get a better angle, I finally saw him. He is Atlas, traveling briskly along the edge of the comb. The Green Lacewing larva.
Notice his slender body stretching the length of the pile. It’s as if he is parading about, flaunting a fascinator fashioned with dead bodies atop his head. A little Buffalo Bill-esque, if you ask me Clarice, but this is simply what he does.
The Green Lacewing larva is the predator of all predators, and, just like Little Red’s wolf, he kills by deceit. You can see the sharp jaws extending outward just past his cold, ebony eyes. He uses those jaws to pierce soft-bodied insects, especially aphids, sucking out their entrails and then tossing their lifeless carcasses upon his back. Uhhh…morbid. There is a method to his madness, though. He covers himself, partly as a camouflaging technique against birds and other predators but also as a disguise. He puts on the clothes and cap of grandmother (the remains of his kills), in order to fool Little Red (the aphid)…his tender, plump favorite. Well, actually, to fool the ants.
You see, aphids secrete a substance called honeydew, which you can see dripping from them in the photo above. These aphids were on a stem of our milkweed in the pollinator garden. Honeydew is a delectable food for ants, so they want as many aphids as possible around. Thus, they are happy to become their protectors. A naked lacewing larva approaching a colony of aphids will often find itself quickly ejected by angry ants. So the lacewing gets wise and begins the disguise. Upon covering itself in the remains of its prey and whatever it can gather, especially the wax and debris of aphids, it can sneak past the guardian ants and infiltrate the colony. What’s especially humorous about our Atlas is that he is carrying the carcasses of ants. Now lacewing larvae aren’t especially known to eat ants, so I’m thinking that he found a couple of casualties, left behind under separate circumstances, and scooped them right up thinking, “AHA! Now I shall appear as just another couple of soldiers traveling through the army.” The cowardly lion donning the uniform of the witch’s guards. Clever, my friend. Very clever.
So here’s the long and the short of it. If Monday gave you the blues today or, WORSE, seemed like utter death just trying to make it through…cheer up! At least no one is wearing your torso as a hat tonight.
All the best,
– All Content Photos by Amanda J. Schulz