A big, black spider
lived in a hole;
A terrible spider was he:
As big as your hand,
and with hairy legs,
And a mouth as red
as could be.
During the first week of October, with the cooler night-time temperatures, I decided it was time to remove the window air conditioners at the bed -and-breakfast, for winter storage. In one window channel, I found that a wasp had built a mud nest. While removing the nest, I noticed that it was crammed full of dead spiders.
The beetles and flies
at the sight of him fled,
And even the birds
He had two great nippers, and eight wicked eyes;
How he ran! And what leaps he made.
In the spring, a female wasp, with a shiny black body and black wings, can be seen gathering mud for her nest. She is known as a blue mud dauber.
The mud is mixed with her saliva and formed into a ball, which she carries to the nest site. Each nest consists of several tubular cells that she makes by placing ring upon ring of mud. The nest top will remain open.
I and all who lived
in the garden knew
The terrible spider's lair,
And told their little ones, under their breath
O never, O never go there!
After the nest is completed, the wasp flies away in search of spiders. This is tricky business for the blue dauber because if she becomes entangled in a spider's web, she will become the spider's meal.
Those who were naughty and disobeyed,
By their mothers would not have been known,
For the spider had sucked their juicy parts,
Sucked them dry as a bone.
After a spider is found, the female wasp stings the arachnid with enough venom to paralyze it; however, the female must be careful not too inject too much venom into the spider, causing it to die and decompose, becoming useless as food for the larvae.
The spider is carried back to her mud nest and placed inside. Then she goes off in search of another spider.
One day when he crept quite out of his hole,
To pounce on a passer-by
Buzz, buzz came a wasp: the spider's afraid
His poisoned nippers
he opened wide
And reared himself
up for a fight.
When the mud cell is full, the next step for the female wasp is to lay eggs in the cell. Lastly, she seals the nest.
After the eggs hatch, the larvae feed upon the paralyzed spiders. Then, they undergo pupation and finally chew out of the mud nest as winged adults.
A black and yellow mud dauber also builds mud nests; however, she builds several cells parallel to the first nest.
Round, and round
flew the wasp, then down
And stung him before
he could bite
He crumpled up
and was carried away,
And buried alive, to feed
The baby wasps that were soon to be born.
- Poem by A. Vine Hall, published in 1943
While we might think that spiders and wasps are strange, we humans also have some strange ways of thinking and doing things.
I recently heard on the news about a rare spider, supposedly thought to be extinct, that had just been rediscovered in Texas. The Braken Bat Cave meshweaver spider, which is eyeless, had been placed on the Federal Endangered List in 2000 after not being seen for three decades.
In August, the spider was found in the middle of a $15.1 million highway construction project in northwestern San Antonio.
Because the construction would disrupt the spider's natural habitat, it has been terminated until the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Federal Highway Administration can determine the best way to continue the project without disturbing the rare spider's habitat.
Biologists are rejoicing over the discovery of this one spider, but commuters are not elated.
Bower retired after 34 years as a wildlife conservation officer for the state Game Commission. He has published several books about his experiences. Questions and comments may be sent to him at 153 Redington Ave., Troy PA 16947.