Saturday, December 27, 2014

Grasshoppers and relations

Panther-spotted Grasshopper (Poecilotettix pantherinus) subsp. santaclausi
So I wanted to start our new theme with a little bit of holiday cheer (to the SW Insect facebook group but my Grasshopper Santa looks an awful lot like the Grinch. I wonder: did he inspire Dr. Seuss? Anyway, I’m sure that you all have a cricket chirping in some dark corner, some summer grasshopper photos in the sock drawer – let’s see them! Also, grasshoppers, tree crickets and katydids are actually among the few insects that are still out there right now.

Trimerotropis cyaneipennis
Mt Lemmon, 8000 feet elev. Pima Co,, AZ, August

Many Bandwing Grasshoppers are very cryptic while they are sitting quietly. When they fly up, many flash colorful hindwings. This certainly is used as a mating display, but I am sure it also causes a startling response in many predators. Of course it is very difficult to photograph this and I am showing a pinned specimen instead. Those underwing colors are usually part of the species description so it is useful to note them down with your observations, even if you can't get a photo

Our 3 Arizona species of Insara: Insara covilleae on Creosote, Insara on Mesquite, Insara tesselata on Juniper
 I am always amazed how many of the caterpillars, stink bugs, beetles, leafhoppers on juniper and mesquite are using a similar shape dissolving technique: they are green with white or silver markings. That coloration hides them amazingly well among those small leaves and leaflets where one would expect to see insects of any color to stand out as big dark blobs

Bootettix argentatus (Creosote Bush Grasshopper)
 Also well hidden by those white markings that look just like the glossy spots of the creosote leaves or the space between the leaves.
Its range is basically the same as Creosote Bush (Larrea) in North America from western Texas and New Mexico to California, and southward. A vegetarian that CAN digest all the toxic ingredients of Creosote might as well be completely specialized on it.

Prorocorypha snowi (Snow's toothpick grasshopper)
Montosa Canyon, Santa Cruz County
 Known only from "sky island" mountans west of the Continental Divide in southeastern Arizona and Sonora. It lives in tall bunch grasses in moist pockets in the lower elevations of those mountains There is a similar, not quite as elongate species, Paropomala wyomingensis that occurs more widely. Apparently overwinters as eggs, hatching in spring, with adults in summer and into autumn.

Paratettix aztecus (Aztec Pygmy Grasshopper) Sabino Canyon

Paratettix mexicanus, Marana
 Close to water I often find the smallest of adult grasshoppers, Pygmy Grasshoppers. The characte r to recognize them by is the very elongated pronotum that is tapered and usually covers abdomen. They overwinter as adults, so you may find them at Sabino Creek on warm winter days. They are extremely variable, but we seem to have just 2 species here in AZ.

Syrbula montezuma (Montezuma's Grasshopper), male

Syrbula montezuma (Montezuma's Grasshopper),female

Garden Canyon, Huachuca Mt, Cochise Co, AZ
a species of Slantface Grasshopper,
Southwestern United States: Arizona east to Texas, north to Colorado, and south through much of Mexico. Areas of tall grass in arid grasslands

Melanoplus thomasi (Thomas's Two-striped Grasshopper)
 Not all GHs are cryptic and camouflaged: everybody knows the fantastic Rainbow GH, but even some Spurthroats are amazingly colorful, at least out here, in the Southwest.
M. thomasi can be abundant in late autumn in relatively moist, lush, weedy meadows. Wide spread: Coast to coast across southern Canada and most of the US except Florida, south Atlantic and Gulf coastal plain, and southwestern arid regions. Perhaps into northernmost Sonora and Chihuahua, Mexico.
Melanoplus thomasi in the southwest is usually bright blue-green with brilliant red on inner hind femur and brilliant red hind tibiae. Other populations just yellowish and brown (sometimes greenish or blackish) but always with two distinct pale yellowish stripes along sides of top

Capnobotes fuliginosus (Sooty Longwing)

Capnobotes fuliginosus (Sooty Longwing) nymph

Florida Canyon. Santa Rita Mts, Santa Cruz Co, AZ, USA
This is a very big katydid that is more carnivorous than other Orthopterans in AZ. While most of them will add protein to their diet when they can, these big guys are active nightly hunters as even the nymph on the right proves. The adults can bite defensively too and, when threatened, do an impressive startle display with their big dark hind-wings.

