27sep ~ Tiptoe, through the thistles,


The Tall Thistles (Circium altissimum) are gorgeous about August 30, when this photo was taken (with an iPhone12), and there are lots of thistles, so it was unlikely that I would notice the bee on this one, which was off the trail a short distance.  But he wasn’t moving, which was uncharacteristic, and his position was odd, so we took a look, and quickly found the crab spider who killed it and was in the process of draining it’s calories and nutrients.  I didn’t find the critter on the left side—bee or fly, probably a bee— until I had the image on the screen, and consequence of paying strict attention to focal plane and the subject.

At first, I thought the bee in the spiders grasp must have been a fly—a Bumble Bee mimic.  That would allow the spider to sink its fangs into that particular part of the body right next to the stinger, but on enlargement, I see bee-like eyes and bee-like mouthparts, so even if I can’t be sure of whether there are two or four wings, I’ve got to give some credit to a risk taking crab spider.

Crab spider’s usual tactics are to wait IN the flower, and the bee’s usual approach is to burrow headfirst into the dense array of florets, so I suspect that the encounter took place inside the flower although I don’t see how there was room for either of them, but I can imagine that the bee encountered the spider and turned to escape, but that is little more than wild speculation.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a feeding crab spider from this angle and it intrigues me.  He is entirely crab-like from this angle as well.

Seeing those spines on the thistle from this angle and at this magnification it is easy to see how they would prevent any insect —particularly any soft-bodied caterpillar—from gnawing on them, and perhaps prevent any insects of a particular size from climbing the stem to get at the flower.

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