On this trip to Sawgrass Lake Park in mid March, we saw many of these bold bugs stalking the boardwalk railings. They were obviously aware of us when we walked by, and postured like they were willing to defend themselves from us if needed. And with a mean spike of a mouth (rostrum), a bite would probably be unpleasant. Once home, Mike identified these as assassin bugs.
They use the long rostrum to inject a lethal saliva that liquefies the insides of the prey, which are then sucked out. The saliva is generally made up of proteinaceous materials and digestive enzymes which are used to predigest (generally referred to as Extra-Oral Digestion – EOD). The legs of some of these bugs are covered in tiny hairs that serve to make them sticky to hold onto their prey while they feed. The saliva is commonly effective at killing substantially larger prey than the bug itself.
The incredibly common squirrels are usually the noisiest thing in the forest except for humans.
Two white peacocks on beggar-ticks
Many sulphurs were congregating on this bottlebrush tree.
A lone spicebush swallowtail danced around the same tree for many minutes, longer than we stayed in fact, pausing at every flower, but never stopped beating its wings. I took many blurry pictures as I tried to get the focus and exposure right.
A red-eared slider and cooter, in typical sunning position, feet out and nose to the sky.
A first for me, seeing an alligator, and a plenty large one at that, leave the waters edge and saunter up over the paved path to the next pond. The fellow in my picture was far closer than I would feel comfortable with.