Photo of the Week – April 6, 2018

Predators play key roles in ecosystems.  When they are absent or rare, impacts ripple through landscapes, often in unexpected ways.  We all rely on the presence and effectiveness of predators, but usually fail to adequately celebrate their importance.

When thinking about predators, most people probably conjure up images of lions, tigers, bears, and other large vertebrates.  However, smaller invertebrate predators play the same kinds of critical roles as those big animals.  Here are a few portraits of tiny predators that help keep prairies healthy and vibrant.

No one will be surprised that I included a crab spider in this batch of images. This one ambushed a hover fly on hoary vervain (Verbena stricta).
This juvenile assassin bug is finishing off a fly.
This adult assassin bug sits poised and ready to attack any prey that comes near.
Jumping spiders, the teddy bears of spiders, are very effective predators – maybe because their prey gets distracted by their cuteness.
Dragonflies are large nimble predators that (fortunately for us) are big enough to handle small insects, but not big enough to cause us harm.