Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Walnut Caterpillars

Walnut Caterpillar, Datana integerrima  - Mort Shurtz

D. Integerrima in mass - Missouri University Extension
A while ago Mort Shurtz sent me this picture of a Walnut Caterpillar, Datana integerrima, that he found in his back yard.  When a moth species' common name is for the caterpillar, it means either that the cat is beautiful or obnoxious.  D. integerrima falls into the obnoxious category.  In their big years they tend to cover the trunks in large numbers, defoliate the trees and generously spread their frass around. 

Walnut Caterpillar Moth, Datana integerrima - Bob Moul
Although we have planted over 500 walnut trees in our riparian area within sight of our house, I have yet see Walnut Caterpillars on our trees or to photograph a Datana integerrima along Bull Creek.  At first glance it would be hard to guess that it was a moth or even would be capable of flight.  Its color is more handsome rather than pretty, more like a fine piece of wood furniture.  It has an orange fuzzy head and a black spot on its thorax.

Spotted Datana Moth - Datana perspicua
We commonly see its cousin coming to our deck light overlooking Bull Creek.  The Spotted Datana, Datana perspicua, has a similar color and shape but logically enough has a dark spot on it dorsal wing as well as sharper lines on its wings.  It feeds on sumac that is plentiful in the valley.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo - Joe Motto
Texas A&M cites some species of  wasps and flies that consume egg masses and larvae of Walnut Caterpillars, and many other insects and spiders prey upon larvae.  When disturbed, the caterpillars drop to the ground on a silk thread.  Birds don't make most of the lists of known predators and I suspect the fuzzy hairs of the Walnut Caterpillar serve as a deterrent.  I doubt that their large family gatherings would be possible if they were tasty and convenient for birds to eat.  Our Yellow-billed Cuckoo Coccyzus americanus, is the only bird listed as eating them, first reported in 1922.

Eastern Tent Caterpillar
Fall Webworm
















Fall Webworms and Eastern Tent Caterpillars are other moth species that form large communal nests early in life that would seem to offer a feast for birds.  They appear to be protected by their web, until we tear it up exposing the individual caterpillars.  The masses of caterpillars that "flock" together can serve as a defense only if a bird eating one will decide that they aren't tasty, either because of chemicals or the nasty effects of the hairs.  But where potential food congregates there is usually some predator that will develop a strategy for getting it.

Lisa Berger sent me some information about one predator, the Black-billed Cuckoo, Coccyzus erythropthalmus that specializes in these species.  The Birds of North America information on the cuckoo's digestion of caterpillars is well worth a read.
"The Black-billed Cuckoo is a notorious consumer of caterpillars, with a demonstrated preference for noxious species, including the eastern tent caterpillar (Malacosoma americanum), fall webworm (Hyphantria cunea), and larvae of the gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar). Observations of cuckoos consuming 10–15 caterpillars per minute are testimony to the great service this species provides in forests, farms, and orchards. Stomach contents of individual cuckoos may contain more than 100 large caterpillars or several hundred of the smaller species. The bristly spines of hairy caterpillars pierce the cuckoo's stomach lining giving it a furry coating. When the mass obstructs digestion, the entire stomach lining is sloughed off and is regurgitated as a pellet." Excerpted from The Birds of North America Online.
This cuckoo species is rare in the Ozarks and therefore not an answer to our outbreaks.  Birds of North America's map shows that we are just barely in the southern edge of its breeding territory.  That still leaves our Yellow-billed Cuckoo.  According to Allaboutbirds, "Yellow-billed Cuckoos forage slowly and methodically in treetops for large, hairy caterpillars.  (They) are among the few bird species able to eat hairy caterpillars. In the East they eat large numbers of tent caterpillars—as many as 100 in one sitting."

