What was the strange insect that seemed a mutant cross between a bee and a beetle?
Shawnee National Forest, Illinois
Kudos and all 10 points go to coleopterist extraordinaire Ted MacRae of Beetles in the Bush, who provided the correct answer Coleoptera: Rhipiphoridae: Rhipiphorus .
Rhipiphorus is unusual for a beetle. Coleoptera counts few parasites among its hundreds of thousands of described species. But the wedge-shaped beetles are ectoparasites of bees. Adults can be found on flowers, laying eggs that hatch into little bee-grabbing grubs for transportation back to the unwitting bee's nest.
Yay, I win the universe!
Fabulous shots - I've been hoping to see one of these guys since I got my camera. Macrosaigon spp. are more common here in Missouri.
I think it's interesting that there are a number of bee parasites (like the Bombyliidae) that also are bee mimics, and visit flowers like bees. It's almost like a "body snatchers" movie, where the aliens consume their victim and then take its place . . .
"It's almost like a "body snatchers" movie, where the aliens consume their victim and then take its place . . ."
I remember reading that one of the producers / writers of Alien had a nightmare about insect parasitoids and this gave him a idea about the movie...