Arrival of the assassins

I'm always interested in the ever-changing insect population of my garden. The photo above depicts one of several orange assassin bugs who recently appeared on the porterweed plants. Alongside the insect is a skipper butterfly who showed up as I was photographing the assassin bug.

I love observing how incoming insects interact with other insects in the garden.

At times, for instance, the milkweed gets overrun by aphids and once there are enough of them, ladybugs arrive for the all-you-can-eat aphid buffet. If enough ladybugs land, this may eventually draw the attention of larger and equally hungry insects such as the assassin bug, who prey on ladybugs and ladybug larvae (among other things)

This week, I noticed at least a few dozen assassin bugs (those are just the ones I can see) crawling through the tall porterweed plants. This time, they were not here for an aphid buffet on the milkweed. These assassins were nymphs who did not yet have their wings -- and their meal of choice seemed to be very tiny flies on the porterweed.

The assassin injects its prey with a toxic saliva that turns the insect's insides to liquid, which the assassin then sucks up through it's straw-like rostrum.

I felt fortunate to have seen so many assassin bugs, as they seem kind of shy. If they notice you, they will quickly pop underneath a leaf and disappear, so you have to be fairly still and quiet if you want to spend a little time watching them.

The assassin above seems to be ready and waiting for its next meal.  Assassin bugs are considered a beneficial insect in the garden, though I know some tiny flies, ladybugs and other victims who might heartily disagree with that assessment.