acta ethologica

, 12:23 | Cite as

Alternative predatory tactics of an araneophagic assassin bug (Stenolemus bituberus)

  • Anne E. Wignall
  • Phillip W. Taylor
Original Paper


Predators of dangerous prey risk being injured or killed in counter-attacks and hence may use risk-reducing predatory tactics. Spiders are often dangerous predators to insects, but for a few, including Stenolemus bituberus assassin bugs, web-building spiders are prey. Despite the dangers of counter-attack when hunting spiders, there has been surprisingly little investigation of the predatory tactics used by araneophagic (spider-eating) insects. Here, we compare the pursuit tendency, outcome and predatory tactics of S. bituberus against five species of web-building spider. We found that S. bituberus were most likely to hunt and capture spiders from the genus Achaearanea, a particularly common prey in nature. Capture of Achaearanea sp. was more likely if the prey spider was relatively small, or if S. bituberus was in poor condition. S. bituberus used two distinct predatory tactics, ‘stalking’, in which they slowly approached the prey, and ‘luring’, in which they attracted spiders by manipulating the web to generate vibrations. Tactics were tailored to the prey species, with luring used more often against spiders from the genus Achaearanea, and stalking used more often against Pholcus phalangioides. The choice of hunting tactic used by S. bituberus may reduce the risk posed by the prey spider.


Predatory tactic Luring Stalking Behavioural flexibility 



We thank Chris Evans and Robert Jackson for helpful comments throughout the experiments. Marie Herberstein and Aaron Harmer and two anonymous reviewers provided helpful comments on the manuscript. This study was supported by a grant from the Australian Research Council. AEW was supported with a RAACE scholarship from Macquarie University.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag and ISPA 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for the Integrative Study of Animal BehaviourMacquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia

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