Feature Journal

Gruesome Tactics of an Ant-Snatching Assassin Bug

on
26 July 2013

This post highlights the gruesome, yet ingenious tactics of the Ant-Snatching Assassin Bug (Acanthaspis sp.) which I shot again on Friday night. This assassin bug sticks the corpses of it’s devoured prey (ants!) onto it’s back for camouflage and to hide it’s scent from other ants. On top of being an obvious “meat shield”, this also allows the assassin bug to infiltrate ant colonies while posing as one of their own. I have yet to photograph this bug attaching a corpse to it’s back, so it’s going to be high on my wish list!

There are at least 2 species of these assassin bug nymphs: Inara flavopicta and Acanthaspis. The nymphs are difficult to differentiate, but Inara tends to have a cleaner stack of corpses, while Acanthaspis may include some debris on its back.

    Ant-Snatching Assassin Bug (Acanthaspis sp.) - DSC_0739
  1. Ant-Snatching Assassin Bug (cf. Inara flavopicta)

    Like a scene straight out from the recent Hannibal TV series (Episode 9: TROU NORMAND), this Ant-Snatching Assassin Bug (Acanthaspis sp.) accumulates a gigantic stack of corpses on it’s back. It’s a wonder how it managed to maintain balance!

  2. Ant-Snatching Assassin Bug (Acanthaspis sp.) - DSC_0750
  3. Ant-Snatching Assassin Bug (cf. Inara flavopicta)

    This Ant-Snatching Assassin Bug could walk about steadily despite the additional load.

  4. Ant-snatching Assassin Bug (Acanthaspis sp.) - DSC_6787
  5. Ant-snatching Assassin Bug (Acanthaspis sp.)

    Another serial killer which I shot some time ago, had a slightly lower kill rate.

  6. Assassin Bug (Acanthaspis sp.) - IMG_5751
  7. Assassin Bug (Acanthaspis sp.)

    Even the tiny, younger Ant-Snatching Assassin Bug had a stack of it’s own!

  8. Ant-Snatching Assassin Bug (Acanthaspis sp.) - DSC_2042b
  9. Ant-Snatching Assassin Bug (Acanthaspis sp.)

    View from above shows that almost the entire body of the Ant-Snatching Assassin Bug had been covered by ant carcasses!

  10. Ant-Snatching Assassin Bug (Acanthaspis sp.) - DSC_1831
  11. Ant-Snatching Assassin Bug (Acanthaspis sp.)

    Despite finding these quite frequently, I couldn’t pass up shooting them each time.

  12. Shooting this assassin bug took just about 10 minutes, so here are more finds from the night!!

    Comb-Footed Spider (Theridiidae) - DSC_0630
  13. Comb-Footed Spider (Theridion sp.)

    Comb-Footed Spider , usually weaves silk cross-crossing over a leaf.

  14. Comb-Footed Spider (Theridiidae) - DSC_0641
  15. Comb-Footed Spider (Theridion sp.)

    Wider view to show the web – yes it is almost always hanging upside down.

  16. Comb-Footed Spider (Theridiidae) - DSC_0633
  17. Comb-Footed Spider (Theridiidae)

    A male Comb-Footed Spider , notice the enlarged palps, all ready to mate!

  18. Comb-Footed Spider (Theridiidae) - DSC_0635
  19. Comb-Footed Spider (Theridiidae)

    Dorsal view of the Comb-Footed Spider , always important for records.

  20. Centipede (Chilopoda) - DSC_0637
  21. Centipede (Chilopoda)

    We found a few young Centipedes on the tree trunks

  22. Centipede (Chilopoda) - DSC_0640
  23. Centipede (Chilopoda)

    The body had hints of green

  24. Issid Planthopper (Hemisphaerius sp.) - DSC_0642
  25. Issid Planthopper (Hemisphaerius sp.)

    Issid Planthopper , ridiculously cute seed-like bug! Alex Wild jokingly called it Adorabilidae when I posted pictures of it on Facebook recently.

  26. Issid Planthopper (Hemisphaerius sp.) - DSC_0649
  27. Issid Planthopper (Hemisphaerius sp.)

    Did I mention that it is that adorable?

  28. Ground Spider (Zodariidae) - DSC_0650
  29. Ground Spider (Zodariidae)

    Ground Spider , but not on the ground but resting on a tree trunk

  30. Katydid (Tettigoniidae) - DSC_0655
  31. Katydid (Tettigoniidae)

    Interesting looking Katydid but it was too big to fit into my camera setup, hence the cropped legs.

  32. Caged Pupa - DSC_0661
  33. Caged Pupa

    Melvyn found this caged chrysalis. The caterpillar was probably a spiky one, and had used it’s spikes to build this protective cage while it is in this vulnerable and critical stage of it’s life.

  34. Caged Pupa - DSC_0663
  35. Caged Pupa

    View from the side, such a beautiful chrysalis!

  36. Caged Pupa - DSC_0665
  37. Caged Pupa

    The outer membrane was already transparent and we could see the antennae of the moth.

  38. Orb Web Spider (Araneidae) - DSC_0666
  39. Orb Web Spider (Araneidae)

    There were a number of these Orb Web Spiders which rested on dead leaves dangling on their webs.

  40. Huntsman Spider (Sparassidae) - DSC_0675
  41. Huntsman Spider (Pandercetes sp.)

    Found a Lichen Huntsman Spider running about on a leaf.

  42. Huntsman Spider (Sparassidae) - DSC_0676
  43. Huntsman Spider (Pandercetes sp.)

    This Lichen Huntsman Spider is a juvenile, measuring only 20mm with legs out-stretched

  44. Tiger Beetles (Cicindelinae) - DSC_0685
  45. Tiger Beetles (Cicindelinae)

    One of the benefits of shooting at night, are the congregating Tiger Beetles

  46. Tiger Beetles (Cicindelinae) - DSC_0791
  47. Tiger Beetles (Cicindelinae)

    I would usually give these Tiger Beetles a miss, but this pair was sleeping side by side and it looked like a good photo-op!

  48. Tiger Beetles (Cicindelinae) - DSC_0792
  49. Tiger Beetles (Cicindelinae)

    Like brothers!

  50. Daddy-Long-Legs Spider (Pholcidae) - DSC_0688
  51. Daddy-Long-Legs Spider (Pholcidae)

    A Daddy-Long-Legs Spider carrying her egg sac

  52. Comb-Footed Spider (Theridiidae) - DSC_0706
  53. Comb-Footed Spider (Janula sp.)

    A beautiful but tiny Comb-Footed Spider . It has distinctly protruding red eyes!

  54. I will be posting part II of this night’s trip shortly, with another subject that I have been hunting for the past year!!

The complete album can be viewed here.

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NICKY BAY
Singapore

Hi my name is Nicky Bay. I am a macro photographer, instructor and book author, travelling the world to document the vast micro biodiversity that nature has to offer. Follow my updates and discover with me the incredible beauty and science behind our planet's micro creatures!

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