It was over a year ago that I first saw this flying insect that had caught a large spider and was dragging it off somewhere presumably to eat. I’d never seen anything like it and I spent a while researching to try and work out what it was. At the time I thought it was a robber fly but now I think it’s a spider wasp!
Robber flys do indeed prey on some spiders and other insects but the images really dont look anything like what I’d seen.
The spider wasp is a much closer match. I’ve seen a few now, here’s some pictures of a smaller spider wasp with another decent sized spider. This particular one was struggling a bit with it’s prey. It even tried to fly a bit and only just managed it. Looking at the picture the spider could easily weigh more than the wasp!
Spider wasps are known to chop off the legs of the spider to make it easier to carry. All the ones I’ve seen the spiders are missing their legs. Nature is brutal!
[update] – When I wrote this I thought the creature was a robber fly, now I think it’s a spider wasp.
Here’s something you don’t see every day, a large fly like creature walking along carrying a sizeable spider underneath it! Now that’s a prey reversal! A bit like seeing a huge rat hauling a dead cat somewhere.
The fly was black, about 4cm in length with long legs that allowed it to carry the spider underneath it and still walk easily. The one I saw was on a mission to get somewhere, it walked quickly over the pavement for about 4m and then climbed a wall before I lost it. It had wings but didn’t try to fly, maybe the spider was too heavy for it. The spider was slightly longer than the fly and looked bulkier, all the spiders legs were gone and it was being carried inverted with it’s abdomen towards the front of the fly.
Curious as to if this was normal I did some searching. The closest thing I could find that lives in the area is a robber fly. “Robber flies are large, bristly flies that catch their prey (usually other insects) mid-flight.” Robber flys are known to catch and eat spiders, the fly I saw didn’t have the same enlarged powerful chest as the robber fly photos on the articles. It looks like there is some variation between robber fly species so maybe it’s just a different species that I saw.
It was moving fast and I only had my phone on me so I found it hard to get a clear picture, but you can see the size of the spider compared to a garden hose and a house brick. The spider looked like a huntsman, I’m not sure how the fly would have killed it and removed it’s legs, or maybe it found the spider like that?
They’re back, and they still have an appetite for destruction! Every year about this time the black cockies visit for a day or two, tear up the Banksia trees in our yard then leave.
Sulphur Crested Cockies are here in abundance year round, Black Cockies only visit for a few days per year, sometimes I miss them altogether. Yellow tailed black cockatoos are larger than their sulphur crested cousins, they have a louder and more piercing shriek too. A few days before I saw the black cockies this year I heard a chilling shriek in the valley after dark, for a moment I thought it sounded like a person in distress, but I figured it was more animal like. After I saw the Cockies I now think that’s what it was.
Here’s an animal that every Australian knows. The Blue Tongue Lizard is common in bushland and suburban backyards of Eastern Australia, but even the familiar has the capacity to surprise as I found out with this one!
The family was visiting friends in Gerringong 1 1/2 hrs south of Sydney. The kids came running in from the back yard saying they they had found a snake. We went out to take a look and found what was clearly a Blue Tongue Lizard half obscured under the back step. It’s legs were tucked under it’s body so it’s understandable that the kids though it was a snake. There was a small crowd of us watching it when it started to slowly lumber out of it’s hiding spot. The lizard seemed quite fat even for a Blue Tongue which I commented on, then all of a sudden a fully formed baby lizard popped out from the underside! It was a mum giving birth!
I’d assumed that Blue Tongues laid eggs like almost every other reptile, but a quick search confirmed that they, along with Red Bellied Black Snakes do indeed give birth to live young.
With enough food Blue Tongues are able to breed every year. They have litters of around 10 young at a time, but have been known have up to 25. Once born the young are independent and will disperse within a few days.
There are a number of species of Blue Tongue, they are found in Australia, New Guinea and Indonesia. I believe this one was a Eastern Blue-tongued Lizard. Eastern Blue-tongued Lizards are found within a few hundred Kms of the coast all around North, South and Eastern Australia. They are a silvery colour with dark banding across their body and tail, they can grow up to 60cm. If handled roughly by the tail Blue Tongues may drop their tail. The tail stump rapidly heals and a shorter regenerated tail grows back after a while. It looks like this has happened to the mum in the picture.