The earth is filled with many secrets. Some you may never know about. But then there comes a day when you discover one, and it feels like you’ve just won the lottery.
This happened to me when I rested my hand against tree bark that was covered in moss and lichen. I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me when I noticed the lichen walk away… Wait. Lichen doesn’t move and it certainly can’t walk.
Thoroughly confused, I stared at the wondering lichen for a really long time.
Lichen is actually two organisms behaving like one. It’s a part fungus and part algae and/or cyanobacteria. Most of it is a fungus but it has internal algal cells. Its job is to decompose matter like rocks or wood. Like a plant, it does not move. So it was completely proper to be very perplexed.
After some internet searching, I discovered that underneath the lichen was a green lacewing larva (Chrysoperla rufilabris) using the material as camouflage protection. Green lacewings are also called the “junk bugs” because they can use a list of materials to place on their backs such as moss, pieces of leaves, pieces of twigs, and the bodies of their prey.
I originally guessed that this insect was a lichen-look-alike but I was slightly off track. Nature still amazes me! There’s so much to learn and it feels like so little time to learn it.
This camouflage lacewing was found on a tree somewhere on the Appalachian Trail in Tennesse. I honestly don’t know where I was because we pulled off the highway on our way to South Carolina, but it was very close to The Gorge. Lacewings are actually beneficial insects because they prey upon pests such as aphids and mealybugs even in the larval state. It’s welcome in my garden anytime.
May nature still surprise you and may you never stop learning!