Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Life's a Beach

Maybe not for everyone, certainly not for this Raft Spider or Fishing Spider (Dolomedes sp.). It isn’t dead … but it isn’t going anywhere soon either. It’s been stung and paralysed by the venom of the Blue Black Spider Wasp (Anoplius sp.). The wasp will bury the spider and lay its egg on it, the unfortunate spider thereby providing a non-perishable source of food for the wasp larva.

This is nature’s way of coping without refrigeration and many other local wasps have evolved similar practises for the survival of their own species. The Great Golden Digger Wasp preys on katydids, and the aptly named Steel Blue Cricket Hunter and Cicada Killer hunt crickets and cicadas respectively.

Fishing Spiders grow to a respectable size, a good ¾ of an inch … and that’s not including the length of the legs. This was a young spider, half an inch long at the most. Even so its weight was too much for the wasp to just pick it up and make a long distance flight; the insect was carrying its burden in short flits.

My presence startled the wasp at first and it abandoned the spider but it returned about twenty minutes later. The wasp didn’t come back unerringly in the exact location, rather, it landed periodically and slowly homed in, apparently seeking by smell.