Skip to main content

Battle of the Titans

I've said this before, and I'll repeat it again: if you have any desire to be reincarnated, don't come back as a bug! Even the top end predatory insects/arachnids have their enemies, as we shall see. For the insectophobe and/or arachnophobe, the following will be straight out of a horror movie, so be forewarned.

Here we have two of the beastliest beasts in their respective worlds. On the right, a giant eight-legged venomous fanged wolf spider. You've seen 'em; they are massive, fast, and hairy, and race around overpowering prey. On the left, a large ferocious-looking spider wasp, with the specific name Entypus unifasciatus. Two critters that could understandably give one the creeps, and both are near the high end of their respective food chains. What happens when they meet?

Well, it must be quite a clash! We, unfortunately, happened along soon after the battle, and thus didn't witness the takedown. But what essentially happens is this. The wasp, one of seven species in its genus, ranges throughout eastern North America. It specializes in capturing wolf spiders. Not any old wolf spiders - the BIG ones. Wolfspiders are quite formidible in their own right: full of venom, a bunch of good eyes, and eight powerful legs that make them agile and fast.

The wasp wants the spider badly enough to take it on face to face. It patrols suitable habitat, and when a wolf spider is spotted, it tries to maneuver itself into a position where it can successfully sting the spider, filling it with a powerful toxin. A bit tricky, this business, because the big bad spider does not want to get stung by a large wasp and filled with a powerful toxin.

In this case, all worked out well for the wasp, and not so well for the spider.

The spider is now subdued - alive, possibly aware of what's going on, but almost totally paralyzed. Every now and then a leg would twitch in an involuntary spasm, but otherwise it was putty in the wasp's hands, so to speak.

So when we came along, the wasp was methodically dragging the spider over the ground. Where? It will have previously excavated a burial chamber in the soil, and that's where it's headed with the victim. Upon reaching the burrow, it will pull the spider in, lay one egg on its body, and seal it in. When the young wasp hatches, it will begin consuming the soft edible parts of the spider. The neurotoxin injected by the adult wasp keeps the food alive, so Junior has fresh meat to snack on upon emergence. After feeding and growing, the wasp will pupate in the burrow, and emerge as an adult next summer, starting the whole savage cycle over.

I warned you.

Thanks to Janet Creamer for spotting this drama and bringing my attention to these beasts.


Robb said…
'When the young "spider" hatches, it will begin consuming the soft edible parts of the spider. The neurotoxin injected by the adult wasp keeps the food alive, so Junior has fresh meat to snack on upon emergence. After feeding and growing, the "spider" will pupate in the burrow, and emerge as an adult '

Should this be "wasp" instead of spider?? I might have the story-line wrong, but it seems that the wasp would produce a wasp ;)
Jim McCormac said…
Yes indeed, Robb - I mixed that one up in a dyslexic fit. It's corrected. In my defense, I often post these blogs at Panera at lunch, where a rigid 30 minute limit of free wireless Internet access is imposed. That sometimes leads to rushing and mistakes - my bad!


Popular posts from this blog

The Pinching Beetle, a rather brutish looking bug

The world is awash in beetles, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Few of them can match the intimidation factor of a Pinching Beetle, Lucanus capreolus, though. Those formidable looking mandibles look like they could slice off a finger.

Today was one of those coolly diverse days. I started off down in Fayette County, visiting the farm of a friend. He has restored about 25 acres of wetlands, and the response by the animal community has been nothing short of phenomenal. Blizzards of dragonflies of many species, amphibians galore, and nesting Blue-winged Teal, Pied-billed Grebe, and Sora. Among MANY other things. And all in a short two years. Add water and they will come.

Then, working my way home, I ducked into a Madison County cemetery that has a thriving population of Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrels, and shot images of our native prairie dog. Then, I stopped at a spot along Little Darby Creek, waded on in, and procured some pretty nice shots of various stream bluets and dancers. …

Calliope Hummingbird in central Ohio!

A hatch-year male Calliope Hummingbird strikes a pose. Small but tough, the hummingbird was feeding actively yesterday in 39 F temperatures. It frequents feeders and gardens at a home in Delaware County, Ohio, about a half-hour north of Columbus.

Fortunately, the wayward hummer appeared at the home of Tania and Corey Perry. Tania is a birder, and knew right away that the hummingbird was something special. For a while, the identification was up in the air, which isn't surprising. The Calliope Hummingbird used to be placed in its own genus, Stellula, but has recently been submerged into the genus Selasphorus, which includes Allen's, Broad-tailed, and Rufous hummingbirds. The latter two, especially, are quite similar to the Calliope in subadult plumage. Rufous is the default "vagrant" hummingbird here, with dozens of records and birds turning up annually. There is but one Ohio record of Allen's Hummingbird, from late fall/early winter 2009. Ditto the Calliope Hummi…

Snowy owl photography tactics - and things NOT to do

A gorgeous juvenile female snowy owl briefly catches your narrator with its piercing gaze. It's doing its Linda Blair/Exorcist trick - twisting its head 180 degrees to look straight behind. Owls have 14 neck vertebrae - double our number - which allows them such flexibility.

These visitors from the high arctic have irrupted big time into Ohio and adjacent regions, with new birds coming to light nearly every day. Probably 80 or so have thus far been reported in the state, and some of them have stuck around favored spots and become local celebrities.

I went to visit one of these birds this morning - the animal above, which was found last Friday by Doug Overacker and Julie Karlson at C.J. Brown Reservoir near Springfield. In the four days since its discovery, many people have visited as is nearly always the case when one of these white wonders appears near a large population center or is otherwise very accessible.

And as is always the case, people want to photograph the owls. And th…