Battle: Rain Spider vs Spider Wasp

How often do you think of your own mortality? Fortunately for us it is very seldom, however for animals and insects it is a daily fight for survival!

I was reminded of this recently when a Rain Spider (heteropodidae palystes castaneus) was brutally attacked by a Spider Wasp (tachypompilus ignitus).

Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden

Kirstenbosch, on the slopes of Table Mountain, is acclaimed as one of the great botanic gardens of the world. This is one of my favourite locations for photography as it hosts over 125 species of bird.

Initial Contact

I was enjoying some early morning bird photography when I heard a rustle of leaves behind me. I turned expecting it to be some dead leaves being blown by the wind, boy was I mistaken!

Running straight at me was a huge rain spider who was tumbling down the stairs at a frantic pace. Puzzled, I looked around for a clue as to what had caused this strange behaviour. It soon become clear, a spider wasp was in hot pursuit.

At the bottom of the stairs the inevitable standoff commenced!

The wasp was now circling the spider looking for an opening to attack. The photo below shows the defensive pose adopted by the spider

The “dance” continued for a few seconds when all of a sudden the spider changed tactic and made a dash for the safety of nearby reeds. This was to be a fatal mistake!

The Attack!

The wasp took the opening and pounced on the back of spider with deadly accuracy! Wasps do this as the spider cannot reach them as their legs do not bend that way and their fangs are pointing in the wrong direction. 

The spider soon realized that it was in a compromised position and tried getting back to it’s feet.

** Notice the legs trying to propel itself upwards.

The wasp was not to be outdone and quickly started stinging the spider in order to paralyze it.

** Notice the sting of the wasp in the neck area of the spider


Final Chapter

In no time the battle was over, here the wasp waits to ensure the spider is paralyzed before dragging it off to it’s den.


Why the attack ?

I investigated the reason for the attack which ended up being quite disturbing yet fascinating at the same time. Apparently at this time of year spider wasps hunt for hosts to act as food for their unhatched larvae.

They will attack and paralyze spiders before dragging them to a den and laying eggs in the belly of the spider. When the larvae hatch, they will feed on the paralyzed spider who eventually dies a very painful death.

Nature is truely amazing which often requires one animal to give it’s life for the survival of another!

Till next time…


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