Tag Archives: media

Jumping spider with fly

I think this is Eris flava, but happy to be corrected. Like every jumping spider I’ve photographed it held onto its prey even while I chased it around the leaf to get the shot. I think I’ve seen a jumping spider discard its prey only once, and perhaps that instance was a spider that had pretty much finished the meal. If you know of any papers on the topic of prey retention under threat, I’d be interested.

Paraphidippus aurantius

If you’re curious, the fly probably isn’t dead yet. Just paralyzed and being digested from within with enzymes injected by the spider. I’d wager the process is exquisitely unpleasant for the fly. I’m assuming the spider moves to different parts of the fly to access different pockets of muscle and such but I couldn’t confirm that in the literature.

If you’re interested in identifying something that’s similar, there’s a useful paper on differences of E. flava and E. militaris by Madison 1986 (pdf), but illustrations of the head are only of males. Photographs and other information are at BugGuide.

Hummingbird and snowberry clearwing moths

Here are some photographs of the hummingbird clearwing moth (Hemaris thysbe) and the snowberry clearwing moth (Hemaris diffinis). The first photograph shows Hemaris thysbe approaching wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) with its proboscis partially uncoiled, something you can’t see unless you freeze the motion with a fast shutter speed:

And here it is drinking nectar with just one leg grasping a flower for balance (it was a windy day):

And here’s the snowberry clearwing moth doing the same:

And here they are together, a pairing that took me days of work to capture:

Day-active, colorful moths are rare enough, but these take it to the next level in their uncanny mimicry of hummingbirds and bumblebees, respectively. The mimicry presumably protects them from being eaten by predators such as crab spiders, praying mantids, and birds. In addition to the obvious behavioral and morphological resemblance to hummingbirds and bumblebees, the moths also make a slight humming noise that completes the disguise. The noise could easily be an unavoidable consequence of hovering flight (approximately 30 beats/second), but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if their wings are rigged in some way to exaggerate the noise. I’d love to know the answer to that. My other burning question is why the hummingbird clearwing moth has clear wings at all … I would expect selection to favor individuals that did not lose scales, because such a mutant would more resemble a hummingbird, which has opaque wings. I’m guessing that reason is not because fully-scaled wings are too heavy — the hummingbird hawk moth (Macroglossum stellatarum) in the Old World has opaque wings and can manage 70-90 beats/second (wow). I wonder whether a fully scaled wing might damp the humming sound. All photographs were taken at Natural Lands Trust’s Hildacy Farm Preserve in Media, Pennsylvania. Oh, and happy National Moth Week.