Ecology of a bolas spider, Mastophora hutchinsoni : phenology, hunting tactics, and evidence for aggressive chemical mimicry
- Department of Entomology, University of Kentucky, 40546-0091, Lexington, Kentucky, USA
Bolas spiders are relatively rare members of the large family known as orb weavers. Instead of using a typical web to capture prey, late-stadia and adult female bolas spiders swing a droplet of adhesive on a thread at flying insects. Mastophora hutchinsoni (Araneae: Araneidae) is one of five Mastophora species known from the United States and occurs over much of eastern North America. It is univoltine in Kentucky and overwinters in the egg stage. Spiderling emerged in May, the diminutive males matured in late June and early July, and females matured in early September. Eggs were produced from late September to late October or early November. This report is the first complete documentation of the population phenology of any bolas spider. Newly-emerged M. hutchinsoni spiderlings did not use a bolas, but instead hunted by positioning themselves on the underside of leaf margins where they ambushed small arthropods that crawled along the leaf margins. Subadult and adult female M. hutchinsoni used a bolas to capture moths. Only male moths were captured, specifically three species of Noctuidae (bristly cutworm, bronzed cutworm, and smoky tetanolita) and one species of Pyralidae (bluegrass webworm). Among 492 prey captured by more than twenty spiders at two sites during 1985 and 1986, smoky tetanolita moths and bristly cutworm moths accounted for 93% of the total. The flight behavior of approaching moths, the limited taxa caught from a large available moth fauna, and the fact that only males were caught support the hypothesis that the spider attracts its prey by producing chemicals which mimic the sex pheromones of these moth species. Adult female M. hutchinsoni frequently captured more than one moth species on a given night. The two most common prey species were active at different times of night, the bristly cutworm soon after nightfall and the smoky tetanolita generally between 11:00 p.m. and dawn. This pattern suggests that mating activity of these moth species may be temporally isolated, a common phenomenon when sympatric species have similar pheromones. If so, the spider could capture both species without producing different pheromone-mimicking compounds, simply by hunting during the activity period of each species.
- 1 - sciences appliquees, technologies et medecines
- 2 - sciences biologiques et medicales
- 3 - sciences biologiques fondamentales et appliquees. psychologie
- 4 - ecologie animale, vegetale et microbienne
- 1 - Life Sciences ; 2 - Agricultural and Biological Sciences ; 3 - Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics