Macro Monday

crab spider Mecaphesa and narrow-winged tree cricket Oecanthus niveus prey
I just have to do this to mock the morose Mr Bugg, whose blog keeps writing checks his schedule and dedication can’t cash. If you don’t know what it means to cash a check, ask your grandfather. At the same time, if I go too long without posting Jim’s pics will take over the blog…

Anyway, I had these sitting in my stock folders since June, when out prowling in the yard one night and spotted a small crab spider (genus Mecaphesa) hanging out on a berry bush. Very close by, a narrow-winged tree cricket (Oecanthus niveus) wandered along, gently feeling its way with its long antennae. Something wasn’t working as intended that night, because it actually tapped the crab spider on the back multiple times, alerting the spider to the cricket’s presence and thus sealing its own doom. You would think this is what antennas are for, and that the cricket would have jumped away as soon as it detected the spider, but it remained fatally oblivious. Even if I’d had the camera in hand, I’m not sure I could have framed and focused in time to capture the drama, but the evidence remained when I came back out with the rig, and so I did a few images of the feasting spider.

A few hours later that night, the same spider now brandished some type of treehopper nymph (genus Cicadellidae,) so it seemed to be having a successful evening. And presented me with a better portrait angle.

crab spider Mecaphesa and treehopper Cicadellidae nymph prey
By the way, you naturally remember the post from a few days ago where a caterpillar received some unsavory attention from a wasp; I said then that I was hanging onto the caterpillar to see what (literally) developed. In the intervening several days, the hapless larva largely hasn’t moved, though when disturbed, it shows that it’s clearly still alive by wiggling in a lackluster manner. It hasn’t eaten, and in fact hasn’t stirred from its leaf.

unidentified caterpillar attacked by wasp several days previously
Its color is pretty weak now, but that’s the only thing that can be said about its appearance. I even held it up to a strong light to see if I could make out anything within, without luck: there’s a uniform mass blocking the light, but nothing shifting around in there and nothing the least bit curious-looking.

unidentified caterpillar attacked by wasp several days previously
There are vague suspicions in my mind that something else is going on: the wasp was simply protecting its area from a marauding species, or it left the caterpillar as bait for some other critter to consume. While both seem unlikely, there are stranger things out there, like parasites that infest the brains of grasshoppers and induce them to jump towards the water rather than away, where the grasshoppers drown but the parasites hatch out to enter their next cycle of development within fish. And the bacteria Toxoplasma gondii causes infected mice to lose their inherent fear of cats; T. gondii can only reproduce within feline digestive tracts, and this facilitates their entry. So there might be something else going on here, but for a few more days at least, I’m going to keep watching for evidence of wasp larva within the caterpillar.

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