Stilpnochlora, azteca or S. thoracica Piotr Naskrecki det.
 an enormous katydid from Sonora Mexico, May 2014, but also found north of the border. It is much larger than our big Anglewings. The spikes along the hind legs could be a formidable defensive weapon
Arethaea gracilipes Thread-legged Katydid
Canelo Hill, Santa Cruz Co, AZ August
Here is another orthopteran superbly adapted to living in the thin summer grasses. Hiding in plain sight. I have better macro shots, but I like this one because it shows the insect in its 'element'

Gryllus personatus, Badlands Cricket
These are bigger than most other field crickets I have seen...
Picture Rocks
Pima Co, AZ, USA

Dave Ferguson on BugGuide: One of few species usually easily recognized by coloration and pattern. It has a distinctive pattern of dark on tan that varies a bit, but is always basically the same. Individuals may be long-winged or short-winged. They often come to lights, particularly long-winged individuals which can fly. Adults will shed hind wings (not tegmina) when molested, and thus long-winged individuals may become non-winged individuals
The song is a typical Cricket-like chirping, but the frequency and rate of beats make it sound less musical and a bit more "metallic" than most other species of Gryllus.
Habitat :
Mostly open clay, silt, or calcareus areas with light-colored dusty soil. Mostly in desert and dry grassland. Often in "badland" type areas on the Great Plains. They tend to be most often seen living in cracks in the gound, and pouring water into the cracks where you hear them singing is often the easiest way to find them; they often rush out of the cracks.
Adults are usually seen late spring through summer. Earlier in the south than in the north. Late specimens indicate that there may be a second brood in some regions..

Pristoceuthophilus arizonae Ted Cohn det.,
a Camel Cricket from Mt. Graham, AZ
I know that in many states, especially where there are basements under houses, camel crickets are common and considered undesirable, but here in dry Arizona I see them really rarely and we are usually excited to find one.

Many Orthopterans use songs to claim territories and  attract mates. Some are still active at this time of the year. Here is the Christmas song of a Tree Cricket at the Santa Cruz River in Marana 

Swaison's Hawks over the grasshopper meadows of Sulfur Springs Valley. Photo Lois Manowitz

Orthoptera are probably one of the most successful groups of animals in the wide grasslands of Southern Arizona, at least considering the biomass that they produce.  So it is not surprising that many  reptiles, mammals and birds rely on the abundant supply of nutritious prey. Especially impressive are the huge congregations of migrating birds of prey that can be seen feasting in Sulfur Springs Valley in Autumn.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Aposematic colors

Reminding predators that they taste bad or are armed with venom or toxin, many insects sport bright colors and patterns: aposematic or warning colors.

Convergent Lady Beetle (Hippodamia convergens)
on Kitt Peak, Pima Co, AZ in June
Even the beloved Ladybug is toxic and warns birds not to eat it with its brilliant colors. In addition, for the more olfactory-oriented, it exudes foul smelling yellow heamolymph from its joints when caught and handled. My first memory of insects involves that smell: Adalia bipunctata used to overwinter indoors in Germany, and of course we kids could not leave them alone. But th...ose pretty bugs were nothing you put in your mouth - we knew that as toddlers. Ladybugs tend to congregate in summer in the mountains of AZ, enhancing the impact of the warning, I'm sure. The red is not uniform within members of the same species. Tests have shown that the redder ones were the more poisonous ones. Research also showed that better nutrition in the larval stage made the adult beetles both more red and more toxic. I think the two attributes may be correlated but not causally connected.

