In the grand scheme of strategies to deter predators, sticky columbine takes a rather medieval approach, Sandhya Sekar reports for Science
Usually I tend to focus on Horror-related movies or television shows or novels or comic books or video games. I do enjoy on occasion, though, doing a write-up on something horrific I find in Nature. I think this current exhibit qualifies. Aquilegria eximia, or Serpentine Colombine—
(How’s that for a sinister-sounding name? “Serpentine” needs no embellishment, and isn’t it unfortunate that the word “Colombine” will now forevermore have negative connotations for us?)
—lures unsuspecting bugs and traps them with its sticky leaves and stem. They suffer a slow death from deprivation, adhering to the plant like some kind of grotesque fruit. Is this a warning to other bugs to keep away? No. It’s even more sinister than that. Those bugs pose no threat to the plant—but moth caterpillars do. So the plant uses the dead bugs to attract spiders, which are immune to its stickiness, and the spiders eat the caterpillars. It’s ingenious, efficient, and totally horrific. Nature can be that way.