More Hunting Wasps

More Hunting Wasps

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More Hunting Wasps by Jean-Henri Fabre

Published:

1919

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More Hunting Wasps

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Book Excerpt

If we consider only the relative strength of the adversaries, the power of their weapons, the virulence of their poisons and their different modes of action, the scale would very often be weighted in favour of the Spider. Since the Pompilus always emerges victorious from this contest, which appears to be full of peril for her, she must have a special method, of which I would fain learn the secret.

In our part of the country, the most powerful and courageous Spider- huntress is the Ringed Pompilus (Calicurgus annulatus, FAB.), clad in black and yellow. She stands high on her legs; and her wings have black tips, the rest being yellow, as though exposed to smoke, like a bloater. Her size is about that of the Hornet (Vespa crabro). She is rare. I see three or four of her in the course of the year; and I never fail to halt in the presence of the proud insect, rapidly striding through the dust of the fields when the dog-days arrive. Its audacious air, its uncouth gait, its war-like bearing long made me suspect that to obtain its prey it had to make some impossible, terrible, unspeakable capture. And my guess was correct. By dint of waiting and watching I beheld that victim; I saw it in the huntress' mandibles. It is the Black-bellied Tarantula, the terrible Spider who slays a Carpenter-bee or a Bumble-bee outright with one stroke of her weapon; the Spider who kills a Sparrow or a Mole; the formidable creature whose bite would perhaps not be without danger to ourselves. Yes, this is the bill of fare which the proud Pompilus provides for her larva.

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