We finally found out what these little bugs are. The Jagged Ambush Bug (Phymata). It is in the same family as Assassin bugs and Wheel Bugs. It is smaller than the Assassin bug being about 1/4″ or maybe a little bigger. The Jagged Ambush Bug has an abdomen that flares beyond the closed front wings and is fiddle-shaped. The front legs are thick and shaped similar to those of a praying mantis, which it uses for grabbling and holding prey.
All these physical traits enable Jagged Ambush Bugs to fit perfectly into their ecological niche. They are poor flyers and each slow-moving bug hides on flowers, yellow or white flowers are favorite, such as Daisies or Goldenrod. It waits motionlessly for its prey to come to it.
It grabs an unsuspecting insect, stabs it with its beaked proboscis and injects a poison. The poison not only paralyzes the victim, it also liquefies the body’s contents which then turns into a kind of insect soup. The Jagged Ambush Bug then drinks up the insect’s bodily fluids with its rostrum (straw-shaped organ in the proboscis).
The Jagged Ambush Bug with its small size, colorful camouflage, potent poison & quick surprise tactics is able to catch and eat insects that are much larger than it is. They also eat flies, bumblebees, wasps, hornets, moths, insect larvae, butterflies & moths. I guess any insect could be a meal.
I did see a Skipper Butterfly land on a Daisy and as I was about to photograph it, it went into spasms. It was dead within a few seconds, at most about 15 seconds.
Sometimes they go on the underside of the flower or on the stem and just wait there, out of view. Then crawl up on the flower for a meal. When looking for them also check under the flower petals if you see one raised a little.
After killing its prey it went under the flower for a few minutes before coming back to finish its meal. It did not take long before it was gone.