Spiders have long been right up there with snakes as the most disliked of all creatures. Their beautiful, intricate and delicate webs notwithstanding, they are creepy. And crawly. Creepy and crawly make a lot of humans flee in fright.
But it seems that spiders have met their match, in Australia, anyway. Enter the giraffe-necked assassin bug.
The assassin bug is a very strange looking creature that resembles a praying mantis in some ways, like its skinny little arms. It also has an inch long spindly body with a long neck half the body length. It has a sharp snout that it rams into the spider, sucking the juices out. Ewwwww.
The way it kills requires it to get very close to the spider, so it has to go out onto the web, which is a death knell for most insects, but not this guy. Spiders are alerted to prey entering the web by the vibrations produced. So, researchers found a way to measure the vibrations that the assassin bug produces and found that it produces NO vibration. That is how it can sneak up on the spider, the unsuspecting spider doesn’t know its coming.
There is another assassin bug, a cousin of the giraffe-necked guy, who uses just the opposite approach to catch the spiders. They actually break the web to cause vibrations, so the spider thinks he has caught some prey, then attack the spider when he comes to check it out. This requires a bit of calculation on the part of the assassin bug, so it can break the web with just the right amount of force.
But for all their calculations about whether they break the web or step lightly, the assassin bugs only get the spider 20 percent of the time. And about one in ten of them becomes a meal for the spider.
So, no spiders will be on the endangered species list because of the assassin bugs. Which is good news for spider lovers everywhere.
Sorry to all those with arachnophobia!