Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Spider and the Bee

It was a beautiful late summer/early fall day with bright sun, and white clouds sailing on a steady breeze. Along the edge of the pond several species of goldenrod were in bloom; those flowers attracted a large number of insects including several species of bumblebees.

The prettiest of the bumblebees is the tri-colored bumblebee with its yellow and black and a broad band of orange on its abdomen. Many tri-colored bumblebees were flying from flower to flower as they sought pollen.

These bees inhabit nests in cavities in the ground where they establish small colonies. The queen leaves hibernation in early spring, finds a suitable hole in the ground to begin laying eggs and feeds on flowers. The eggs develop into workers that continue foraging for the colony and tending more young. In the fall the colony begins to produce drones (males) and new queens which mate before cold weather sets in. The newly fertilized queens hibernate in the soil during cold weather while the old queen, the drones and workers die.

But about ten feet from where I took photographs of the bees another tri-colored bumblebee was locked in a life or death struggle with a marbled orb weaver spider. Here’s a short video of a much longer struggle, including its outcome –

The spider didn’t feed on either bumblebee while I watched, instead leaving them stored in its web.


  1. Wow! That's some amazing footage. I have watched Crab Spiders grab their prey and hold tight to the victim as it struggled until it died, and I've seen Marbled Orb Weavers wrapping their prey in silk, but I've never caught it on video. What's really creepy are the Jagged Ambush Bugs!

  2. Fascinating! Sometimes I think how awful nature is - what insects do to other insects, and then I think how barbaric human behavior must look to alien creatures! (when it comes to feeding ourselves) :)

  3. I'm still trying to get past thinking that there's only one species of bumblebee. Learn something new every day!

  4. Fantastic video of nature in action. In your experience, have you ever seen the prey escape the spider?

  5. There are 46 species of bumblebees in North America and probably 18 in our area.

    Insects can, and do, escape from spider webs, but the female marbled orbweaver like the one in the video is a large heavy spider with a strong web and only a very large and strong insect could escape from those webs. Yes, I've watched some insects (usually bumblebees, large beetles and large dragonflies) escape from webs.

  6. Good topic and very nice video. From what I've read, insects probably feel pressure, but not pain, at least in the way we know it. When a katydid loses a leg it just keeps on going. Still, the idea of being "envenomated" and bundled in silk by a spider is the stuff of Edgar Allen Poe. Of course there's always another view of spiders, life and death -- like Charlotte's Web.


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