While I was out collecting ash for my other larvae, I happened across a Yellow haired dagger moth larva (Acronicta implieta). He is about 2 centimeters long, and the brown tufts on the A1 are very prominent, reminding me of ears for some reason. I am guessing the third or fourth instar.
For the longest time I have been unable to identify this tiny insect, thinking it was among the family of stick insects or some such nonsense. However, upon further research, I have finally Identified it. Found on my wood pile, Zelus luridus is the nymph stage of the Assassin Bug.
As outlined in reference (1), the Assassin bug lays its eggs on the bottoms of leaves associated with deciduous trees and shrubs. The eggs are what is most commonly found. They are composed of a red or brown-ish sticky mass containing up to four dozen eggs which are round and flattened on the top. Eggs are laid from late June through August.
The first instar larva, upon hatching, clusters around the eggs mass and feed collectively, using the sticky red secretion of the mother as a trap for its first prey, until larger amounts can be produced on its own by a gland starting in the second instar, which is found on the forelegs legs, (reference 2). Later instars cover their forelegs with the sticky substance and use them to grasp their prey.
The larvae undergo five nymphal stages during their incomplete metamorphosis, which means they are visibly very similar to the adults, simply lacking the developed wings and body girth. Though appearing cute and harmless, they live up to their names as assassins in many ways, including the extremely painful bite which can be felt “to the bone” as put by various other bloggers and luckless collectors who have happened to get their hands too close to this little bugger’s sharp mouthparts.
As the mouth parts must be used for some good, prey includes small aphids, flies, wasps or sawflies, depending on the size of the the larva, and the prey. Larger species may even go for caterpillars. The larvae overwinter among leaf litter o other protected sites (such as my wood pile…not really that good of an idea though). By late spring, they have finished their growth cycles, and the adults begin emerging.
Adults are on average 16 mm long, elongated, often yellow-greenish to reddish and brown to resemble leaf litter. A thin head is subject to a piercing beak, which injects a destructive substance into the prey in order to liquify the insides. They often wait on leaves in ambush of their prey, but they may actively hunt. Zelus luridus is mainly confined to the Eastern United states, though reports can also be found as far as Colorado. There is one generation per year.
(1)Zelus luridus – A Common Assassin Bug http://www.bspm.colostate.edu/extension%20and%20outreach/
(2)Zelus luridus – Wikipediahttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zelus_luridus
(3)BugGuide – Assassin Bug http://bugguide.net/node/view/649995
(4)Reduviidae (Heteroptera: Cimicomorpha) – Pictureshttp://www.inhs.uiuc.edu/~sjtaylor/reduviidae/ReduviidPics.html