Stop, sit, look is a mantra that serves me well.
I was huddled near the end of a rotting log when I spotted a brightly patterned bug just a few inches away. This was quickly followed by a good-grief-what-the-heck? moment when I realized it was “attached” to a large caterpillar. What followed next was fascinating.
The piercing mouthparts of this immature stink bug had seized hold of one of the caterpillar’s hind “legs” (known as prolegs to bugsters) and it was feeding on the still-living larva.
The caterpillar was strong. It pulled that stink bug several inches across the log face. Despite its best efforts, however, it couldn’t break free.
The stink bug’s grip was stronger. In fact, several times the caterpillar swung loose, dangling in air. The stink bug never lost its hold on the log or the larva.
Although the larva was still alive when I left, the end was inevitable — it was lunch on legs for this young spined soldier bug.
The spined soldier bug goes through 5 stages (instars, for the biologically inclined) between egg and adult. Each stage looks quite different than the others. Turns out I found the third instar.
If you’d like to see its life cycle in photos, check out this link at the University of Florida.
Spined soldier bug Podisus maculiventris
Unidentified butterfly larva