Japanese Spider Wasp

Adult spider wasps (Pompilidea) are a fairly common sight in the forests of Japan where they can be seen flying just above the ground seeking suitable places for hunting. The wasps will frequently drop to the ground and actively move over the leaf litter, sometimes flicking their wings in an effort to flush out prey. The wasps are seeking spiders of a suitable size to be subdued and used in helping the spiders produce the next generation of spider wasps. When a likely spider is found a brief struggle will ensue in which the wasp is nearly always the victor, dispatching its eight-legged adversary with a venomous sting. The wasps sting does not kill the spider which is instead left paralyzed and immobile. The wasp will they push, carry and drag the spider to a spot where a lair (usually a hole) has previously been prepared, though some wasps will not dig a hole until after they have secured a spider. The spider is then transferred into the lair where the wasp will deposit a single egg before departing and sealing the lair entrance. After the wasp larvae hatches it will carefully feed on the still-living spider, eating all of the eatable tissues though carefully leaving the vital organs for last in order to preserve the life of the spider as long as possible. After a time the spider will die and the larvae will pupate, emerging as an adult wasp the following spring or summer. A few spider wasps will use the spider in a different manner, depositing the egg on an active spider which will then be consumed by the pupae after it emerges and begins riding the spider like a horseman. The spider is thus able to pursue its normal living while all the while being slowly consumed by a killer passenger it cannot shake.

Emily and I encountered this small spider wasp and its prey while hiking in the hills near Shizuoka, City Japan. We followed the wasp for some time as it alternately flew and walked with the spider and were only able to get a brief bit of footage while the wasp was resting for a bit on a broad leaf.

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~ by softypapa on May 31, 2009.

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