Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Drama in a Diminutive World

The weather has heated back up and the humidity has been just short of tolerable.  With stocking sales trickling in and Cheryl's running progressing towards Chicago,  I find myself trying to stay inside as much as possible attempting to stay cool.  Cheryl has been trying to keep her training from being a constant exercise in drudgery.  We have been running in the morning  to avoid the sun and heat.   Despite this strategy,  she has still found herself melting down after seemingly "easy" runs.   The big question is when will fall finally arrive?

The Cutest Voracious Predator
So, with everything about our daily lives caught up.   Time to address the topic of his post.   Drama in our Flower Garden!

Who would want to eat this?
First,  The cat has been catching ( and EATING!) chipmunks lately.   I have found two now.   One "slightly mauled" and another half eaten!    Goodness knows what other "treats" the cat has discovered on his outdoor adventures.  I was so proud of his restraint with the rabbit.   Perhaps he has decided to stop "pulling  his punches" with the smaller stuff.  Who would ever guess under that cute, fuzzy face is a mind of a killer!

Where's the Food!   Where's the FOOD!
Time to dig in!

The hummingbirds have been voracious as of late.   I had to fill up the bird feeder once again before the leaves begin to fall.  My observations suggest that the "defender of the feeder" has moved on and now three "kids" are hitting the feeder like teenagers after a ball game!   I can tell because the three birds do not fight over the food like the parents did. Sometimes two will actually perch on the feeder together. I'll keep it stocked until the bees and yellow jackets take it over.  in the mean time,  I have been offered some great shots  and close ups.

Posing for the camera!

Notice the "comma" 
Nothing brings bugs together like rotten fruit
Speaking of Yellow Jackets,   I have been keeping them off the feeder with some rotten fruit and water melon rinds placed under the Hostas.  The rotting fruit also attract various other insects that have not been attracted by the flowers.
Note the white outline on wings
  Namely this Comma butterfly.   Not the white "C" looking thing in the under wing.   A Comma has only one mark that looks like a comma ( hence the name)  whereas a Question mark butterfly has a comma with a dot nearby.  ( similar, but not exactly like  a question mark)  This one must have just hatched because he has a white outline on his wings and his color is quite vivid.  He will lose the white ruff and bright color as his wings take a beating over the next several weeks. It's always fun to capture them while they are "pristine".

BIG "Scary" funnel spider!
And finally...  the Drama of the Micro World!    Yesterday,  I noted a VERY LARGE spider on our air conditioner.  One of those "funnel Spiders" that hide in the hole of the web until something lands on their dense matting.  And then they jump out and grab it!   This one was SCARY large and I decided to leave it alone and save my self from any future nightmares.    However, today I noticed him in the middle of his web.
I bravely inspect

I bravely inspect "closer"
This struck me a strange because they always hide in the funnel hole of the web and never outside.  A "closer" inspection  suggested he was not in his usual scary pose either.    Hmmm.   Wonder what is going on.

Note the large "blister" on the abdomen
I bravely broom down the web and pull down the spider.   I note that he does not scare the bejesus out of me as I separate him from his web.   Upon an even closer inspection ( now that I'm pretty sure he is DEAD!)  I see that he has what looks like a wound on his abdomen.  Side Note:  It is easy to be brave when the monster looks dead.
The wound looks like it was stabbed or pierced in someway.  So....I put on my best detective hat and begin to come up with theories.

A fight Ensues!
I doubt he was eaten by another spider.   Another spider would have drained him and left him in a web.   Any bird would have eaten him outright and left no trace.   However...   There have been a number of wasps and yellow jackets lately.   I happen to know that certain wasps eat Tarantulas.   But (relatively) small funnel spiders?

Who will win?  It's a death match!
My working theory is this:   A "Stinger" wasp or yellow jacket fall into the web and become tangled.  The spider.... Not a web spinner mind you,  runs out and pounces on the trapped prey...  However.   This is not an easy meal.   Instead of overpowering it directly,  the spider is forced to subdue the wasp in hand to hand combat!    A fight ensues!   The hornets secret weapon is revealed!   An unsuspecting spider "gasps" as a sharpened, venomous stinger plunges deep into its thick abdomen wall.   The venom takes effect immediately;  paralyzing the spider and causing it to shrivel up in the middle of its web.  The hornet pulls free and flies away to safety.  The spider has no hope for survival.

Looks like lady luck chooses yellow!
Not bad eh?   Further evidence for my theory was witnessed as I watched the yellow jackets from the rotting fruit area "discover" the spider I had placed on the sidewalk and began to dismember it.   Within a few minutes,  the entire spider was gone!   ( it took several trips to carry off the pieces!) Now I'm not sure the hornets were targeting it specifically,  or if dead insects or spiders are simply an opportunity to take advantage of.   Whatever the reason,   I was impress that the yellow jackets were able to take it apart so
No sense in wasting it, after all. 

I probably will never know what truly happened.   I have never witnessed the above scenario myself.   Perhaps a "real Bug Guy" would have a better answer and/or theory.  A little research on the web suggests that hornets, wasps and spiders are sometimes equally  matched.  Certain spiders and situations offer advantages over the opponent..but nothing is a given. In the mean time,   I think this could make an interesting story someday.   Provided the writer could deliver it with suspense and action.

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