Nymphs of the Giant Mesquite Bug (Thasus neocalifornicus)

  Nymphs of the Giant Mesquite Bug (Thasus neocalifornicus) enhance the effectiveness of their aposematic pattern and coloring by staying together with 'litter mates' until they are grown. Their deterrent is a row of acid producing glands on their backs.

Aztec Spur-throat (Aidemona azteca) nymph
 Some insects are great chemists. They have the metabolic pathways to produce toxins and venoms that they then advertise with warning colors to prevent predators from even TRYING to take a bite. Many insects rely on plants, who are even better chemists, to provide them with toxic substances or at least the precursors of those molecules. The insects ingest the plant tissue or nectar and then sequester the substance to parts of their bodies, often after modifying the original substance for their own purpose. Insect nymphs and larvae often feed on different plants than the adults. So juveniles and adults have access to different plant derived chemicals. Some store enough toxins as larvae to keep the adult supplied. Others don’t. Lacking the chemical protection of the nymphs, the adults wear camouflage.
Aztec Spur-throat (Aidemona azteca) adult

 We have a grasshopper in AZ that may be an example, but I cannot find any research papers about it. But take a look at the young Aztec Spur-throat (Aidemona azteca) on the left and compare it to the adult. The nymphs feed on Datura in my photos. I have not seen the adults feed.
Taeniopoda eques (Horse Lubber) female

 Our horse lubber shows yellow patterns on black, and when really threatened flash their red hind wings in addition. Are these grasshoppers toxic? Or just using a startle tactic on a predator? I often see them cannibalizing corpses of their own kind. But: I kept a ground beetle in a terrarium. I had found the beetle feeding on a dead Plains Lubber. When I offered a dead Horse Lubber the beetle seemed ready to rather starve than eat that one.

Eleodes sp., Stink Beetle, Pinacate Beetle

 The only purpose of warning colors targeting potential predators is to be impressive, recognizable and memorable.
Not all aposematic colorations are geared towards day-active, color-seeing birds, lizards or humans. Many insects are most active during dusk and dawn, the time when 'all cats are gray', meaning that colors become rather invisible. The crepuscular Pinacate or Stink Beetle is solid black. But its habitat has lots of open space with light colored sand. So its black shape stands out very well. The beetle adds an aposematic behavioral signal by standing on its head when threatened. This also allows the content of two big glands that eject at its rear to run down over its whole body. And the collector's hands. The signal of 'big black beetle walking intermittently and tending to stand on its head' is so successful that it is imitated by several non-smelly darkling beetles, a very smelly, but rarer ground beetle, and by big black, flight-less, harmless Cactus Longhorns.

Yellow Jackets and other Vespidae
 The copyright holders for the most well known, most feared and most often mimicked aposematic color-pattern are doubtlessly the Vespids. Their trade mark are yellow bands on a darker ground. Their weapon is a modified ovipositor loaded with a cocktail of painful venom. Social wasps are part of this group, so the enforcers of this warning are not just single stingers, but often enraged armies with a nest full of off-spring to protect. Most of the solitary species can sting, but not with the same vengeance as the social ones. But they are part of the band-wagon of a Muellerian mimicry system. They are armed as well, but the strength of their warning colors is derived from the perceived dangerousness of the entire group. Of course only the females can sting. The males are just protected by looking so similar - they are Batesian mimics of their Amazon-partners
Iron Cross Beetles Tegrodera aloga
At Saguaro National Park West and other places where Wooly Star (Eriastrum diffusum) grows, you may come across aggregations of the Iron Cross Beetles Tegrodera aloga.
A very impressive blister beetles, it seems to be clearly advertising that it is loaded with cantharidin. Horse owners are often alarmed when they see these beetles. But the Ironcross beetle is big and obvious and does not live in meadows where hay is grown. It's the smaller striped Epicauta sp. that sometimes get caught in great numbers in Alfalfa bails and can cause severe poisoning in horses. Harvesting methods that don't allow the beetles to escape are partly to blame.

