A well brewed coffee before a safari helps spotting some uncommon wildlife like a Golden Angle butterfly. Like most flats, the Golden Angle butterflies often perch on outstretched wings. Just as we were appreciating the butterfly using a manual focus on the camera, the lens caught an Assassin bug probing the Lacewing’s eggs!
Lacewings are one fascinating group of insects both as adults and as larvae, for the amazingly engineered adaptations that they have for predation and anti-predation. The ideal stage for any predators to take on these smart insects is during their egg stage. However the talented mothers lay their eggs on stalks of delicate silk probably to upheave without any support and even knot themselves when a predator badgers them. The stalked-egg-laying could also prevent larvae of the brood killing each other. When some of the lacewings make it to their first larval stage, they start as voracious predators, especially on the agro-pests such as aphids. They have even been awarded as ‘Aphid Lions’ like the Antlions for their predatory skill. As they grow into adults developing laces on their wings and turning greener, their senses and armour develop into a remarkable artillery; a pseudo ‘ear’ develops at the base of their fore wings that helps them “hear” the Bat’s percussions through echolocation, once the lacewings “decrypts” the echolocation, they drop to the ground! Although the wings are a beautiful and delicate work of craftsmanship, they too come with hair that prevent any spider silk sticking. Even if they are trapped in any case the lacewings deter their predators by smelling bad. With a formidable predatory skill set and anti-predatory techniques they are still vulnerable to other predators that have a taste for a juicy Lacewing.
One such predator is the Assassin bug, who an undeterred and passionate assassinator! Equipped with a long rostrum, they can reach these eggs laid on stalks. The Assassin injects a potent saliva that begins to digest the contents of the Lacewing egg sac. The Assassin bug now straws up the eggs like sipping coffee off the mug. To its added advantage their legs have a firm grip with tiny hair, so that when the silk strands entangle their legs, their hair can support their cocktail hour habits.
There may be around 7000 species of Assassin bugs, all of them true to their name are predators both at nymph and adult stages. This time the unborn Lacewing shifts down the food chain until its larvae finds a camouflaging Assassin bug nymph. It just amazes you to watch the anti-predatory and predatory counter adaptations that have developed over millennia of evolution.