The hunter being hunted: The specialist spider-hunting wasp (Pompilidae) in action

by Santosh Rajus – Finding food is one of the hardest tasks for predators and over the years they have become masters at it. Some have developed ambush hunting skills, and some have developed speed to chase and hunt their prey. Some of the most feared hunters across the world are the venomous spiders, which are well camouflaged and use sticky webs to trap their prey. But, even these spiders have to hide from flying insects that have adapted and become specialists in hunting them.

Enter the spider hunting wasp.

Spiderhuntingwasp_1

During one of the field walks, I observed a beautiful spider moving rapidly and trying to hide under leaves. Initially, I thought that it was my movement which made the spider hide, but then I heard a buzzing sound approaching the leaves – The Pompilidae had arrived. The wasp went under the leaf searching for the spider and the spider tried to escape by jumping off the ground, but was too slow for the wasp. The wasp caught the spider and both rolled on the floor for few minutes. In the end, the wasp was holding a spider almost twice its size. The wasp stung the spider and within moments the spider was paralyzed. The wasp then quickly groomed its antenna and carried the spider away a few meters before hiding the spider inside a small borrow that was dug and kept ready. The wasp eventually lays an egg inside the spider and the larvae, after hatching, feed on the spider carcass. Once the food is over, the larva pupates and comes out as a beautiful wasp ready to start the cycle again. Watch it in action here:

The behavior of this specialist wasp is beautiful and left me with a few questions. Does the wasp first spot the spider and build its nesting site close to it so it can drag a spider which weighs twice its weight? The spiders are camouflaged well, how does the wasp find its specific host?

Happy spotting these specialist hunters in field!

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