Who’s at the Top of the Food Chain Now?

by Eric Neubauer

You’d think a Rabid Wolf Spider would be king of its domain. By the end of last week many had reached their prime and would be thinking about reproduction, but not this one, which was destined to become food for a spider wasp’s offspring instead.

A wasp attacking a spider
Wolf spider played by Rabidosa rabida. Spider wasp played by Tachypompilus ferrugineus. Note that The forelegs of some Rabid Wolf Spiders blacken as they become adults.

I arrived with my camera as the wasp was dragging the paralyzed spider toward its nest. Unfortunately the early morning light was bad and the wasp was fast, so most of the photos were poorly lit and out of focus. Thus, I have to tell most of my story with words.

This is what I saw. The wasp was dragging the spider along. The wasp dropped the spider several times and appeared to wander around before returning. At first I thought it saw me as a threat and was taking evasive action, but as I watched it reach its destination, I realized how entirely focused it had been on the task at hand.

Rabid wolf spider on limestone with fossils.
Bonus photo of a rabid wolf spider, by Sue Ann Kendall.

Wasps don’t have eyes in the back of their heads, so it couldn’t see where it was going while dragging the spider. Every time it dropped the spider, it had gone back to find the opening of its nest to reorient itself as it returned to the spider. It made no sense to drag the spider a long way and then find out it was in the wrong direction.

After dragging the spider about four feet and a couple of final yanks, the wasp and then the spider disappeared under the house skirting.