Sunday, September 16, 2012

And So it Goes...

A couple of nights ago my husband and I were walking our dogs when I saw something moving on the sidewalk ahead of us. As we got closer we could see that it was a big Golden Orb Weaver Spider (aka "banana spider") and some sort of large wasp. The wasp flew off too fast for me to identify it. I think I saw some red, but it was dusk and it all happened too quickly for me to really see it. I thought that if we waited for a minute, the wasp would come back. I suspected from the color and behavior that it was a Mud Dauber wasp. These are the harmless (unless you're a spider) wasps that build those tubelike mud structures on our houses. Mud Daubers paralyze spiders to feed to their young. They pack the spiders into their mud nests and lay eggs inside. The spiders are there, alive but immobile, serving as fresh food for the newly hatched spiderlings. So, getting back to the spider, it made sense that the flying insect was a Mud Dauber. However, what didn't make sense was that the spider was too big for any wasp to carry anywhere. We waited for a few minutes, but the wasp didn't return. So we continued on our walk.

I didn't have my camera with me, so when we got home again I decided to go back and take some pictures. I figured that the wasp may go back and try to drag the spider away. I've seen wasps dragging some pretty big caterpillars, so why not? It took me a few minutes to find it, but when I got to the spot, the spider was still there, but no sign of the wasp. It made me a little sad. The big spider was so beautiful lying on the sidewalk with its hairy legs and elaborately painted abdomen. The legspan on this one was probably 3 inches. These are truly glorious creatures.
Golden Orbweaver Spider
As I looked at the spider more carefully, there were signs that it was dead and not just paralyzed. There was a puddle of something next to the spider, and as I looked closer, I could see ants underneath it, working furiously. I could see that there was a hole in the upper part of the abdomen. This spider was definitely dead. Maybe the wasp was a red herring. Something else could have killed the spider and the wasp was just passing by. Or maybe the wasp bit off more than it could chew and just gave up. I'll never know. In any case, the ants had discovered the spider and were making quick work of it.
Definitely Dead, With Ants Underneath.
The next morning I came back again to the spider to see how far the ants had come with their disassembling. The ants had been very busy. The spiders legs were still there, but the abdomen was flat and deflated. There was a liquid substance on the ground all around the spider's body. I suspect that the ants had emptied the contents of the abdomen because there were no shoe tread marks  and the rest of the spider was in place.
Next Morning
This morning I went back one last time, hoping to track the ants' progress. I was a little doubtful that I'd see anything because it rained yesterday afternoon. Also, the spider was on a sidewalk and could easily have been stepped on or swept away. But it was still there. It took me a few minutes to find it this time because there was almost no sign of the spider, only the dried up abdomen exoskeleton and some spider residue. The abdomen could easily have been mistaken for a piece of leaf along with other debris from the trees. There were no legs and no other signs of what had happened such a short time before. Just a shiny smear and a few meticulous ants scouring for crumbs. And so it goes...
Day Three. Note abdomen in upper left corner.


  1. First time I've been to your blog. Looks awesome! I'll be back! Are you on Facebook? A lot of us are. I rely on seeing blog posts show up there a lot vs. maintaining a reader. Wildelifephotography does this as do I and a few others.

    1. Glad you stopped by! I'll have to start looking at other smug mugger blogs. I've seen yours, and that's part of what motivated me to start! Thanks so much. :) Katherine

  2. This is an amazing account, definitely one of the most interesting observations I've read in a while of what most people would overlook as mundane. The day to day photos are also an excellent touch. Great natural reporting!