Just a few minutes ago, I retreated to the patio, with my daughter, to warm up. Now, with 60+ pounds of insulation absent from my frame, I get cold much more easily. Unfortunately, I’m outnumbered by family members who run hot. Thank goodness, cardigans are plentiful in my meager wardrobe!
A few minutes into our warming session my daughter let out a shriek and jumped up from her chair. I wasn’t too alarmed as this is often her reaction at the sight of anything flying, buzzing, or crawling. Yes, this is the same daughter who dissected an entire human body during her first year of med school, and could still sleep at night, with the lights off. This is same young woman who can drain a cup of pus from a wound, put in a drain, stitch it up, wash her hands, and then eat a six inch tuna sandwich from Subway for lunch. Go figure!
“OHMYGOD,MOM! It has a SPIDER! A HUGE SPIDER!!” she screamed.
I edged slowly closer to investigate and sure enough there was a wasp-like creature, crawling along at good clip, with an enormous wood spider, at least four times its size. Unfortunately, I got too close in my wonderment and scared the poor wasp away.
With the wasp’s grasp loosed, my daughter was the first to notice the wiggling of spider legs.
“Ooooooh, it’s still alive!” she squealed.
I’m not really afraid of creepy crawlies and I teasingly raised my bare hand and asked her if she wanted me to finish him off.
“NoMomNo!! Pleeeeease! Don’t touch it! Let nature take it’s course.”
So, as cruel as it may seem, we waited and watched, from afar. In a minute or two, the legs stopped twitching, and soon, our wasp friend was back on the scene. He scurried and danced around the perimeter of his prey, and then latched on. He’d drag the giant arachnid a foot or so, stop, scurry-dance to check for other predators, and then go back to the task of dragging his disgusting dinner to our stone retaining wall, where they both soon disappeared.
We retreated back inside the house, and quickly set to researching. Who was this friend of arachnophobes, who worked so tirelessly to rid the world of terrible spiders? A quick Google search revealed my daughter’s new best friend to be the humble Spider Wasp.
I soon found out there were several things that I was distinctly wrong about in assessing this interesting pompilid. First, our wasp was most definitely a female, and secondly, this horrifically huge spider wasn’t going to totally be her meal. This delightful, and hopefully accurate, description from Wikipedia explains it all:“A female wasp will search the ground and tree trunks for a spider, and upon finding one, will sting it, paralyzing the spider. Once the spider is paralyzed, the female wasp will make a burrow or take the spider to a previously made burrow. She will lay one single egg on the abdomen of the spider using her ovipositor, and then enclose the spider in the burrow. The egg will hatch and the larva will feed on the spider, breaking through the integument with its mandibles.”
I feel pretty fortunate that we got to witness this awesome example of nature’s “girl power.” While my daughter was fairly impressed, our research still has her worried. Her first, and smaller, concern is the wasp burrow that we obviously have within our patio’s retaining wall. Her second, and much bigger trouble, is the knowledge that Spider Wasps are strong enough to pick up and fly with their spidery prey clutched in their mandibles. “OHMYGOD! What if they drop it on our heads!?” was her last sentence before she bravely scurried from the family room to read about cancer, aneurysms, heart disease, kidney failure and other truly frightening subjects as she studies for her Step II Medical Board Exam. I guess as females we all specialize in our own kind of girl power!
Are you terrified of creepy crawlies like spiders? Ladies (and any gentlemen who wish to share), what’s your special kind of “girl power?”