Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Predation on the rays of a sunflower

with 10 comments

Crab spider biting a tiny caterpillar

Although lady beetles eat aphids and other insects, I’ve seldom seen them do so. In contrast, I often come across the remains of spiders’ meals in their webs, and sometimes I find their prey still live in their grasp. I witnessed one such encounter on an early sunflower a month ago in the prairie restoration at Austin’s old Mueller Airport. You can get an idea of the scale of the little drama shown in the photograph from the fact that the body of the crab spider, which Spider Joe Lapp has identified in a comment below as Mecaphesa dubia, was less than half an inch long from fore to aft. I watched for a good while as the tiny caterpillar continued to writhe in a vain attempt to break loose from the spider’s firm grip, a grip that never faltered even as the spider dragged the caterpillar around on the sunflower from time to time in response to my close presence and movements as I kept taking pictures.

Update on August 23, 2011: Valerie Bugh has identified the tiny (and doomed) caterpillar as belonging to the flower moth genus Schinia.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 13, 2011 at 6:45 AM

10 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. What a dramatic encounter. Good photography work!

    Watching Seasons

    June 15, 2011 at 4:24 PM

    • Thanks. Nature is full of little dramas—though this one wasn’t so little for the caterpillar.


      June 15, 2011 at 5:24 PM

  2. Stunning photo!


    June 21, 2011 at 5:30 AM

  3. You are right, nature is full of dramas… Nice shot!


    July 13, 2011 at 2:23 AM

  4. […] Predation on the rays of a sunflower […]

  5. […] This is the second little drama of this type I’ve presented so far, the first being on August 23 in a different color scheme, with the victim still struggling, but ultimately with the same fatal outcome as shown […]

  6. I believe this is the spider you showed in the presentation tonight, but a different picture. I recognize the spider in this picture. It is Mecaphesa dubia. I’ll let Val know.

    Spider Joe

    February 27, 2012 at 11:50 PM

    • Good eye: yes, this is the same spider in a different position. As I photographed and kept moving around for different perspectives, it kept moving around to get away from me.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 28, 2012 at 6:09 AM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: