Friday, April 22, 2011

Drama in the grass

This is what happens when you decide to go outside, sit awhile in the Meadow and watch nature....something always happens! 

We were relaxing in our lawn chairs when I happened to glance under James' legs. "Now don't get all scared or anything but look down on the ground," I warned. I'd spotted a wasp, laboriously pulling a large wolf spider behind her through the grass, right under him.

Since I'm familiar with some insect and spider biology, I knew what was going on. The wasp had already stung and paralyzed the spider lady and was dragging the poor victim to an underground burrow. It was way too late to rescue the spider. Soon she'd be fresh food for the wasp's larvae.

James was fascinated. I was, too. But I was too lazy to go fetch my camera. Until I decided the drama was way too interesting to miss. So off I went to get it. (When am I going to learn to always take my camera outside??)

Back outside, I joined James, who was keeping an eye on the wasp mother. I snapped away while the wasp worked and worked. One time, she flew away. We guessed she was relocating her burrow and getting her directions straight. Can you imagine dragging something backward through a jungle and not looking at all where you're going? That's what the wasp was doing. 

After a bit of flying around, she returned and found her victim. For a few minutes, she went off to the side and groomed herself (below). Then it was back to work!

She overshot her final destination and had to double back to get to her burrow. But dang if she didn't find it (above)! Below, you can barely see the spider's legs protruding from the hole. Then it's just a smidgen of her body that you can see. Then she's gone! (Sorry my images are dark...just click on each one for a better look.) 

James marked off the distance and figured that the wasp dragged her spider more than 40 feet!

I've since concluded that our wasp is a tarantula hawk–Pepsis mildei.  


Janet said...

What a fascinating series of photos.Whwn I first glanced through them I thought the wasp was the victim. Our wasps look a bit different. Great post.

Sheryl Smith-Rodgers said...

Hey thanks, Janet! That series of photos probably took at least 15 or 20 minutes to shoot too. She worked LONG and hard!

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