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What the Bolas Spider Does

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Now you see a spider...

and now a bit of poop.

 A young female or a male bolas spider hunts by hiding on the underside of leaves, then ambushing insects that walk by. Youngsters and males don't have the huge abdomen, and presumably lack the physical resources to produce a bolas. But a mature female bolas spins a strand of sturdy silk, and from that she suspends a supersticky glob of silk and goo. And she hangs upside down with this lasso dangling, waiting for a moth.

Having read that, I thought, Well, does she station herself beneath a lamp or next to a flower, hoping a moth runs into her bolas? I had to dig a bit to get the real story. 

This spider situates itself in a mothy spot, then emits a perfect copy of the sex pheromone of three species of noctuid moth (the bristly cutworm, bronzed cutworm and smoky tetanolita). Whoa. And when the male cutworm moth comes spiraling in to the perfume, wham! She swings her bolas like an Argentine gaucho, snares it, hauls it in hand over hand, and has a nice meal. 

 As if it weren't cool enough to look exactly like a fresh shiny bird's fecal sac

 and suspend yourself from safety lines and drop yourself down a few feet whenever you need to

and have the cutest little cornicled head and a bunch of adorable jewellike eyes, and sit there with your legs wrapped around your face like a shy Charlotte

and charm the bejabbers out of an eleven-year-old boy and his swooning mama. 

This little beauty, I hope, has laid a bunch of egg sacs in a protected place, and will leave us some beautiful spiderlings come spring. I'd never seen a bolas spider before, but I hope to see many more.

Just another example of the insanely cool stuff going on in backyards everywhere. Sometimes it takes a little fella like Liam to sniff them out. 

When he isn't bombing his sister's profile photos, that is.

Rondeau Ric, KatDoc and FloridaCracker, this Liam's for you!


Yep, that is one awesome spider... Thank you for the great detailed photos!

I love those spiders..I've been on the lookout but haven't spotted any.

Your joy of discovery and appreciation of nature delights me as much as the critters you tell us about. I've never heard of this spider and am really enjoying getting to know about her.

Lovely photo of Phoebe, there is always Photoshop for Liam!
I much prefer pictures of charming children than arachnids, no matter how fascinating their lives.

Thanks, Julie, for doing the background check on this fascinating spider. Cannot wait to find one in the garden next year! I'll have to check to see if they occur in the Montana Rockies.

This is the first time I've heard a spider's head referred to as cute and I want to thank you for that. The more we know about spiders the less people will fear them.

Dani @ ONNO Organic Clothing

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