Rhodobaenus tredecimpunctatus
Rhodobaenus tredecimpunctatus, A weevil on Annual Sunflowers from Benson, AZ. I have never found one, so this is from the Uof A collection. Question: does anyone know of chemical deterrents to predators that the weevil might contain? Or is it a mimicry case? It never reminded me of ladybugs, but all my non-bug-enthusiastic friends immediately called it that.

Tylosis maculatus

 Tylosis maculatus, a longhorn beetle (Cerambycidae)
Yavapai County, AZ, July

The color is suggestive, so if I had an inexperienced Blue Jay, I would try if the bird would eat the beetle or not. That's how the late Thomas Eisner, the pioneer in the field of chemical ecology, tested many insects before he brought in his colleagues from biochemistry to isolate potentially bad tasting or toxic chemicals.
The beetle lives on Mallows with mostly orange flowers, so the coloration could also be cryptic. But Mallows are also full of phytotoxins, some used in herbal medicine, some outright poisonous to grazing cattle (central nervous system). So the beetles may sequester those chemicals to become impalatable.

Tetraopes spp., the four-eyed milkweed longhorns
Since Tetraopes, the four-eyed milkweed longhorn, has been mentioned here a couple of times, here are some AZ species. They are rather host specific, picky even among different milkweed species. Thin MW vines host the smaller beetle species, juicy big-leafed ones the bigger T. femorata. There are still new small ones to be described.
One of my beetle collages photographed from living specimens

Lycus sanguineus
 Lycus sanguineus, June, Florida Canyon, Pima Co, AZ
Quoting EOL: The lycids, or net-winged beetles, are soft-bodied beetles, presenting aposematic colors and high levels of toxins, known as center models in mimetic rings (Marshall and Poulton 1902; Shelford 1902; Guenther 1931; Darlington 1938; Linsley et al. 1961; Moore and Brown 1981). BTW, their close relatives, the fireflies, are just as toxic. Many keepers of lizards found this out. Inexperienced tropical lizards will ingest them and die!
Lycids often aggregate in great numbers to mate. In Madera Canyon you can find them swarming around oaks, and in the desert a different species often covers certain blooming mesquite trees. As the neighboring trees usually have no visitors at all, I assume that clouds of pheromones are bringing the beetles together.

The Tarantula Hawks, a common name that describes several Pompilid species in the genera Pepsis and Hemipepsis, carries the most painful sting in Justin Schmidt's book. So it's not surprising that this wasp comes with a warning. Or does it? The top one is a Hemipepsis (I think) with orange wings. The next one is a Pepsis grossa, but this is the all black version. Others in the same species have orange wings and the 2 morphs mate and live in the same areas. The third one is a Sphecid, Sphex tepanecus. It's as big as a small tarantula hawk and might also sting, that's why I have included it here. The last one is the Robber Fly Wyliea mydas. It has no sting but a very painful bite. So these huge orange-winged, black-bodied insects are all able to defend themselves. Giving the same kind of warning, they enhance each others effectiveness: Muellerian mimicry. There are many harmless species that also mimic these, but that will be the theme for another week.

Automeris cecrops pamina
When I look through my photos of caterpillar I am tempted to believe that the majority of lepidoptera larvae has aposematic colorations. But most likely I just prefer to photograph the colorful ones.
In this group, we already had a Queen caterpillar that is toxic because its host, milkweed, is full of toxins. Its aposematic colors warn predators not to eat it.
The Io moth caterpillar in this image can inflict harm simply through skin contact, ad it advertises that danger with lively patterns and colors.
'As is true of most species in the Hemileucinae, the caterpillars of this species can produce a nettle-like sting from their spines. Some people show little or no reaction, while others may develop an itchy rash or welts that last for up to a few days, especially on areas of more tender skin. These caterpillars are not considered dangerous, but should be handled with care.' BugGuide info page


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Fascinating Flies

This blog is another collage of my posts to our Facebook group SW US Insects and Arachnids. Robyn Waayer chose the theme for this week. I was surprised how many very divers contributions I was able to pull out of my files. even leaving Robber Flies, Bee Flies and Syrphids out because they were represented well enough in other posts.