Yellow-billed Cuckoo in the treetop - Clark Creighton
When disturbed by a potential predator D. integerrima drops rapidly to the ground.  Since the cuckoo tends to forage higher up, the caterpillar can start the long slow climb back up the tree while the bird has had its fill of its siblings and leaves, ensuring the survival of the species.  But how does the cuckoo handle the hairs?
"Cuckoos and hoopoes (Upupidae) are also able to clean larvae from their setae by rubbing them on the ground (Payne, 1997;Kristin, 2001), but the best adaptation to feed on hairy caterpillars is found on several cuckoo species. In these species, the gizzard inner layer has evolved towards a soft, thick and non-keratinoid structure that allows the larvae setae to be kept inserted in the gizzard wall and to be regurgitated as mixed pellets of mucous membrane and setae (Gill, 1980)"  Birds as predators of the pine processionary moth.
If that doesn't sound very appealing to you, watch an Asian cuckoo in action in this video.  It rubs the caterpillar along the branch to wipe off most of the hairs as well as drain the intestinal contents before eating it.  No wonder we call them cuckoos!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Copperhead Bite

Copperhead after a swim
Copperheads are the most common source of venomous snake bites in the United States.  This is due to their numbers from successful breeding and their choice of habitat.  Like their cousin, the water moccasin (both are in the Agkistrodon genus) they generally prefer moist environments along water ways.  They also tend to be closer to human habitation, setting up home under sheds and woodpiles.  It is not often that you can see a video like we have below of someone being bitten.

As a rule, venomous snakes are not out looking to bite humans.  We are too big for them to waste their precious venom on but we do have a tendency to get in their territory frequently.  Copperheads respond to threats by freezing in place.  They consider being stepped on or picked up a hostile act and will respond appropriately.  Herein lies the tale.

Three friends were fishing and swimming in Bull Creek this June.  They watched a midland water snake cruising their fishing hole daily.  The last day of their visit a snake came swimming across the hole and one of them decided to catch it.  Lesson one: Most snakes can swim.

The midland water snake has dark bands around its body.  It tends to swim with just its head above water and frequently disappears under water in search of aquatic prey.  They are tan with brown even bands.  This one had bands that spread out down its sides- Hershey Kisses of a copperheadLesson Two:  Identify snakes carefully.


Our friend picked up the snake carefully by the tail.  He held it for a full minute, the snake  crawling near his bare ankles without biting.  When he tried to grab it behind its head he was bitten.   Lesson Three:  Copperheads aren't anxious to bite 190 pound bipeds unless threatened.

One to two hundred copperhead bites are reported every year in Missouri although there has never been a fatality.  I suspect there is under reporting as virtually every group I speak with knows at least one person who has been bitten in the past.  The weekend our friend was bitten two other copperhead bite patients were admitted to Cox Medical Center.  He is now back to normal after a day in the ICU with severe pain and swelling, 10 days off work, and $25,000 of antivenon.

Snakes are a part of our natural environment.  Copperheads pay their dues by eating rats and other vermin.  When they are around our houses, pets and children they are a safety hazard.  On the other hand, when they are out in the wild, respect their territory and leave them alone.

Incidentally, a copperhead bite led to the invention of the Weed Eater.*  In our case, the only good news was that his friends made a video of the event which serves as a cautionary tail- don't grab a copperhead by it unless you want to get bit.  Now if you are ready, go to this site.

 * George Ballas created the weed eater with a popcorn can and some wires attached to a lawn edger.  He was inspired by a gardener who was bitten by a copperhead while hand trimming around a garden.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Cute Jumping Spider

"They went that-away"  -  REK
Walking the gravel bar looking for fossils I saw something tiny jump among the rocks.  It was this bold little jumping spider searching for food.  Each jump is quick and it always landed on top of a small rock, a good perch to look around from.  After I took a number of photographs I got down to ground level to get a face picture and it tried to distract me by pointing in another direction - very clever spider!

Wolf Spiders (1) and Jumping Spiders (2)
It is important to get a full frontal face shot when possible to see the eye pattern.  The number of eyes and their arrangement can be compared with commonly available eye diagrams.  Unlike most other spider families, the Salticidae have flat faces with large eyes pointing straight ahead.  Large eyes can be an adaptation to gather light for night vision, but in this case they specialized for prey identification and measuring the range to land directly on their prey.  This explains its landing on top of a rock every time!

Like most spider families they actually have four pairs of eyes but the other two sets are on top of the head.  They provide lateral vision looking for movement rather than focusing on the object.  I tested this by moving my hand to its side.  Sometimes this made it jump but with a slight movement it would make a tiny hop, turning 90 degrees to face me.



Identifying spiders to species is challenging but this is the rare exception.  Even in the deep shade its metallic green color was impressive.  This is a male Emerald Jumping Spider, Paraphidippus aurantius, as confirmed on Bugguide.

