The Web of Life (22-3-30) Tangle Web Spider

 Tangle Web Spider

The tangle web spider of South America normally builds a perfectly round orb web. Its moniker appears a misnomer. Alas, when infected by the parasitoid wasp Polysphincta gutfreundi, the spider lives up to its name.

A Polysphincta wasp attacks the spider, temporarily paralyzes it, and lays an egg on the tip of its abdomen, where the egg is out of harm’s way. The egg hatches, and the wasp larva attaches itself to the spider.

For 2 weeks thereafter, the spider spins its web and snags insects every day as if nothing were amiss, except that there is a growing larva clinging to its belly, sucking juices that drip through small punctures the larva makes in the spider’s body.

The night before the larva kills the spider, it induces the spider to spin a very different web: one that provides a durable platform upon which the wasp larva spins its cocoon, safe from predatory ants that patrol the ground below.