Sunday, August 07, 2011

Beauty and the (tiny) beast

(I've been house-sitting for my daughter in Strathcona, dashing back here every couple of days to water the gardens. I'm home again, to stay.  Now I'm sorting photos; this set is from the house in Strathcona.)

On my first inspection tour of the Strathcona house, I noticed a tiny spider in a corner of a high basement window, a favourite spider hangout I've examined before. This one was barely a pair of dots, one larger than the other; I wouldn't attempt to photograph it, not in that awkward position, not with a handy crack to retreat into; these spiders are shy.

But a couple of days later, going down to empty the washer, I saw a fluttering orange thing on the sill, and that tiny spider hovering nearby. I ran back up for the camera. When I got back, the spider had grabbed her prey:

Spider, maybe 2 mm. Moth, up to 5 mm.

For the next couple of minutes, the pair executed an elaborate dance; the spider would dash in to bite the moth, then back off while the moth struggled frantically. When the moth rested, back came the spider, to sink in her fangs, or to attempt to attach strands of sticky web. The moth fought, the spider retreated. Again and again.

One foot is tangled in the web.

Trying to tie up an antenna.

Reinforcing the bonds.

This may be the prettiest moth I have seen in BC; look at the colours! The wings are patterned in orange and tan, with yellow and pink accents; on the bottom, deeper reds outline the underwings.

Moth all tied up, being dragged off to the spider's corner.

I went to attend to the laundry. When I came back, the moth was jammed up against the spider's hole. Of the spider, there was no sign; she was probably deep inside, washing up for dinner.

A couple of days later, the dried husk of the moth lay on the window sill. When I tried to collect it, it crumbled to dust.

UPDATE: Identified by BugGuide as Carcina quercana.


  1. What a wonderous thing nature is. You tell it and show it so well and i appreciate it so much. I think i've become a better human being since i've clued in to nature via you and your camera and thanks so much for that!

  2. Thanks, Lorraina, That made my day!

  3. Thanks for sharing this saga with us. It's amazing how little spiders can capture something much larger than them. Great pics.


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