"Look deep into my eyes, you slow human." - REK
Jumping spiders, Salticidae, are the largest family of spiders with more than 500 genera alone.  They are the rock stars of the arachnid world with lots of Youtube videos titles adding "cute."  So far none have created a music video but they just might crowd out the cat video craze with time.  Arachne.org from Australia describes "The courtship of some genera including Maratus the Peacock Spiders feature a complicated ritual of leg waving, toe-tapping, abdomen twerking, and wing flapping."

Part of their cuteness comes from the way they look up and watch you, especially those that people keep as pets.  Yes arachnophobes, some people actually keep them. 

 Tree of Life provides further details:
"Jumping spiders are charming spiders that look up and watch you. Their excellent vision allows them to hunt much as do cats, spotting prey from long distances, creeping up then pouncing using their jumping ability. Although a jumping spider can jump more than thirty times its body length, none of its legs has enlarged muscles. The power for jumping probably comes from a quick contraction of muscles in the front part of the body increasing the blood pressure, which causes the legs to extend rapidly much as in the toy frogs that hop when you squeeze a bulb."
Thus far I have not considered testing the strength of our marriage vows by bringing a "cute" jumping spider home.  More on that in a later blog?

Tick Trefoil


Desmodium flower 1/4" Missouriplants.com
Mark Bower sent us this picture of a tiny flower from the forest floor.  Barb thought it was a Desmodium and Mark got the same opinion from the Missouri Native Plant Society Facebook page but we sent it on to Linda Ellis.  She confirmed this but didn't have enough to try to identify it as to which of the many species it is.  They are pretty and dainty with a 1/4" flower now but just wait a month.

Missouriwildflowerguide.com
September is the time that they start to spread the seeds.  I know that all plants have their place, I just wish that my pant leg wasn't one of them.  Desmodium is also called tick trefoil, beggar's lice, stick tights, hitch hikers, and occasionally"@*%^$#".  There are 19 species in Missouri which can only be identified by getting close enough for their seeds to grab your clothes.  

 Seed pods - Missouri Extension
Their seedpods grow in strings that break off individually to increase the challenge of picking them off.  They act as triangular magnets attracted to cloth and hair, grabbing on with their tiny dense hairs.  They look and feel smooth except under magnification or my wife's watchful gaze when I return home.  Some can be scraped off with the back of a knife, others require individual picking.  They even sealed Smokey's eyes shut after a walk.


Desmodium 9, Smokey 0 - REK















When I scrape a cluster of seed off my legs, I try to tell myself that they are a great native plant.  They serve as a food source for deer and birds  Lots of insects such as weevils, beetles, leaf eating larvae and aphids eat them, many of which are then eaten by quail.  Best yet, they are the host plant for caterpillars of the Eastern Tailed Blue, Everes comyntas, and the Gray Hairstreak, Strymon melinus.  OK, I guess the trade off for a picture like Jon Rapp's below is worth a little scraping of my pant legs.

Eastern Tailed Blues - Jon Rapp
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Our favorite plant resources:
MONPS - Missouri Native Plant Society Facebook page can frequently identify a species.

Missouriplants.com lets you search by color and leaf arrangement.

http://www.illinoiswildflowers.info/  has encyclopedic information on our native species.  The quickest way is to Google Illinois Wildflowers and the species name.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Cottonmouth Aggression


Western Cottonmouth  - Tom Spinker CC

We recently wrote about the death of a Northern Watersnake which was misidentified as a cottonmouth that was "coming after" a swimmer.  One of the most common snake myths that I hear is that cottonmouths (Water Moccasin) are aggressive and attack canoes, kayaks and people swimming and wading in our streams.  

Green area is our A. p. leucostoma- Wikipedia

There are three subspecies of cottonmouths, Agkistrodon piscivorus, in the US.  Our native Missouri species is A. piscivorus leucostoma (white-mouth).  They are mainly in Southeast Missouri sloughs and the rocky creeks of the Ozarks.  We haven't seen them on Bull Creek but I suspect they are here.

  MDC - Noppadol Paothong
A recent story by Francis Skalecky in the Springfield News-Leader addressed cottonmouths but I want to follow up on it. While they may be harder to intimidate, they are not out looking to waste their venom on humans, or kayaks for that matter. All of these are too big for a snake to swallow and once their venom is used, they can't subdue prey for several days while they restore the supply.

