Spider Wasp (Arachnophobia Alert!)

I was talking on the phone yesterday afternoon, laughing (and cringing) about how awful it feels to walk through a spider web, when I noticed something moving along the fence. It looked like a leaf, caught (of course) in one of the yard’s many spider webs, being blown about by the wind. But it moved too far along the fence to be anything anchored in a web, and it moved far too purposefully.

Wasp and Spider Sept 12

After I hung up the phone and raced to find my camera, I spent nearly an hour watching this little wasp. First she hauled her prey along the middle rail of the fence …

Wasp and Spider Sept 12

… lowered it down one of the posts …

Wasp and Spider Sept 12

… and tugged it over the ground until she found a clump of grass big enough to hide it.

Wasp and Spider Sept 12

Wasp and Spider Sept 12

Wasp and Spider Sept 12

Then she crawled under an adjoining clump of grass and started digging, emerging every so often to check her catch. She seemed to be measuring, trying to see if her burrow was big enough yet.

Wasp and Spider Sept 12

Wasp and Spider Sept 12

Once the burrow was finished, she turned the spider around a few times, wrestled it down through the clump of grass, and presumably buried it in her burrow with one (or more?) of her eggs.

Wasp and Spider Sept 12

The dynamic between these two predators, between the web spinner and its stinging foe, seems particularly cruel to me. Chances are the spider wasn’t dead when the wasp buried it with her egg. Merely paralyzed by her sting.

It’s a story that belongs in a horror movie or a nightmare, not in the yard. Except, it does belong in the yard. It belongs anywhere there are spiders and spider wasps. Perhaps what doesn’t belong are my words. Perhaps there is no place in the yard, at least in the lives of spiders and spider wasps, for words like “cruel” and “nightmare.” But where is the line? Where on the spectrum of consciousness do words begin? More importantly, where does empathy begin?

9 thoughts on “Spider Wasp (Arachnophobia Alert!)

  1. Jools September 27, 2013 / 7:16 AM

    As someone who is terrified of both species, I can’t decide if justice was served on a deserving arachnid, or if I’d have been happier to see the wasp suffocated to death in the spider’s webbing. Either way, amazing photos!

  2. bardessdmdenton September 22, 2013 / 5:46 PM

    Amazing photos, Rae, and interesting perspective. Sorry for my absence – I am trying to catch up. Hope you are well. XO

  3. Trileigh September 18, 2013 / 10:00 AM

    Great story, and great questions, Rae. Thanks for this very intriguing post!

  4. Kay Brownlow September 17, 2013 / 8:51 AM

    What a fascinating series of pictures. You have a talent for observing nature’s commonplace events and making them come alive. Thank you for sharing this story of death and new life……Kay

  5. Jeanette Gallagher September 13, 2013 / 11:57 PM

    Your photos are incredible! What patience you have – the photos tell the story and I felt empathy with all. Thank you, Rae.

  6. jeanryan1 September 13, 2013 / 6:22 PM

    Yes, amazing photos indeed. You captured a grizzly story and raised some good questions. I am so thin-skinned that I cannot even go into pet stores anymore– I feel such anguish for the trapped and the unclaimed. Nature programs are especially difficult as something is always doomed. There is nothing just or fair about nature, and humans, saddled with empathy, are destined to feel sad, to be hurt. I don’t know what evolutionary advantage empathy bestows, but I wouldn’t want to live in a world without it.

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