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Wasp vs Spider – a backyard drama in miniature

— by Chris Watson

The adversaries square off…

Local biologist Holger Woyt photographed a great spectacle in his yard this week. Spider Wasps, family Pompilidae, are common enough around town but it is unusual to witness the full sequence of their hunting behaviour. In the picture above the wasp (on the right) is facing off against a wolf spider Lycosa sp. In these interactions the wasp is attempting to make a meal of the spider. If successful, the wasp’s sting will paralyze the spider. Following paralysis, the wasp will either consume the prey or drag it off to a burrow. Here, the wasp will lay an egg in the abdomen of the paralyzed but still living spider. When the larva hatches the spider will then become sustenance for the infant wasp.

The wasp pounces and administers the paralyzing sting…
The immobilised spider is dragged off…
The now thoroughly paralyzed spider is momentarily left to await its fate. The wasp returned shortly after this picture was taken to drag the spider to some cover beneath the leaf litter.