Research at the University of Georgia entitled Defensive Behavior of Cottonmouths Toward Humans tested their aggressiveness with three scenarios.
  • First they stood closely beside the snake with a snakeproof boot touching its body.  Of 13 individual cottonmouths tested, four attempted to escape, five gave some form of defensive display, and none tried to bite, although one individual feigned a bite during a strike. Only two of the snakes performed more than one defensive display.
  • Second scenario-  They stepped on the snake at midbody with enough force to restrain but not injure it.  Of the 22 that were stepped on either initially
    or secondarily, 15 gave defensive displays, including two that feigned bites.
    Nine of those stepped on were attempting to escape by crawling away and one bit the boot.
  • Third Scenario-  They picked up the snake at midbody with a pair of
    1-m snake tongs (Whitney Tongs) with a grasping handle that was modified to resemble a human arm and hand. A leather glove was fitted over the end of the tongs, with one extension covered by the thumb and the other by the middle finger. Hence, the glove could be closed around the snake’s body. A padded shirt sleeve was used to cover the remainder of the rod up to the handle.  Each treatment was carried out for 20 sec, and the behavior of each snake was recorded. 
    Of the 36 individuals held in the "hand" for 20 seconds, only13 (36%) bit the artificial hand, striking near the point of contact with the snake’s
    body.
I would not suggest that you do any of the above maneuvers with any snake.  This is unquestionably a dangerous snake, one to be respected like any other animal that can hurt or kill you.  They just want to be left alone as do we.  A frequent question we hear is "Is it illegal to kill a snake?" so here is the answer in MDC Discover Nature.

Missouri's Wildlife Code Protects Snakes

Few Missourians realize that all snakes native to our state are protected. The Wildlife Code of Missouri treats snakes, lizards, and most turtles as nongame. This means that there is no open season on these animals, and it is technically unlawful to kill them. There is a realistic exception, however: when a venomous snake is in close association with people, which could result in someone being bitten. We hope that more people realize that snakes are interesting, valuable, and, for the most part, harmless. 
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From Lisa Berger, a mother Cottonmouths instructions to the snakelings:  "Use venom only if you are being crushed, or if you need to subdue food; otherwise bite gingerly, and inject accordingly."

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Porch Light Life

Laurel Sphinx, Sphinx kalmiae - REK
Moth Wall - REK
The moths have been collecting on the wall by our deck light the last week. The Laurel Sphinx Moth above is 2.5 inches long (60mm) and is always laying on the deck, unlike almost all the other species.  We have had daily visits from the Yellow-orange Imperial Moths, Eacles imperialis, some of whom are in the 'family way.'  More on that in a future blog.  The picture on the right shows 5 different species of moths in one view.  I am compiling some of the more colorful species in this Flickr album with the identification help of Kevin Firth.

Bumelia Leafworm Moth - REK




Some of the micromoths can be quite colorful and are easy to overlook, hiding in the folds of the porch swing or in the cracks of the wall.  My personal favorite is the Bumelia Leafworm Moth, Lactura pupula.  This one is very slender and measured 3/4". 



Wheel Bug Nymph- REK
There is a lot more life to find on the wall when I turn off the light in the morning.  Young pale green walking sticks, leaf-footed bugs and other curious species show up.  This wheel bug nymph was 1/2" long and easy to photograph as it is weeks away from developing its wings.

The cicada chorus is almost deafening at night and starts up again in the morning.  We are finding them around the house on the walls randomly, not apparently drawn to the light.  They are so common that I don't give them much thought, at least not as much as Linda Bower does.  If you have ever wanted to watch a cicada groom or handle essential bodily functions, her Youtube video here is your chance.  It didn't seem to be annoyed by the voyeuristic video camera until the last of the filming.  These are her notes;
"This female peed twice (repeated at 10x slow motion) and gave great views of her anatomy. Walking and climbing is shown 2-5x faster. Identified by Chao Jimmy Wu as a Neotibicen pruinosus female. He said, "This one's a bit 'different' since the ventral abdominal stripe is pretty bold and not TOO irregular (which is more of a linnei/robinsonianus trait). Female N. robinsonianus also has the paired pruinose spots. However, they tend to be a bit smaller and less bold. Lack of wing bowage (which really isn't all that great of a character though still useful), more or less rules out N. linnei." Filmed in the Missouri Ozarks, USA, on August 6, 2017."
Copperhead in a tree - Sheila Watson
If you are out at night in the rural areas, take a flashlight.  We have been seeing copperheads are out in the yard looking for dinner and John Miller tells us that cicadas are their M&Ms.  Check the trees as well because they will climb them looking for dessert.  So far none have climbed our house wall, but nothing would surprise us any more.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Northern Watersnake

