Sunday, July 17, 2011

Rust-Colored Spider Wasp

This brightly colored wasp is the "Rust-Colored Spider Wasp" (Tachypompilus ferrugineus). The species name ferrugineus actually translates into Rusty, and is an apt description of their overall body color which is a beautiful rusty-orange. They have distinct stripes on their abdomen and black iridescent wings. The females of this species are expert spider hunters. They seek large species of spiders such as wolf spiders to paralyze. They will sting the spider with a fast acting venom designed to subdue their prey, but not kill it. She will then drag the unfortunate victim to a safe spot and secret it away out of sight. She will then lay her eggs on the spider and leave to hunt for more victims. It takes a few days for the eggs to hatch and during that time the spider will remain very much alive, just in a constant state of paralytic motionlessness. When the eggs hatch they will feed on the spider so lovingly provided for it by its mother.

This specimen showed up on my front porch today. I noticed something rapidly crawling across the concrete. Closer inspection revealed this spider/wasp interaction. This wasp was incredibly fast and proved difficult to photograph. Even dragging prey much larger than herself did not slow her up one bit. She must have herculean strength.

Looking at this picture you can't help but feel somewhat sorry for that poor spider. To be out wandering around looking for food, minding your own business then WHACK...suddenly you are stung and overpowered by a flying creature bent on serving you up to her children.

Life in the wild is often without mercy....each creature bent on surviving anyway they can. Utmost in their biological makeup is often carry on the family genes and create mirror images of themselves. This wasp is merely doing exactly what Mother Nature programmed her to do....provide for her family. This spider will give adequate nutrition to her offspring.
 This momma wasp worked diligently to find the proper location to stow away the spider and keep it hidden from opportunistic scavengers that might try and steal her bounty. Often she would leave the spider and fly away to investigate the real estate. She checked back frequently and never seemed to lose track of where she left her quarry. I know these wasps use landscape cues to guide them. I thought about moving the spider to see how long it would take her to find it again, then decided that would be mean. She literally crawled in and out of every available hole in the concrete steps, and foundation, before finally settling on a crack behind our front steps. She dragged the spider about six inches up the wall and into the crack. I am imagining that this would be like me trying to drag a full grown deer in my mouth, up hill!

(Here the spider is being pulled into the crack in the concrete and
disappeared never to be heard from or seen again)

Once the spider has been consumed the wasp larvae will chose a location nearby to pupate and finish out it's progression to adulthood. This will take approximately 10 days. Soon there should be newly emerging adult wasps that will carry on in the fashion dictated by their genetic makeup, and by Mother Nature.
Carry on my spider loving wasp!


  1. A new family right at your front door.

  2. oh. ack. how horrifying. I imagine the spider is not killed so that it is fresh for the babies. Nevertheless I CANNOT IMAGINE a more horrible death. I believe I feel more than "somewhat" sorry for said spidey. EEp.

    Jeeze, I bet anesthetic is not involved as that is unnecessary calories expended by the wasp. EEK!

    Yes, mother nature, as my father was wont to say (in so many words), can be a mother.

    Mercy? HA!

    yow. Think I need to cuddle my kitties, now. Spectacular death deliverers that they are.... hm. =!

  3. btw, she is STUNNINGly beautiful.

  4. THIS THING WAS AMAZING YESTERDAY WHEN I SAW IT ON THE KIDS PLAYGROUND HERE IN BALTIMORE> Thanks for identifying it. I thought I was tripping, but sensed that it might be a wasp, since they do the same thing to cockroaches, bees, etc.

  5. Do they bite or sting humans???

  6. Yes they sting humans, it is an extremely painful sting. Imagine someone holding a lit cigarette lighter to your skin for about 30 seconds

  7. Yes they sting humans, it is an extremely painful sting. Imagine someone holding a lit cigarette lighter to your skin for about 30 seconds.