Yet Another Master of Disguise

Lacewing Larva

Coincidence can be a wonderful thing, and can sometimes pose a mystery. Whilst photographing the moth for my last post on the ‘Master of Disguise’ subject, I saw what I thought was the back-end of the moth separate and move off on its own. This can’t be so? I thought, then realised it was another creature on the trunk of my crab apple tree. But I saw no creature with the naked eye, but what appeared to be crawling debris? Huh?

Lacewing Larva

These images show that amongst the debris is a tiny, pale and hairy, long-legged creature which has piled its back high with bits of debris, possibly body parts from its victims. It is quite tiny, and you could probably fit half a dozen of them on your little fingernail. I was baffled, for I had never seen anything like this before. Then with some help via Google, I discovered what it was.

Chrysopidae, are a family of green lacewings. Lacewings are good for the garden, for they eat up all the aphids. Below is an image of an adult lacewing, the Common Green Lacewing (Chrysoperla carnea). The mystery creature in the above image is most likely the larva of a green lacewing, which is doing the wolfΒ  in a sheep’s clothing thing. My small crab apple tree always suffers with aphid attacks, and I have seen ants protecting them and milking them for their sweet secretions of honeydew. The lacewing aphid has covered itself in the bodies of its prey to sneak past the ants line of defence into the aphid camp where it attacks and eats them. It was actually moving up the tree with a line of ants, and appeared to be unbothered by them.

How clever, and how amazing is that?

Common Green Lacewing Chrysoperla carnea

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22 thoughts on “Yet Another Master of Disguise

  1. I found these at the burned prairie earlier this spring, but it took me forever to figure out what they were, They were so completely disguised that I kept looking in fungus, mold, and algae, but they weren’t there. One day I started an image search by color — I think I used something like “pink growth burned wood” — and I turned up a photo of one of these larvae. They’ll cover themselves with all kinds of debris. The ones I saw — and there were hundreds, I suppose — were covered with something from the prairie. Once I knew they were larvae, it made sense that they suddenly disappeared. They grew up, and flew away!

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