Danse Macabre

My husband loves watching horror movies. I’d rather go outside where the real action is.

Earlier this year I posted a picture of tiny lacewing eggs looking a bit like elegant long stemmed tulips. The imago that deposited them was delicate and a bit alien looking. Lacewings always seem a bit weird or otherworldly to me. Because they kind of are. Lacewings are descendants of survivors from the first mass extinction where 90% of earth’s population was destroyed. That event was so bad that it took 30 million years to set the stage for the next big show: the age of the dinosaurs.

Before lacewings become adorable floppy apple green fliers they look like this:

lacewing larvae side view
lacewing larvae side view

You can’t really tell from the picture but the larvae itself looks a bit like a louse or clear ladybug larvae: think lobster-y or alligator-y in shape. Unlike the ladybug, it has spikes on its back and on those spikes it impales bits of prey, lichen, fuzz … whatever is handy. Most of the time it lumbers along eating aphids. I’ve been watching this one touring a tropical milkweed for the past couple of days. I call him Vlad.

lacewing larvae top view
lacewing larvae top view

Zooming in, I think I recognize pieces of a white crab spider I saw a few days ago, bits of deflated aphids and an ant head or two. It took a full day but even under the burden of all that dead weight, he has slowly made his way up the steep ascent to the top flower. Where Vlad has passed the aphids have completely vanished.

Ants periodically approach to defend their source of sugar.

When that happens the larvae tips like an iceberg rolling over. The mound acts like a kind of barrier between its soft body and the ant. The ant’s antennae touch the surface sensing ants and aphids and other harmless things. Sometimes the ant takes a ride on top. But frequently, the ant will veer away. Is it reassured? Or does it smell death? I know this: if it decides to approach the larvae head-on it will die. Not one ant has been a match for the larvae’s pincers.

Speaking of icebergs and extinctions I read today that if you have $20 000 or so you can book a place on a cruise ship that will push through the once mythical Northwest Passage. Will it be like the Titanic, only super-sized?

Cruising on to the End of the Earth

I want to see the lacewing larvae as something amusing — a tiny Dracula adventure just in time for Halloween. But his relentless motion could represent many things.

I guess if I were writing a choose-your-own-adventure I could take his image and make it a branching pathway: (spoilers included)

If Vlad is the cruise ship sailing off to the end of the world go to page 96 — (Where all the global catastrophes come together and the story ends).

If Vlad represents the people who care that 1/2 the vertebrates have disappeared in the last 40 years, turn the page — (The story continues showing Vlad slowly working his way to the top and cleaning up the mess he finds along the way).

10 thoughts on “Danse Macabre

  1. You seem to show a lot of passion in your larvae / Vlad analogy. Be careful. It can be dangerous going to deep into the mind of someone such as The Impaler, especially this time of year.


    1. It feels like fascination or horror. David, you sound like you have some experience with the dark side. I will show some caution =)


  2. I’ve spotted lacewings in every stage of their life cycle around here lately and the aphid population on the tropical milkweed has definitely been reduced to nearly nothing. It feels a little mass murdery, tell the truth, so I’ll refrain from gloating over their demise. Vlad is certainly not taking any prisoners.


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