Cuterebra arizonae, Rodent Botfly
Hill-topping Cuterebra arizonae, Rodent Botfly
9-19-9 pima canyon, Catalinas, Pima Co, AZ
Jeff Boetner det.
'Females typically deposit eggs in the burrows and "runs" of rodent or rabbit hosts. A warm body passing by the eggs causes them to hatch almost instantly and the larvae glom onto the host. The larvae are subcutaneous (under the skin) parasites of the host. Their presence is easily detected as a tumor-like bulge, often in the throat or neck or flanks of the host. The larvae breathe by everting the anal spiracles out a hole (so they are oriented head-down inside the host). They feed on the flesh of the host, but only rarely does the host die as a result.' In some populations 80% of all rodents are parasitized. The drone of these big flies is louder than most insects' flying-sounds

Brachylinga sp. Therevidae (Stiletto Flies)
 Therevidae (Stiletto Flies) - genus Brachylinga Sabino Canyon, Pima Co, AZ USA 4/4/2012
Related to Robberflies, Stiletto Flies are less well known. But in dry, sandy areas they are probably ecologically rather important. Their larvae live in sandy soils as arthropod-predators

Trichopoda indivisa, (Feather-legged Flies), Tachinidae
 Trichopoda indivisa, (Feather-legged Flies), Tachinidae
10-1-2012 Buenos Aires National Wildlife Preserve, Pima Co, AZ, USA
Small brightly-colored flies that frequent flowers. Sexes dimorphic (e.g. abdomen orange in males vs dark or dark-tipped in females). Calypters covered with yellow scales. Distinctive fringe on hind tibiae....
Life history of T. pennipes and T. plumipes in Swan & Papp
Mating may occur near nectar sources (P. Coin, pers. observation). Females hover over plants that attract their hosts (e.g., squash). Eggs are typically laid on underside of host. Only one larva per host will survive, though more than one egg may be laid on a given host. Newly hatched maggot bores into body of host and feeds on host's fluids for about two weeks. Eventually, it grows to almost the size of the host's body cavity. Maggot emerges at III instar, killing the host, and pupates in soil. Adult emerges in ~2 weeks. Second instar larva overwinters in the host's body.
Larval hosts are mostly true bugs (Heteroptera: Coreidae, Pentatomidae, Scutelleridae, Largidae), but also Dissosteira pictipennis (Acrididae), and a mantid (frm info)

Nemomydas sp

 Nemomydas sp. - multiple Males and Female
Catalina State Park, Pima County, Arizona, USA
August 13, 2007

Mydas sp.
Mydas Flies are large, often wasp mimics with prominent, clubbed antennae. They move more slowly than many other flies. Larvae in decaying wood, soil, may be predatory

Neorhynchocephalus sackenii,
Nemestrinidae (Tangle-veined Flies)
 Neorhynchocephalus sackenii,
Nemestrinidae (Tangle-veined Flies)
Doug Yanega det.
in Copper Canyon south of the Huachucas, Cochise Co, AZ, Aug 2014
I was In Copper Canyon last August with Arthur V. Evans searching for beetles for his next beetle book, but these flies distracted with their constant loud buzz. Their larvae are parasites of grasshoppers, but some spp. also use scarab beetles as hosts. Supposedly rare in NA, but certainly very common then and there.

