It’s Webnesday, and I have a new one for you. The day before yesterday Batty and The Sprout saw a hunting wasp (likely Priochnemis monarchus) dragging a paralyzed banded tunnelweb spider (Hexathele hochstetteri) across the ground and managed to scoop the spider into a small container for observation, thereby saving it from a rather grisly end. The wasp had stung the spider and was certainly taking it to a burrow, in which it would lay an egg on it. When the egg would hatch, the larva would then devour the live (but still paralyzed) spider until it would be completely consumed. They brought the spider to me to give it another two days of relatively-peaceful life. I placed it on one of our garden flowers for a photo session, and then put it into the freezer, knowing that it would never recover from the deadly sting of the wasp. Compared to recent spiders that I’ve had the chance to study here, it was very large, its body approximately an inch (2.5 cm) in length. This was a fine windfall opportunity to help to add a final chapter to the life of this magnificent spider. Squiddy will preserve the spider and present it to her classes at the Auckland Institute of Technology for education and study.
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Impressive critter! Do you have any larger spider species over there, or is this as big as they get?
Good question, Mr. P, and I should have anticipated it. There are no tarantula-sized spiders here, but two come to mind. The first is one that I know from personal experience, that I found in my woodshed at the end of July. It’s a sheetweb or bush spider (genus Cambridgea), and it had settled on my axe when I took it out for some chopping. The size of the head on the axe is 17 cm (6½ inches), so I estimate its leg span at around a third to a half of that. The second, and most obvious one is the Avondale spider (Delena cancerides), which was introduced into New Zealand from Australia in 1924 and was used as the model for the monsters in the film Arachnophobia. It likes to hide in the bark of wattle trees in the Auckland suburb of Avondale and is actually quite harmless and docile, which is one of the reasons why it was so easy to work with for the film. A quick Google search of both names will show you some examples of their size.
Good pictures and a good tale behind them. I wonder if a hunting wasp is capable of resentment.
Quite possibly, but I’m sure there are many other candidates for baby food around.
Your mention of baby food made me think of Gerber’s, and how supermarket goers would react to jars of spiders on the shelf.
Sometimes you scare me, Steve.
But it was you who called spiders “baby food,” and that suggested the idea.
Acknowledged, but I thought it was pretty clear that I meant baby-wasp food. Ah, well.
What an interesting spider story! I have never heard before that spiders would fall victim to the wasps. Great macro photography!
It’s actually a pretty common practice, although not all that well generally known. It’s really the stuff of nightmares and science fiction (case in point: Alien).
Fine shots! It sure looks like a big one.
Much bigger than the ones in my recent Webnesday posts, but see my reply to Platypus man, above. Thanks!
Superb images. A sad end for the poor spider but good that you saved it from what was intended for it :-(
Squiddy has also been a long-time arachnophile and we agree that this is the most humane way to help an unfortunate critter such as this one. And thanks for the compliment–sure was a beauty!
Well, what an incredible story, and excellent pictures too – you leave me far behind with your great knowledge of the natural world, my friend. :)
It’s not a contest, and that’s a good thing. Yes, I’ve been to 50 countries and have had some wonderful adventures, but leading African safaris, being up close and personal with the legendary animals in their natural element–that’s the stuff of dreams.
Eat or be eaten is the way of nature. We are lucky to be the eaters for the most part. That’s a beauty of a spider and the last shot quite nice, Gary.
Thanks very much, Steve. I can’t remember another session when my subject was as cooperative as this one. I was extremely careful in helping it into what I hoped was a reasonably-comfortable and natural position for its final performance, as it were.
Yes, I imagine it knew it had but one place to go and wasn’t in much of a hurry to get there.
Not that trying to hurry anything in that terminally-sedated state would have had much point, but I was happy that I was able to help it along its final way, and it will now serve to nourish students’ minds rather than the wasp’s offspring. I’d call that a win.
Such a fascinating spider story! I’m struggling with wasps every day, we have a nest under the roof tiles, so far I must have killed a few hundred. No consolation for the spider though. Awesome close-ups!
Thanks, Dina! That sounds like a job for a serious exterminator. I hope no one has been stung!
Not so far! :-)
These are full star shots, Gary! Love the design on the abdomen and over all ground colour – what a stunner! Great story behind it, too.
This is one of our largest spiders and I was as lucky to have her for a patient model as she was unlucky to happen to be in a position to let me study her so thoroughly. Thanks, Pete.