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.