I nearly squealed liked a little girl this afternoon upon discovering that my Proboscidea sp. had attracted a family of mutualistic bugs, and i just had to share the pics with people who may appreciate the little buggers as much as i do.
I watched a few of them go about their lives for the better part of an hour this afternoon. They have no problem running through the plant' sticky hairs, and they often hide inside the flowers. Very cool to watch. I placed a rotten lemon underneath the main growth point to attract some fruit fly food!
A quick update: i placed a few dead insects on the Proboscidea in an experiment to test the insects' true motives. Within a few minutes, each carcass was being probed and poked by at least one insect. To add frosting to the proverbial cake, i witnessed 2 kinds of secretions from the bugs themselves upon the leaves and stems. What a fascinating little ecosystem i am baring witness to!
update #2: The Cyrotopeltis bugs have found my other Proboscidea plant! I also have detected a healthy population on 2 neighboring tomato plants that are in the same bed (Cyrotopeltis are known mostly as sap sucker pests). Perhaps most interestingly, i have observed the Cyrtopeltis on my tomatoes hunting, killing, and digesting many aphids, smaller or what i assume are older Cytropeltis, and other small invertebrates that inhabit the tomatoes. Even more interesting to me is the possibility that there are more incredibly complex insect-plant relationships like this going on under our noses just as this! This is a case of two part-time killers, each capable of surviving completely alone and apart, living with and benefiting from one another. What else have we missed?!
I'm very keenly suspicious of any and all plants with glandular, sticky leaves after witnessing all this. Its seems to be an easier evolutionary jump for insects and plants to evolve in tandem...bugs grow short hairs to avoid sticking to a plant, plants get a little sticky to catch would-be attackers/extra nutrients, bug eats stuck insects for plant and streamlines the process while making its own life easier VS one or both specializing (full carnivory for the plant, full dependency/completely new niche for the bug). "Assisted carnivory" like this would allow both the bugs and the plant to gain most of the benefits of carnivory, and yet avoid the current dilema that other generea of carnivores are currently facing: overspecialization. Most carnivores are poor competitors in most soils. Being "half carnivorous" would keep the plant's "options" a bit more open; it is a jack-of-all-trades--good at everything, great at none. [This is where a smarter person than i would say something about the evolutionary pressures of global warming, etc, etc, etc...]
And so concludes another crack-pot theory. ;D (only half joking )