Along with Rick Gardner and Ray Showman, I had one of the best botanical field trips of the year today. Mind you, this was not a trip for the faint of heart, in part because sedges - oh no! sedges and tigers and bears, oh my! - were a primary target. But both Rick and I are died in the wool caricophiles (sedge nuts), and Rick had discovered a veritable Eden for those of our ilk.
So off we went, on what must have been the hottest day of the summer to date. And the place that we went, in Gallia County in SE Ohio, was just about as far off the track as one can get in the Buckeye State. We parked on a seldom-traveled gravel country lane, and hoofed about a mile and a half back into serious floodplain swamp country, traversing several steep ridges in the process.
It was worth it, and I'll put up some of the spectacular plants that we saw later. But, as always there were other distractions, and in keeping with yesterday's theme of terrifying killers of the insect world, I want to share a very cool experience that we bore witness to, from start to finish.
As we were passing along the side of a steep ridge, I noticed one of the big showy spider wasps working an area of downed branches and accumulated leaf litter. I pointed it out to Rick, and commented that it was actively hunting wolf spiders. We stopped to watch for a bit, when the wasp suddenly dove into some leaves, and in what seemed like a few seconds, tossed out a large wolf spider, having apparently stung the victim in the blink of an eye. In no time flat the wasp had drug the already dopey spider several feet from the site of the initial encounter.
The video above was made immediately after the wasp scored the spider.
I believe this wasp is Entypus unifasciatus, one of the larger and showier of the parasitoid wasps. They are comspicuous, as they continually flick their wings and spread their antennae, both of which are boldly marked with yellow. Just speculation, but I suspect this wing-flicking antenna-waving act creates visual jolts which help to startle potential victims into movement, and thus make it more likely that the wasp will spot them.
It took her almost exactly 15 minutes to cover the 130 feet from kill site to burrow, and the route that she took was remarkably straight. We were impressed. The spider is as big as the wasp, and presumably equal to in weight if not heavier. A truly herculean feat, moving it as far and as rapidly as she did.