Saturday, April 3, 2010

Walking Lichen?

It was such a beautiful day yesterday so I decided to work a little in the garden when I got home. But first a stroll around the property to see what needs to be done and what is blooming. Camera in hand of course. Nothing special until I noticed this piece of lichen, not on a tree, and walking.

What the heck is that!

So of course I collected it into a vial. I try to never go outside without one so I can get close up views of things.  Below is the underside.

It isn't too clear because the bottle is scratched but I think you can see the head on the left side.

Wanting a better view I took it inside. 

Then I turned it over for another look and it began to curl up. I don't blame it.

I wanted an even better view so I placed it under my microscope.

Oooo...creepy! Look at that head and those things with the hairs coming out. I don't think those are legs.  Here's another view.

I think those are big eyes on the sides of the head.

Are you still reading this or have you been totally creeped out?

Ok. Now what is it?

The best I could tell it is a larvae of the Chrysopidae (Neuroptera) family. This is what I found on the web from Lichen Use by Larval leucohrysa pavida by Penni Jo Wilson and Alfred S. Methven from East Illinois University. Green Lacewing to us commoners. Many of them form packets of debris consisting of body parts of their dead pray and sometimes lichen as show here. They use small fragments of lichen thallus from the surface of the trees in the area and attach the debris packet to specialized dorsal setae with a silk-like substance. I do remember detecting some silk when I picked it up. Eventually the packet becomes a part of the cocoon built for pupation.
So I guess those hair-like things are the setae holding the lichen in place.
Here is a photo from last year of the adult.

I also looked it up in my 1949 copy of How to Know the Immature Insects by H. F. Chu.

I checked out the Empodium and sure enough it was trumpet-shaped. So there you have it. This is a larva of Leucohrya pavida pretending to be a piece of lichen. 

You know you can't make this stuff up. Insects are so interesting!


Martina said...

Any your "reports" are even more interesting! I scrolled and looked and read ... fascinating! Thank you for this one!

Woodswalker said...

Amazing! You find the coolest stuff!

Ellen Rathbone said...

Amazing, indeed! What a great find, and you shared it with us!

Like I keep saying, who needs aliens from outer space when we have some of the strangest life forms here on earth?!?

barbara said...

this reminds me, we have an old microscope in the basement somewhere, and I should find it in case I locate something this great to look at!!

squirrel said...

Thanks everyone. I agree with Ellen this planet called earth is truly remarkable. I think I remember W.O. Wilson saying he often wonders if in fact some of the insects here are orginially from outerspace and hitched a ride on a comet. He was talking with Bill Moyer so it wasn't an official scientific comment.

Barbara, I hope you do get that microscope out of the basement. Lichen is pretty cool to look at even with out the insect attached. It open us a whole new world.

Anonymous said...

Wow, that is completely wild. What a critter. Terrific post.

Woodswoman Extraordinaire said...

What a great find! I love bugs and worms and the like that build homes or shelters for themselves out of whatnot that they find about. Cool critter, and great photos!

Ms. Bake-it said...

You crack me up! I think your curiosity overrides even mine! I cannot say that I have placed anything under a microscope but, now that you have given me the idea...

Very interesting and fun post!

~ Tracy