Spider Eating Bug
November 18, 2009
Dear Bugman, my friend was out in his garden the other day and saw this bug attacking a spider. It eventually carried it off down a hole. The bug was about the size of a small car… or maybe more like 5 or 6 centimetres. Later he found his cat screaming and leaping about with the bug on her back. Are you able to identify this garden terrorist?
Wellington, New Zealand
Though your humor amuses us, we should probably clarify for our readership that the cat was safe from being attacked by this awesome Spider Wasp in the family Pompilidae. We are unable to find a matching species on the Brisbane Insect website, so your specimen might be restricted to New Zealand. Spider Wasps feed on nectar, but the young feed on spiders provided by the female wasp. The female Spider Wasp stings and paralyzes a spider and then buries it after laying an egg. The developing, helpless larva then can feed on fresh meat since the sting paralyzed the spider, but left it alive.
Identification Courtesy of Karl
November 18, 2009
I believe Belinda’s Spider Wasp is Sphictostethus nitidus. The common name is sometimes given as the Golden Hunting Wasp, not to be confused with a completely different Spider Wasp from Australia with the same common name. The website for Landcare Research provides excellent information on this and other New Zealand Spider Wasps, as well as a link to a huge downloadable report on the Pompilidae of New Zealand (No. 12 in the “Fauna of New Zealand” series). According to that document there are only 4 genera and 11 species of Spider Wasps in New Zealand, including one other species of Sphictostethus (S. fugax). So it shouldn’t be too hard to nail down this species if one had the time and stamina to plow through all the information provided. Assuming it is S. nitidus, there are three distinct forms (2 on the North Island and 1 on the South Island), distinguished primarily by the degree and pattern of dark pigmentation on the otherwise yellowish wings. Regards.