November 29, 2021
Ben is taking a well-deserved day off today, so we're reaching into the archives for today's #BenInNature update presented by our friends at Carter Bank & Trust! The following post was originally published on September 17, 2020.
A lot of folks seem to hate wasps, but what about a wasp that hunts spiders? This is Tachypompilus ferrugineus, also known as the rusty spider wasp or red-tailed spider hunter!
These large wasps have a wide range, stretching from Canada all the way down to South America! These wasps are solitary, meaning that they don't live in large communal nests, but instead dig small, simple nests in dry soil. The adults eat nectar from a wide variety of flowers. Their larvae, however, are not vegetarians (and if you've been following these nature posts for a while, you probably already know where this one is going).
Rusty spider wasps are spider hunters, and they prefer to target large wandering spiders. In Virginia, that means they mostly go after large wolf spiders. They sting the spider, which paralyzes it rather than killing it, and then drag it to their nest, just like the wasp and its unfortunate spider companion in this photo. Once the spider is inside the nest, which isn't much more than a depression in the earth, the wasp lays a single egg on the spider's abdomen and then covers the nest up with dirt. They'll even drag leaves and debris over the nest to camouflage it! Once the wasp egg hatches, the larva eats the immobilized spider alive.
Thank you to VMNH Associate Curator of Invertebrate Zoology Dr. Kal Ivanov for identifying this one for me!
Social distancing can be difficult, but it presents a great opportunity to become reacquainted with nature. In this series of posts, Administrator of Science Ben Williams ventures outdoors to record a snapshot of the unique sights that can be found in the natural world. New updates are posted Monday - Friday, with previous posts highlighted on the weekends. This series of posts is made possible thanks to the support of VMNH Corporate Partner Carter Bank & Trust (www.cbtcares.com).
NATURE PHOTO IDENTIFICATIONS
If you discover something in nature that you would like help identifying, be sure to message us right here on Facebook with a picture (please include location and date of picture) and we'll have our experts help you identify it!