Our neighbor in 2002-2017 - RIP  REK
I am sad to announce the recent accidental death of an old acquaintance of mine here at the creek, a Northern Watersnake, Nerodia sipedon sipedon.  It was more of a neighbor than a close friend, hanging out in our deep swimming hole.  One of my first encounters was watching it bask on a stump back in 2002.

It was larger than the other watersnakes and more confident, continuing to swim by as I would snorkel the pool.  Cruising the bedrock bank to investigate the fist-sized underwater openings that I never had the nerve to reach into, it would crawl halfway in, I could come up behind it and gently pet it as it froze but didn't panic, a apparent agreement we had to not harm each other.


Once my friend Larry Whiteley raced up on an ATV to get my camera.  He had seen the snake in the process of swallowing a perch at a creek crossing.  We got there just as it was finishing up, patiently working the tail into its mouth as the final bite of a dinner that could last a few weeks.  It laid patiently on the edge of the bank until it completely swallowed, then swam leisurely away, satisfied it had entertained us enough.



Just a few months ago I was startled to find it on our deck, a good 12 feet above the creek.  The vibration of my footsteps caused it to move over to the edge and slide down a pole to the ground, but not until I got a picture.

Visiting the deck - REK
Sadly it suffered an accidental death a few weeks ago at the hands of a visitor to the creek.  Many snakes are killed because of peoples' fear of any snake (Ophidiophobia), the most common of any of the phobias, reported in 1/3 of humans.  This may actually have evolutionary roots in mammals as a protective reflex.  More commonly people just "hate" snakes or aren't able to identify which ones are dangerous.

Cottonmouth - Wikipedia
In this case there were children playing in the creek when our snake was seen swimming and was mistaken for a Cottonmouth.  They get a bad rap as being "aggressive" (more on that in a future blog), creating more fear than another venomous snake would on land where we can simply step away from perceived danger. 


Texted photograph
When our visitors texted me about it with a picture I was able to identify it on my phone.  It had the typical bands on the front third that became incomplete toward the tail and the familiar coloration.  I had them put it in our freezer so it wouldn't have died completely in vain and I could at least salvage the skin.  As we had stored a frozen rattlesnake there a few years ago which we had to kill on our deck, Barb was perfectly "cool" about this one.

Skin drying on cardboard - REK
Keeled scales -click to enlarge
All watersnakes, as well as many others, like the rough green snake, have rough skin when stroked.  This is caused by "keels," ridges on the middle of the scale like the keel of a canoe.  Viewed up close under magnification you can see them running down each scale.


I don't blame anyone for killing a snake that they think is a danger to themselves or others.  On the other hand, I would hope to teach avoidance of venomous snakes that fill an important niche in nature.  More importantly, being able to identify venomous* snake species can help people to protect and maybe even appreciate the many beneficial harmless species.

Can I be certain this is the same snake?  I hope some day to be proven wrong by seeing "our snake" cruising the swimming hole again.

=====
* To avoid an embarrassing correction from a naturalist, remember that these are venomous snakes - the venom in their bite is dangerous.  Snakes aren't "poisonous" which means it can kill you if you eat it.

Photographs of the venomous snakes of Missouri are on this web page starting on page 14.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Fireweed

A rose among the weeds - Mark Bower
  Robert Videki CC
Jan Bower brought us a large specimen of a plant that was growing around their newly constructed cabin.  Her question was is it good or bad, i.e. did it have potential to produce showy flowers or feed native species?  Barb couldn't identify it right away so off it went to Linda Ellis who said, "This is a plant that likes disturbed soils, like after fire or construction, called fireweed or Erechtites hieraciifolius, no petals, just fluffy white seeds. It is an easy to pull annual." Barb groaned and said, "Ohhh yes, I should have known that."



