23 Jan

Hide Your Kids… If You Are a Spider

Mantisfly

Imagine being a proud spider mom. You lay a bunch of eggs and surround them in layers of protective silk. When they hatch, you will have hundreds of little spider babies. Now imagine your horror when a monster, with the head of a praying mantis and the body of a wasp, emerges from your egg sack. A monster that has grown fat, while eating all of your children.

The Maniacal Mantisfly
It might have the head and those spiked, gripping arms common to the praying mantis, yet they are not closely related. The mantisfly is related to antlions and green lacewings. The adults look fierce, yet their larvae are the agents of insect destruction. Don’t worry; mantisflys can’t hurt you or your kids. They target spiders. If you suffer from arachnophobia, this little critter is your best friend.

When a mantisfly larva emerges from its egg, it has to find food. Since their adolescent bodies lack wings, they depend on six stubby legs. Some species wander around looking for spider eggs sacks. Once found, they wiggle their tiny bodies into through the tight webbing and find their meal. As you can imagine, this method might not be the most effective. You might have better luck finding a needle in a haystack. And once you find the needle it is protected by a fang wielding, eight-legged killing machine. Other species of mantisfly go about finding spider eggs a different way. They look for the adult spider.

Spider Verses the Mantisfly Larva
When a mantisfly larva finds a spider, it latches on to its back below its head, out of the reach of those nasty fangs. When it gets hungry, the larva bites into the spider and drink a little blood. The small amount of blood loss does nothing to the spider; the larva is waiting for its real meal. It wants those spider eggs. The mantisfly larva will wait on the back of the spider until the female is ready to lay her eggs. If the larva finds itself on a male spider, no problem, it will patiently wait for the spider to mate, then jump aboard the female. That’s an intelligent STD. Good thing mantisflies are only interested in spiders.

While the female spider is laying her offspring, the matisfly larva jumps off and hides within the egg cluster. The spider unknowingly wraps her eggs and the matisfly larva in a thick protective layer of silk. The larva undergoes a metamorphosis and turns into a grub that lacks the ability to walk. It no longer needs to walk around since it is lying amid its target food. Using a needle like mouth, it punctures each egg and sucks it dry. After all the eggs have been consumed, the grub undergoes final metamorphosis and an adult mantisfly emerges.

Next time you see a spider running around outside, you might pause before stepping on it, there could be mantisfly larva. Then again, you might be more determined to smash them both.

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