29 November 2009

A lichen with legs


These small, mobile bits of lichen with formidable pinchers are quite common on the trees in the park near my house. They are apparently lacewing larvae, usually about 6-9 mm long, that have covered themselves bits of lichen.

If you pick one up, first, it curls up turning into a little ball of lichen. Then slowly, the ball begins to unroll briefly displaying the larva's belly and legs. Here is one upside down on the palm of my hand.


Finally, it executes a backward somersault and gets back on its legs.


I was seeing them back in July and I saw them again last weekend. Obviously, some of them survive the winter as larvae to mature in the spring.

It is said that the lichen camouflage offers protection against predators. Perhaps. I don't know how a larva attaches the lichen bits on its back. It would be interesting to watch one cover itself.


Anonymous said...

Wow! Extremely cool! I never saw one of these. I wonder what they like to eat? Terrible jaws it has, but I wonder how fast it can move with all that lichen attached to it. Are they camouflaged to make it easier for them to catch their prey unaware or are they camouflaged so something like a bird doesn't eat them? Or both maybe?

Susan J. Hewitt


They don't seem to be very fast. When you touch them, they lumber a short distance and then stop.

myrmecos said...

Two arthropod posts in a row? Are you finally coming to your senses as to how much more awesome they are than those squishy, boring old molluscs?

(just kidding! just kidding!)


What have I done? I must return to mollusks immediately!

Joel VanDerMeulen said...

Har har. I love how much they resmble Antlions, I guess that is only natural since they're so closely related.

I would assume that they go about attaching things to themselves similarily to these guys:


Snail said...

Don't some lacewing larvae decorate themselves with the empty exoskeletons of their prey? Somewhere, the insect equivalent of Thomas Harris is writing a best seller.

Kathie said...

Bugs? Mollusks? Who cares. Just look at that awesome FUNGUS!

Cool post, Aydin, thanks!