Odontoloxozus longicornis (Longhorn Cactus Fly)
 Odontoloxozus longicornis (Longhorn Cactus Fly)
Picture Rocks, Pima Co, AZ, March
Larvae in demposing cacti, a typical desert insect

Pseudotephritina sp.
 Pseudotephritina Picture winged flies.
On mushrooms in Patagonia Creek Preserve (AZ, Santa Cruz Co) in October

Hermetia illucens (Black Soldier Fly)
Hermetia illucens (Black Soldier Fly)
University Blv...

Larvae live in compost, dung, rotting vegetation and are commercially distributed for composting. Therefore: Wide ranging in Western Hemisphere, also in Australasia, Africa, Japan, Europe.
Interesting: Very rarely, accidentally ingested larvae cause intestinal myiasis in humans and domestic animals.

Cerotainiops abdominalis. The prey is a Harvester Ant (Pogonomyrmex)
 Bob Barber's contribution from July 28, 2009 Otero County, NM, shows a Robber Fly with prey. Most Asiliids seem to grab any prey of the right size that comes into range. But this one is specialized on the most painful stinger around: the Red Harvester Ant (Pogonomyrmex).

Thecophora sp. Conopidae (Thick-headed Flies)
 Thecophora sp. Conopidae (Thick-headed Flies) Martin Hauser det.
Picture Rocks
Female Conopids ambush bees or wasps. They attack their targets in mid-air, often tumble to the the ground with it, and drive an egg between the bee’s abdominal segments of the victim. The larva that hatches from the egg then feeds as an internal parasite of the host, eventually killing it in about ten to twelve days. The larva then pupates inside the hollow exoskeleton of its host. Eric had a blog about them:…/…

Clogmia albipunctata (Filter Fly)
 Fascinating or not, this little bathroom guest with the suggestive scientific name is also a fly: Clogmia albipunctata (Filter Fly)
Originally mostly tropical, now found in human habitats in much of North America. Larvae feed in water with decaying organic matter -- tree holes, stagnant ponds, drains, etc.

Eutreta sp., Tephritidae (Fruit Flies)
Mt Lemmon, Catalinas, Pima Co, AZ, USA July 2014
A woodland species that induces galls on Asteraceae. I first thought it was a moth

Flesh Fly (Sarcophagidae) on a dead dove.
 We tend to think of flies as those house flies that are a nuisance and can be a health threat even when they just land on our food. In this blog I've tried to show some of the extreme variety in looks and behavior that really makes flies (Diptera) one of the more interesting orders of insects.
They are certainly among the most important ones to human economy. They transfer diseases, but they also sanitize the environment. They are important pollinators for many generalist plants. As parasites, they control other insect groups that compete with humans for food. Having a short generation sequence and few, nice big chromosomes, Drosophila Fruit Flies were among the most important models in genetic research. With big accessible eyes and large ganglia in their brains, Sarcophaga is used in electrophysiology research and teaching. The list goes on ...  

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Bug eats Bug

Together with Robyn Waayers and Eric Eaton, I am administering a Facebook group about local (SW US and NW Mexico) insects. As winter is slowing the stream of submissions down, I suggested weekly themes which will hopefully more posts of interesting older images.
Of course I contribute too, and I tend to write enough of a background story that a friend called those posts juicy 'mini-blogletts'.
In December I am also very busy with my art business, so I have no time to write a cohesive blog post. So here  are the minis!

Pselliopus sp
 Assassin Bug (Pselliopus sp.) caught a Mason Wasp (Eumenidae) and kletoparasitic Flies (Milichiidae) are sharing the meal.

You can see the beak of the assassin - through it, the venom and the digestive juices are injected into the prey and the liquefied innards of the wasp are sucked up. External digestion is common in arthropods. Their internal digestive organ is a relatively simple tube.
The flies are drawn to any kind of exposed body fluids of other insects. They are comensales - co-eaters

Stink Bug Perillus splendidus feeding on Leaf Beetle Zygogramma opifera
I was surprised to learn that some of the harmless looking stink bugs are also predators. The have no raptorial arms or velcro feet like most Assassin Bugs, they just spear their prey with their elongate mouth parts.
Sycamore Canyon Pajarita Mts, Santa Cruz County, Arizona...
September 5, 2012

Tylospilus acutissimus

 A bug not eating anything in the picture, but an obligatory predator, even if he is a Stink Bug (Pentatomidae)
Many pentatomid species with very acute points at their 'shoulders' (pronotum) are predators.

