Marja-Leena Rathje
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caught in a web


A long and mighty battle between these two insects outside a window next to our front door had us transfixed with fascination, as well as some horror and pity for the winged creature. We could not identify this winged insect with orange legs and a very long tail appendage with what looks like a very long stinger at the end. It seems to have a body rather like a carpenter ant with large lacy transparent wings.

Husband took lots of great photos of the drama, as winged creature struggled to free himself, flipping over and around the sticky strands that held two of his feet. Here he is upside down with the small spider tentatively approaching, then receding from this kickboxer and his wings in rapid motion.

Here's another photo, sharpened and turned over to show his appendages and wings more clearly. Anybody know what this winged creature is?


Marja-Leena | 12/06/2006 | 9 comments
themes: Nature, Neat stuff, Photoworks


I think it's a member of the ichneumon family (sp?), a group of parasitic wasps that lay their eggs on the larvae of insects that burrow into trees. Insects like long-horn beetles lay their eggs in fissures and holes in trees and their larvae chomp their way through the tree wood until they pupate and leave. Obviously, big problem for the trees if there are enough of them. The ichneumons are a control on them. Hope it got away!

It looks like some kind of ichneumon wasp, of which there are tens of thousands of species, each one evolved to parasitize one kind of caterpillar. The stinger-like thing is probably the ovipositor, with which she will lay her eggs inside the living tissues of said caterpillar.

Spiders aren't insects, BTW - they're arthropods.

Great pictures!

Thanks Peter and Dave (I knew you'd have the answer!) - My husband guessed right that it's a type of wasp. So it feeds on larvae and/or caterpillars. I wonder if the devastating pine beetle larvae would be part of its diet? (You may be aware that BC's pine forests are being decimated by this beetle.)

The mighty battle lasted for several hours. We watched for about half an hour at first, then checked on it every time we walked by. I just went to look at it this morning - just a carcass with wings left. I know this is normal in the animal/insect/arthropod and human food chain, but I found it rather disturbing.

Amazing what's found in our back yard eh! "Come in to my lair said the spider to the fly." I've some old slides taken many years ago of spider and cob webs in the wilderness. When the sunlight reflects on the silvery strands, the intricate details show a structure that's not drafted on an Architect's table. I learned not to disrupt this activity but admire it as a part of life on Mother Earth. I'd rather observe than destroy - let 'Nature' take it's course! Keep your camera handy Marja-Leena, and have hubby clean up his work-shop. Amazing Grace!

Yes, Roger, Nature's beauty right at our door, along with the action! I still haven't swept away the cobwebs. I have to give credit to my husband for the great photography job as I don't understand everything about that camera yet. The workshop can wait.

Stunning pictures of tragic battle. But there's no word for tragic in their world. I wonder what they would make of our battles?
M-L, come and get on the self portrait list - I'm eager to see what you'd come up with?

Hey Natalie! Indeed, only man has created tragedy!

I've already been intrigued by the self-portraits and now thank you for the challenge. I just need to find the time right now. Actually it really will be a challenge for me as I haven't done a self-portrait or any portrait in many years! Funny how I've moved on from figurative to rocks!

hi mom

that is an incredible photo. dad really DOES have an eye! i've never seen an insect like that before... it's weird and neat that the numbers from the camera appeared in the second photo as a reflection. so i guess SHE didn't manage to escape... poor lady. ah well. that's nature... and a very satisfied spider.

Hey Erika! After the identification by Dave and Peter, I too realized it's a she! Wish you could have been here to see it. Dad sure does know how to use the digital camera well.