Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Catching the food is only half the battle.

It's been a while: it was last May when I last saw an adult carpet beetle around here. Today I found two.

This one was in an awkward corner of the kitchen. When I tried to trap it, it dropped, bounced off the paper towel I was holding, and fell onto an antique aluminum thermos that sits beside the stove.

I went after it immediately, but by the time I was on the floor, it was caught in an invisible web, and this spider was on his way.

Carpet beetle, about 2 mm. Spider, even smaller.

Good enough. The object was to put the beetle out of my misery; if it also served as spider food, so much the better. But I brought the thermos up to the table to watch the proceedings.

The spider rolled the beetle over, then left, dragging a line; I could see the beetle move, slightly, in the direction the spider had taken.

Once the line was anchored, spidey came back, crawled all over the beetle, prodding at cracks,

then went off to anchor a line again. I watched while he repeated this sequence several times.

The idea is to immobilize the prey, both with webbing and venom, maybe store it in a protected place, then eat it when it is properly "cooked". But these beetles are difficult; with the legs and antennae securely tucked into their slots, and armored plates over the belly, the spider may not be able to find a vulnerable spot for an injection.

After some time, the spider must have decided that beetle was safely tied up, and he went off to explore his new surroundings. I shooed him back onto the thermos, and moved it back to its place, spider, beetle and all.

But first, I looked back at the beetle (I had been following the spider around). It was moving:

See the two legs waving?

It wasn't going anywhere, though. The webbing was holding it. It would do.

Spider, unidentified, as yet.

I checked on it later this afternoon. There was no sign of spider or beetle. I wonder; did the spider drag the beetle off to his lair? Or did the beetle work its way out of the web? I'll have to be on the lookout for it, just in case.

(And I had no idea my old thermos was so badly scratched up.)


  1. An amazing capture. Goes to show that nature is everywhere around us if we just take time to look (and see). When I was a teacher I would take the class on a walk around the playground to see what we could find. There was always something special to see. - Margy

  2. Great sequence of photos! What drama and a mystery too!


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