Spooky Crab Spiders are a Popular Menu Item to this Common Indiana Insect
When it comes to flying insects that can sting you, wasps are among the scariest. Unlike a bee, which stings you once and then dies, wasps can keep coming back for more, stinging you multiple times. Even though many wasps look very similar, they are not all the same, and despite a common misconception, not all wasps are dangerous to humans. In fact, one kind of wasp - the mud dauber - actually serves a pretty cool purpose and deserves a little slack from us.
Guilty by Association
I think it's safe to say that we have all seen mud dauber wasps before, at the very least, we have seen their nests. Mud daubers differ from "normal" wasps not only because of the way they build their nests and because they really don't care about humans - they are not aggressive and rarely, if ever, sting. The problem is that mud daubers look like the scary kinds of wasps that will be aggressive and sting humans, so we assume we need to kill them to keep ourselves safe - but that is not actually the case.
Wait, Don't Kill That Mud Dauber
Despite having a bad wasp reputation, mud daubers can be somewhat beneficial to humans. They do something that not a lot of us like to do - they kill spiders - and the way they do it is pretty terrifying (if you're the spider) and really interesting.
Why Are There So Many Spiders in This Mud Dauber Nest?
Lynette Butler shared some really interesting pictures of a mud dauber nest that fell from her grill. When the nest broke open, Lynette noticed a bunch of spooky green spiders inside. The spiders were alive but didn't scurry away once they hit the ground. They just stood there and smiled for the camera. So, my original plan for this article was to focus on the spiders, which I learned are green crab spiders. I did a bit of research and I was prepared to tell you all about them - but I quickly shifted my focus when I learned WHY the spiders were in that nest, and why they didn't run away. My article went from "kinda neat and kinda spooky" to "straight up horrifying and nightmarish."
Simply put, these crab spiders were all set to be a buffet for some baby mud daubers. Okay, the mud daubers were going to eat the spiders - animals eat each other all the time, right? What's the big deal, what is so horrifying about that? What makes it so interesting is the way the mud daubers collect their dinner. They hit the spider with a paralyzing sting, and once the spider is immobilized, the wasp brings it back to its nest. In fact, scientists say that a single cell within the next can hold up to 25 or 30 paralyzed spiders.
I'm not trying to say I feel bad for spiders, I mean they kill and eat things too, but what a way to go. Just imagine being alive, but paralyzed, unable to get away from your captor, and just waiting for something horrible to happen to you. I might be overthinking this a little bit, I've been known to do that - I'm sure spiders don't have that same kind of thought process.