I've been keeping a close watch on my American house spider, Achearanea tepidariorum. She is still guarding those eggs, and not moving very far afield.
Except one night a week and a half ago. I went out about 10:30 to check on her; the male was still up near the ceiling in his usual place*, but she was far down the wall, and moving fast. I shone my flashlight in the direction of her travel, and there was a third spider, a small one about the size of the male. "My" female (let's call her Fat Momma, or FM, for convenience) was making dashes in its direction, stopping, backing up a pace or two, and then running forward again. The intruder held its ground until FM was less than a foot away, then it backed around the corner, out of sight. FM went back to her eggs.
Two days later, the little intruder was building a rickety web between the wall and a post, just out of FM's line of sight. The same type of web, so I gathered that it was also a house spider, whether male or female I couldn't tell yet. It caught a good-sized fly that first day.
By the end of last week, she was fat enough that I could tell she's a female, still immature. Let's call her Chica.
Backtracking: a few evenings earlier, I had seen and photographed this tiny beetle. A couple of shots only; when I went out in daylight, it had left.
But last Friday, it turned up in Chica's web.
I was trying for a close-up, when I saw that it was still moving.
Chica's back is turned, and Beetle is waving. Help!
Ok; it's just a beetle. Spider dinner. Probably already dying. At least anaesthesized. Doesn't feel a thing. But still, it felt bad to watch it wave there, and to pack away the camera and go about my business.
I did the rounds after dark that night. Chica was working away at the beetle's abdomen, shaking and vibrating, as if trying to drill through that hard exoskeleton. I left her to it.
The next afternoon, I checked on them again. Chica had what looked to be a smaller spider, and was busy at it, with her back to me. And Beetle: oh, horrors! What was Beetle doing?
Very much alive. Arms and legs moving. Running in space. Almost looks human, there.
I couldn't stand it; I cut Beetle down, and brought him inside. He was snugly bound, but squirming steadily. With a paintbrush and a tiny hook, I tried to remove some of the webbing, but I couldn't make any progress. That spider glue is good stuff.
I left poor Beetle to die in a plastic cup and didn't come back until past midnight. And he was still struggling, slowly and weakly. I wetted the webbing down and tugged at it again; some of it came free. Beetle lay still, but started to move again as soon as I stopped. What to do?
I put him on a damp napkin with the plastic cup inverted over him, just in case he managed to move around, and went to bed, telling myself I was crazy to be trying to help a beetle. A beetle, for Pete's sake! Forget it; he'll be dead in the morning. No big deal. Spider fodder.
In the morning, the cup was empty. Beetle was gone.
That felt good.
*About that male. He's gone. Or eaten, probably.
And Chica has another beetle today. This time, she managed to kill it properly; I looked closely, and it isn't moving. And she has been feeding calmly. Not jack-hammering her way in, like last time.
What a GREAT POST! I never would have dreamed I could get behing the beetle and pull for it! I'm not nuts about finding spiders in the house but I really do enjoy watching them outside.ReplyDelete
Go Fat Momma!
And gone, Beetle!ReplyDelete
Great story! love it.ReplyDelete
That's incredible! I also hate to watch any living thing suffer, even a beetle, but I would never have thought of trying to untangle the beetle from the spider webbing.ReplyDelete
what a great post! I always end up empathizing with the insects--it's why I hardly ever collect any more.ReplyDelete
Excellent post. Got here from Circle of the Spineless and your story made me really feel for you and the beetle. I always end up empathising with insect too. Think is, I don't even know if that's silly or not.ReplyDelete
I guess it depends on who is defining "silly".
I just went to your site; that is one cool jumping spider!
(For the rest, just click on his name for the photo of the day.)