First the fireweed name.  This is a plant that loves fire and boy, did it find the right home.  As Mark and Jan were building their new cabin, they had a new well drilled one day and the drilling rig was left on the site.  That evening a neighbor saw flames and called the fire department.  A short in the battery of the rig started a fire that burned up the rig while mercifully sparing the trees.  You can see how hot the fire was from the melted tires.   And that is where the weed is now growing.

Tiny flower heads -  Wikipedia
The reason botanists love Latin names is that common names are, well, common, and often given to multiple species.  Another fireweed species is Chamerion angustifolium.  Jan's fireweed,  E. hieraciifolius, is described fully in Illinoiswildflowers which lists its common name as Pilewort.  The distinctive flowers resemble buds and produce an achene.  (Word for the day - achene, a small, dry, one-seeded fruit that does not open to release the seed.)  Hint - use that in a sentence in conversation 3 times and you will always remember it.



 Pile on seed heads*
The name Pilewort likely refers to white hair tufts on the seed, a method of dispersal by the wind.  The tufts of hairs have been used as stuffing or "pile" for pillows and stuffed animals, perfect for Jan who is famous for her artistic pillows.  That fact alone may spare the plant from mass destruction.  On the other hand, the root system is shallow and fibrous, quick to grow but easy to pull if you tire of this "weed."

Tall plant with shallow roots
Short roots of a tall plant
Pilewort can grow from two to eight feet tall.  The flower heads are a quarter inch in diameter and covered with tiny florets, to small to appreciate.  Like most early colonizer plants, they grow quickly on bare disturbed ground before the competition moves in.  The "weed" in fireweed is a clue that they are likely to be replaced by a more "desirable" plant that we lately arrived humans decide has more value.


So what exactly is a "weed"?    My simple answer is a plant growing in the wrong place in the judgement of a lately descended bipedal ape species that itself has been growing "like a weed."  Illinoiswildflowers discusses weed criteria at length and makes an argument that sometimes we should embrace our weeds.
"...suburbia considers any plant a weed that is well-adapted to its environment, prone to reproduce itself and spread, requires little or no effort to maintain, has no obvious aesthetic or culinary properties, and doesn't require money to acquire."
Early colonizer plants on disturbed soil help to retard erosion and add nutrients to the soil when they die.  They frequently don't compete with others as the soil matures and after a few years may diminish or disappear.  Some weeds provide food for animals and insects and hemp can make human's clothes, rope and even high.
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I would highly recommend reading the thought provoking What is a Weed from Illinois Wildflowers.

*Photo by Joseph M. DiTomaso, University of California - Davis

Monday, July 31, 2017

Pupa on a Silk Rope


On a sunny day in March we went on a long slow walk with Nels Holmberg looking at bryophytes (mosses and liverworts).  Slowing down and getting on my knees gave me a chance to see things like this half inch pupa case dangling on silk strands from a dead branch just above the ground.  It looked like it was hanging from the remnants of a spider nest.  I took it home and waited to see what might emerge.

On May 26 I found this wasp with the empty pupa case.  It had crawled out over the prior week and had a lonely death, never having found love.  After a lot of searching I sent it to Bugguide where it was identified as Acrotaphus wiltii.  This distinctive beauty is "a parasite of the arabesque orb weaver, Neoscona arabesca. The wasp stings the spider to briefly paralyze it while she lays a single egg on it. The larva is an external parasite." (Eric Eaton in Bugguide)

Female A. wiltii with ovipositor - Betsy Betros
This explains the silk rope that the pupa was dangling from.  After the larva had killed the spider it pupated and was suspended from the spider's web and the silk was twisted into a tangled cable over time.*  It survived the winter hanging close to the ground.  The wasp would normally emerge and search a mate.  The female would then search out a tiny spider and lay the fatal egg.  The larva would then cling onto the spider, feeding on it. 

Like most other Ichneumon wasps, she comes equipped with a dangerous looking but harmless ovipositor, that is harmless to us but not to the right brand of spider.  There is a bit of irony in the fearsome tailpiece that can paralyze a novice with fear.  The stingers of hymenoptera (wasps, bees, etc.) are actually modified ovipositors, now producing painful venom which can paralyze prey, such as spiders, that a wasp can take back to store as food for its emerging larva.



*Charley Eiseman has a set of photos in his Bugtracks Blog showing the larva with its spider victim before and after pupating.