Calosoma sp.  Oxygrilius ruginosus
 Calosoma sp. overpowering and then eating a dynastine scarab Oxygrilius ruginosus. Ground beetles in the genus Calosoma are often called Caterpillar Hunters, but they prey on anything of the right size and also scavenge. I think they got their common name in Europe (same genus, different species) where they are rare, but their populations can suddenly explode following a wave of gypsy moth caterpillars.
If you see one, don't touch. Their smell i...s much worse than that of the unrelated pinacate beetle (Eleodes sp.) that is actually called 'Stink Beetle'

Anax does not often sit for a photo, but with prey this big he had no choice.
Santa Cruz River at Ina Rd
Pima Co, AZ

Our local little fire ants, Solenopsis xyloni feeding on Acoma mixta (scarab beetle)
Our little fire ants are indigenous, not an invasive species, and are everywhere on the desert floor. The are predatory as in the photo, but also collect seeds and will invade a kitchen if sweets are out in the open.
The beetle fell off a wall under a porch light and seemed just clumsy, not injured. But the multitude of ants that was waiting under the light for just such an eve...nt (together with a gecko and several Sonoran Desert Toads). The ants just overwhelmed the beetle. Some ants can bite AND sting, but I don't know about these guys. When they get me, it's more a nuisance than painful, but always a concerted action of several.
Picture Rocks, Pima county AZ, USA

Stagmomantis limbata feeding on Danaus gilippus, Queen 
 A Stagmomantis limbata female caught a Queen butterfly and ate it without any ill effects. That seemed somewhat surprising because Monarchs and Queens, whose caterpillars feed on milkweed, are supposedly loaded with toxins, even as adults, and their aposematic (warn) colororation should tell predators to avoid them. Nothing without exceptions?
Tohono Chul Park, Tucson, October

Hippodamia convergens (Convergent Lady Beetle) feeding on Uroleucon helianthicola, Sunflower Aphids on Brittlebush

Surprisingly, nobody has posted a Lady Beetle feeding on aphids yet. Adults and larvae of many species of LBs feed on those little morsels. I have noticed that that is actually not the rule. In many species the larvae or nymphs exploit one food source, and the adults eat a different diet. That makes sense, because that way they do not compete with each other. Also, the growing larvae need protein, but to the adults, whose role is to spread the genes and distribute the population, sugars that are used by flight muscles may be more important than proteins. I guess aphids are full of sugar water from their own diet, and of course also offer protein ....
Picture Rocks, Pima Co, AZ, April 2014

Chauliognathus profundus
 Soldier Beetle Chauliognathus profundus feeding on a smaller Chauliognathus sp.
Interestingly, according to literature, adults of our local spp. feed on pollen and nectar. This pregnant female definitely has other cravings. There may also be more to it than just protein hunger.
I have tried to feed Chauliognathus to hungry jumping spiders who refused them while tackling bees of the same size. If Chauliognathus has defensive chemicals, the female may be trying to ...augment her supply before laying eggs (Note: Cantharidine is such a chemical, but was named after these Soldier Beetles by mistake. It is instead found in Blister Beetles).
Canelo Pass Rd, St Cruz Co, AZ USA

Plega sp. eating a mirid (plant bug)
Plega is a genus of Mantispids or Mantisflies. They have raptorial arms but they are neither Mantis nor Fly, they are related to Antlions and belong to the order Neuroptera
The females have a long, flexible ovipositor - its visible as a banded tail between the wings. The larvae are generalist predators of insect larvae, like solitary bees, paper wasps, etc