Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Lace Bug

Image: Gilles San Martin
Look at this lovely Lace Bug! How could anyone hate something so pretty? You'll see!

Lace Bugs are at least 2,000 bugs found all over the world. They're true bugs, which means they're part of the order Hemiptera alongside Bed Bugs, Stink Bugs and Assassin Bugs.

Image: Gilles San Martin
Lace Bugs are TINY and flattened. A 1 cm (0.4 in) long Lace Bug would be the talk of Lace Bug Town, a giant of heroic proportions to make the heart beat faster and the haemolymph rush to the gena. At her mighty tarsi may be other Lace Bugs little more than a tenth her size...

Image: Gilles San Martin
Which means you need to take a very close look to see the intricate, lacy patterns that adorn their wings and thorax. Some Lace Bugs even have a kind of lacy hood covering their head. It clearly isn't for keeping the rain out!

Like all other bugs, the Lace variety feeds using mouthparts that are like a strong, pointy straw. Like almost all other bugs, they use it to pierce plants and suck up the goodness within.

Image: cotinis
Some Lace Bugs will spend their entire life on a single plant and they may live through some surprising adventures while they're there.

Video: Carl Barrentine
Lace Bug explores barren wasteland

Some Lace Bugs actively protect their eggs and young from predators by racing toward the intruder and flapping their wings. Clearly the level of prettiness on display is deeply threatening. It works so well that there are even Lace Bugs who make like a cuckoo, laying their own eggs among someone else's brood so that some other poor mother has to do all that work.

Image: budak
Lace Bug nymph
The eggs soon hatch into tiny nymphs who hang around feeding in much the same way as their parents. Sometimes they're covered in a strange arrangement of spikes. It turns out these things release pheromones into the air when a youngster is brutally cut down in its youth. The pheromones alert other Lace Bugs of death, doom and the lurking presence of something that has killed once and may do so again.

If all goes well, some Lace Bugs may reach adulthood within a week or two and immediately join the reproductive ranks.

Image: Forest and Kim Starr
And that's the problem! Many Lace Bugs are really good at boosting their numbers and covering leaves in large herds. As they feed, the leaves start to turn brown or silvery. Even worse, their droppings are black and sticky and horrible! You shouldn't be too surprised, though - faeces has long been the enemy of lacy loveliness.

Image: [wj]
A completely healthy Lace Bug doing (and being) its thing
Oddly enough, some enemies of lacy loveliness are actually Lace Bugs!

Image: budak
There are Lace Bugs with all sorts of strange growths and protuberances about their person. It's odd to see them put so much effort into looking like a parasite just exploded out of their neck, but it's good that they refuse to be pigeon-holed.


TexWisGirl said...

the nymphs are too cool with their punk selves, but the adults look too much like spittle to me...

Ishrat Hussain Mohammad said...

" This type of Lace Bug I didn't seen before"

Such as " it's good that they refuse to be pigeon-holed."

Great description for lacy bugs.

Joseph Jameson-Gould said...

@YexWisGirl: I think that's pretty much the opposite of almost everyone else!

@Ishrat: They certainly deserve a great description!

Lear's Fool said...

I'm starting to see fungus mimicry as a thing!

Check out some of those Arsenura caterpillars!

Lear's Fool said...

Ooh, added thought, maybe the parasitized-critter mimicry is more about parasitoid wasps than anything else? Perhaps there's even a chemical cue.

Joseph Jameson-Gould said...

Yes! Apparently some of Treehoppers are fungus mimics, too. Hadn't seen those caterpillars before! I keep meaning to do some caterpillar collections. But I keep meaning to do a lot of things.

It would be really interesting if there was a chemical cue. Someone should really check that out!

Lear's Fool said...

You'd think somebody evolved the chemical cues at some point when they realized that wasps keep seeing through their tricks with that antennae massage they do.

I'm pretty sure the wasps are doing quite a bit there, I know some can tell if a host has already been parasitized.

That in mind, it seems more logical that 'releasing a new chemical' is a more likely first step than 'totally changing your morphology', right?

We're SO vision-centric as humans!

Joseph Jameson-Gould said...

True! I wonder if it works on other predators, too? There could be some that use their vision a little more that would rather not eat something that's been parasitized.

Always so many issues to consider!

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