The Amazing Spider Wasp

I was cleaning the back deck the other day when this walked by:

Dipogon (Pompilidae) spider wasp with Trachelas (Corrinidae) prey.

Wasps in the family Pompilidae feed their young with captured spiders. This dietary preference turns out to have complications, however, as the wasp’s larvae typically develop over several weeks on a single prey individual. A wasp can’t just kill a spider and pass it off to its offspring, as the carcass would spoil and rot before the larvae had finished.

So the wasp does something seemingly evil.

The venom from the wasp’s sting doesn’t kill the spider, but paralyzes it. The poor arachnid remains alive but immobile while it is slowly consumed. Vital organs last, of course. That maintains freshness for longest.

Dragging the paralyzed prey back to the nest.

photo details:
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 macro lens on a Canon EOS 50D
ISO 400, f/13, 1/200 sec, diffuse overhead flash

8 thoughts on “The Amazing Spider Wasp”

  1. The pompilids are fascinating (they’ve been on my blogging ‘to do’ list for a while) – we’ve got about 44 spp in the UK and they attack nearly half of the UK’s spider species (but not the Linyphiidae even with its many spp, though these are targeted by sphecids). Given the close association with spiders which are known to be an ancient group, it seems likely that pompilids are descendents of one of the earliest evolutionary segregates of the solitary Aculeata though I don’t think there is the fossil evidence to confirm this. Anyhow, time to stop waffling – nice pics BTW…

  2. Saw the exact same view today, down to the colouring of the two actors, only difference was that the spider wasnt as large compared to the Pompelid, oh and the location was Sweden and not in the US. Funny coincidence.

    I wonder if it could even be the same genus, I should have taken a snapshot 😉

    Great pictures as always, next up Chrysidid wasps? Please? 😉

    1. I had a lot of Chrysidids in the garden earlier this summer but did not have time to photograph them. Lovely wasps, though- perhaps I should prioritize them.

      1. Yes, I do belive you should.

        Would be awesome to see my favourite family pictured by my favourite insect portraiteur.


  3. Fantastic photos of this fascinating wasp behaviour. I have watched spider hunting wasps at work on the cliffs here in Sandown Bay (Isle of Wight, UK) – Anoplius nigerrimus, I think – but have found them very hard to photograph as they tumble along with their prey. I’ve also watched them carrying tiny stones back to the nest, to seal it up once provisioned I suppose?

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